Ever had an itch. One of those itches you just can quite reach. Maybe you’ve used a pen (or pencil). Maybe you’ve used one of those bamboo scratchers shaped like a hand. Or perhaps you’ve used a wall corner. Or, if push comes to shove, you ask for help.
In many respects, church (or the church service) has been a back-scratcher for years. There have been shifts over the years as how the service is done (from “liturgical” to “modern”, for example) to the musical instruments (no instruments, to organs, to brass and wind, to piano, to guitars, to electric guitars, to full bands) to the style of music (chant, hymns, country, contemporary, hip-hop, rap).
Music is one of the biggest backscratchers, as people will determine which church they will attend depending on the music genre (and then the instrumentation, too). Preaching styles, too, also affect church attendance (3-point sermons, topical, expository).
For the last few decades, though, the bigger one may well be programs, especially programs for youth and children. This isn’t a bad thing, to be clear. It does, however, have some problems. They are the same problems as service styles, music styles, instrumentation, preaching…they scratch an itch.
It was much easier when there was only one style. Then there would be only one expectation. There is also the reality that the lack or presence of any of the above (and this is not an exhaustive list) may be a “barrier” for a new person (whether unbeliever, new believer, or seasoned believer).
It is the whys of it all that matter. There was a quip (a stereotype that is sadly mostly true in the US) that the hour of church on Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week. The context of this quip is race. However, it applies to so much more.
In many churches, maybe even yours, you can look around during the church service and see the segregation of age. Sometimes the children leave at the beginning or in the middle if they’re there at all. Sometimes the youth leave. Sometimes they all sit together. Each church can do it completely differently.
The result, however, is contrary to what the New Testament seems to display…unified worship across age and people groups.
Some are beginning to question if we have lost our biggest opportunity to disciple one another by separating to scratch our itch.
This is not an attack on the way your church “does” church, though it might seem to be. The question we need to be asking ourselves is…how does [youth group, music choice, etc.] affect successful discipleship? How does it inhibit discipleship? How do we scratch our itches and still maintain our fidelity to “telling the next generation” the “great things that God has done”?