Saturday, February 14, 2015

Church- this can't be how it's supposed to be

It's my second year in college and fourth year without a church (I spent two years in boarding academy). 4 years without a pastor and without a church family, without adult mentoring and encouragement, without children singing happy Sabbath school songs, and without people knowing my name and caring about things that happen in my life- much less hearing my testimony and stories about God's glory or my struggles in my faith.

That's not because I'm not trying. It's not because I don't love Jesus, and it's not because there aren't in any churches in my area. In fact there are over 50 churches in my area- the Seventh Day Adventist popularity hub- in Tennessee. Yet not one church has became my family, so after four years I'm still wandering.. still searching.. still trying to find that place where I belong. Trying to find that group of believers that love Jesus and want to include me, want to know me, and want to worship together.

My faith through high school and college has grown not because of church, but because of my roots I developed through middle school and in my family, through my personal experience in God's word, through my experience in service and work in summer camp, through a year of working as a missionary in Peru, and because of a small group of spiritual friends to which we have chosen to mentor each other.

Many adults question why youth are leaving the church at astounding rates (most commonly at the ages of 16, 18, and 22). First I would like to ask the church what they are doing for the 16 year olds (high school students), 18 year olds (high school graduates) and 22 year olds (college graduates). Why should we stay? And why do you choose to treat us the way you do? I would like to encourage them to step out and love more boldly and to realize the need that young people are having to feel accepted into the church.

I think there's this predisposition that most high school students and college students are selfish and immature, or that we are cliche and think we are "too cool" to be approached by pastors or elders, old people, or play with little children in Sabbath school. I know for myself personally, I would LOVE to be visited by a pastor, invited over to a family's home after church, help with a Sabbath school or a Pathfinder club once in a while, or to just help out. I would love to do more witnessing, love to lead out in Sabbath schools, love to share my testimony about Peru upfront.. but unfortunately I am timid, and in the past four years despite the fact that I spend all summer leading out in spiritual activities, I have never gotten the opportunity to be involved in a church.

When people ask me what church I go too Other than my home church Adventist Fellowship- Shout out to them I do love them =) in Oklahoma... I don't know what to say. I go to different churches every week. I've tried different Sabbath schools. I've tried going to churches a few times in a row to see if I would meet people. I come with one or two friends and 90% of the time I leave with those same friends without speaking a word to anyone new other than the greeter who smiles tells me happy Sabbath and welcome and dismisses me as "one of those college kids".

The thing is my faith is rooted- and that's why I go to church. But if I didn't have serious convictions, I would not feel welcome or accepted in such a place and I doubt I would have any desire to return. Even as a Jesus lover, I often come in feeling an intruder and leave without being reached out too. Not one person outside of my boss, teachers, and classmates know my name. Not one person. Not one family. Not ONE member of any church to which I have visited/ attended for 4 years. And honestly it makes me want to cry. It makes me feel alone. Not just for myself, but for my friends that are leaving the church because they don't feel accepted and for the hundreds of students that are labeling Adventist churches as hypocritical and refusing to go back.

I just know that something is missing in church. I know that I must try harder to get involved with a church, and that often churches are busy and don't mean to be exclusive. But I wanted to write this because this is how many college students feel about church...

Today I went to Spanish church to worship. I went there last week too. I'm hoping that if I go, maybe a few times in a row, maybe I will meet some people. I'm willing to go to a church that doesn't speak the same language as me because they are a small congregation that is friendlier. Today the pastor spoke about youth leaving the church. After his message a lady invited my friend and I to her house for lunch. We said yes and we enjoyed a nice supper at her house. Honestly, it meant alot to me that someone took the time to do something about it and took the message about young people to heart.

High school and college students have a need to be spiritually fed and mentored. They do want to play a role in the church and they do have valuable gifts to be offered. They need encouraged to speak up. They need to be shown that they are loved and cared about. They care less about rock music or contemporary styles then you think- they are just searching for some real people that care.

I know that our Adventist churches are full of God loving people yet somehow in many of our churches we are missing the friendliness and the welcoming aspects. We must somehow improve our tactics to include and reach out to young people and all visitors in general. We must start caring about each other... I hope that this blog will encourage you to reach out to visitors who may come in your church and to young people and college students. As a young person, I do want to be a leader in church. I do want to pay tithe to a church, to lead out in a church, and most importantly I really desire a genuine church family.

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