WHY DO YOUR STUDENTS GO TO CHURCH?
- “I want to see my friends.”
- “I love my adult leader.”
- “You [parent] force me.”
As youth pastors we don’t hear a lot of these reasons, but we see ALL of these play out at different times. Students don’t talk about why they go to church, but they show it in their actions and reactions. These reasons for going to church aren’t all bad, but at home parents are teaching their student why they should or shouldn’t go to church and youth pastors in their programming and promotion are teaching students why they should go to church. What would you say to a student who asks, “Why should I go to church?”
Every student has a reason for going to church, but what happens when that reason is removed? What happens when their friends go to a different church or stop going to church? What happens when they go off to college and they don’t have the parent forcing them anymore? What happens when the event wasn’t as cool as the last one?
Take a second and ask yourself honestly, “Am I teaching students the right motivation for going to church?” I believe there is only one reason to ever go to church.
WE GO TO CHURCH TO KNOW GOD.
- We know God by the reading of His Word (1 John 1:3; Acts 20:7)
- We know God through the Lord’s Supper and Baptism (1 Cor 11:24-26; Acts 20:7)
- We know God by the exercising of Spiritual Gifts (1 Pet 4:10-11)
- We know God by being part of the body (community) (1 Cor 12)
- We know God by being held accountable and protected (1 Pet 5:1-4; Heb 13:17)
- We know God by being ministered to AND ministering (1 Thess 4:18, 5:11; Jam 5:16)
If you read through that list and didn’t look up those passages, then make sure and read this from Hebrews 10:23-25:
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Friends are important and having relationship with Christians older than you are really important, but the most important thing about you is knowing God. A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” We can’t neglect our opportunities to meet together for this is God’s primary form of discipleship. We go to church to know God and all other reasons, no matter how much we enjoy them, are secondary to the call of knowing God the Father through the Son and by the Spirit.
IS IT A WIN IF THEY SHOW UP?
Some might brush this off saying, “Well, at least they are going to church.” Again, what happens when the reason for going to church is removed? May we strive to raise students who don’t simply go to church when they are in middle school and high school. Instead, raise students who have a genuine desire to know God. Could the real reason high school graduates are walking away from their faith be found in their reason to come to church in the first place?
The win in parenting and pastoring is not church attendance. We must look to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 and set the target back on loving God and loving others. How can we love God and others? Only through knowing Him. How do we know Him? The primary means of knowing God is gathering together as believers. Let us not forsake our meeting together for the sake of busy schedules, sleepy students, or lack of desire. Often, when we want to go to church least is when we need to gather most.