Updated: Sep 3, 2020
By Teresa Goins
On Google, I saw a church sign that read, “Our services are closed, but Jesus never shuts down.” During this pandemic, our young people miss their school activities and time spent with friends at the movies, the park, and ballgames; but they also miss attending their places of worship. Thankfully, my church continues to worship weekly online, as we know that Jesus lives not in the church building but in our hearts, as the body of Christ. Nonetheless, we cannot fault our young people for missing the physical aspect of the assembling of ourselves together. (On behalf of our youth group, I dedicate this American Baptist article to the pastor and members of our church, Southern Star Missionary Baptist, in Louisville, Kentucky.)
Some adults think that young people, especially teenagers, are not really interested in church; but I beg to differ. I have the privilege of working with (among precious others) four faithful youth group members, my granddaughter and three of her closest friends (ages 14-16), who accompany me from Frankfort to Louisville each month to participate in youth choir rehearsals and performances. These are good kids but also typical 21st century kids (all girls), whose conversational interests are pretty predictable. They talk about boys, the latest YouTube and TikTok videos, and what they are going to eat for their next meal or snack. However, one day a few weeks ago, their conversation really blessed me. With two of the four riding in the back seat of my car, while on the phone with a third member of our youth group, I overheard them talking about church and just how much they miss it.
Their first comment (of course) was about the food: “I miss the food they cook for us at church.” Teenagers love to eat! They are always hungry; they eat often; and at unexpected times, they eat quite a lot! Southern Star is gracious enough to not only serve a full breakfast every fourth Sunday, constituting Youth Day, but also feed us lunch after every Saturday youth choir rehearsal. Churches should never underestimate the importance of meeting the nutritional needs of their young members. Even Jesus met the physical needs of the people, many times prior to meeting their spiritual needs. He fed the five thousand (plus) and made sure the wedding party had enough wine because He knew that ‘filling the bellies’ of the people would facilitate a hunger for the word. Sometimes, our stomachs warrant consideration first, and our church knows that.
The second comment from my kids was touching: “I miss the ladies at our church that hug and kiss me. They barely even know me but always say how glad they are that I am there.” It is a misconception that young people don’t always appreciate the older people in their lives. Outward affection from the ladies at Southern Star has made an indelible impression on the hearts of my kids. These ladies don’t make demands – they don’t ask the kids to first quote a Bible verse or get on their knees and pray. While they have the kids in their presence, they don’t pound into them the word of God. They simply reach out and touch them, in a way only a genuine servant of the Lord can do. They love my kids unconditionally, like Jesus loves them, just because they are God’s children.
The last of the kids’ comments was simple but profound: “I miss church, in general.” Society today trains us to believe that kids have no time for the things of God, but they do. They want to know their Creator; they want to be virtuous and good; they want to find a divine purpose for their lives. That day in my car, I reminded the kids just how blessed we are to have a pastor that cares so deeply about our health and wellbeing, who has postponed in-person services until it is totally safe for us to assemble together again. I also assured them that God is still on His throne, and this pandemic will not last forever. Finally, I challenged them (lest they forget) to treasure their longing to gather together with other Christians, inside the church building. Too often, we tend to take God’s blessings for granted; nonetheless, as one First Christian Church in Maryville, Tennessee displayed on her outdoor church sign: “Church is who we are, not a place we go.”* Until we meet again, may God be with us.