Guest Blog from Global Youth Worker Ellen Ombati of Narok, Kenya.
Recently, the local church leadership made a decision that the young people would no longer attend worship. I found myself not being able to sleep at night wondering why the church leadership would remove the younger generation from church services.
Upon further investigation I had learned there were 2 reasons:
The church service was becoming too long
The church needed to grow
I couldn’t understand why the young people were making the service too long and hindering church growth. If anything, they were the open door to church growth.
I was invited to speak at a Sunday School Seminar the following week and I knew God had been calling me to speak into this as best I could. How could I have authority to speak against this in a way it would be accepted into people’s hearts in a male dominated, extremely hierarchical society? It was clear that the Holy Spirit had His work cut out for Him – and I was lucky enough that He wanted to use me.
“What is the role of young people in our churches today?” I asked.
“If Jesus came to our church, who would have greeted Him? We know that he was homeless at one point and had nowhere to lay his head. Would we have accepted him in our church then? What if Jesus came to our church disguised as a child? Would he be welcome to worship WITH US? Or would he be sent outside to DO HIS THING while WE worshiped?”
Why are the youth sent outside when they desperately long to worship Jesus Christ?! Everyone was amazed and started putting the pieces together for themselves….
Youth have a desperate NEED for relationships. Their life is like an empty cup of chai. Several of us have thermoses full of chai and we are going around filling cups. Their cup will be filled by someone or something. If we push them away now, who is going to fill their cup? We send them away now and then complain when they drop out of school, drink and take drugs, teen girls become pregnant…. Someone WILL fill their cup – it is just a matter of who.
It is time for the church to start being the church! When one of us is hurting, we all hurt. When one of us is in need, we all pay attention to that need. What would the church look like if we all modeled Christ’s behavior and attitude towards others?
I had asked the church leaders to count how many young people are coming to church…. About 60 (2/3 of which come without parents!) Why are we sending them out because we want the church to grow? Not only are they the church, they go home to a family somewhere? Youth are an open door to church growth!
Unfortunately, parents, church workers, teachers, adults are forgetting that more than ever what young people need is a relationship and a connection despite their differences.
The attitude and idea that children and youth are supposed to go do their thing outside while we worship is too common in Kenya. The generational divide is growing with the increase in technology, education and westernization. Youth do not understand their parents and vise versa. Both are from two different worlds – literally. Parents remember their time in the village taking care of cows and consider themselves extremely lucky to educated and literate. Youth are continually being influenced by the internet and media becoming more and more Westernized each day.