Have you ever met someone who actually enjoyed getting dental work done? The kind of person who wants a long, slow root canal? Me neither. Sometimes I’ve sat through church business meetings where I wished I was in the dentist chair instead. But, like having a cavity filled or getting your teeth cleaned with that scrapy-thing, it’s necessary. Tonight we had our students in a business meeting rather than keeping them away in a separate Bible study. I wanted them to be a part of the church decision-making process, and as I came away from the meeting tonight I was able to think of 4 reasons why it’s important for teenagers to be in business meetings, even the long ones.
They’re church members – Unless we create a second-class understanding of church membership, teenagers who have joined the church are entitled to the same voting privileges, service opportunities, and speaking platform as a seasoned member of 50 years. They have a stake in the process, and because of that deserve every opportunity to be a part of it. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always pretty, but it’s part of being in a family. Reading reports is never a way of captivating people, but part of the importance of things like treasurers reports and membership reports is that it shows teenagers how important the details are – operating the church above reproach and recognizing the addition (or subtraction) of people from our membership shows them that the church is both organization and organism.
They’re the future – Believe it or not, the middle schooler who now is focused on getting the high score on Flappy Bird will one day be a leader in the local church. Many times teens are given only one aspect of church life, isolated among their own peer group, and withdrawn from the life of the greater body. They’re given a 7 year camp experience on Wednesday nights and Sundays, and when they graduate are unable to deal with the reality of church life. By allowing them a seat at the table in the beginning, while they’re still learning what their church roles might be, it allows a time of formation and sharpening so that they’re ready to step into active roles as adults.
They’re an example – I want our church to recognize that their students are not being babysat, coddled, or entertained. I want the church to see that we’re about producing mature, self-feeding disciples. And I want them to see that our students are living out 1 Timothy 4:12, setting the example for the church in their faith, conduct, and love. The last thing I want to see our student ministry become is a holding tank. We view ourselves as a ministry of the church, not apart from it. And that means brushing shoulders with young adults, single moms, retirees, and every other rank and file.
They’re part of the Gospel story – The Gospel isn’t as sanitized as we want it to be, nor is it like the exhilarating high of the camp experience. It’s messy. It involves people who we don’t agree with or like. It involves dealing with things that might sound trivial or boring. And it involves us having to put aside personal preferences for the greater good of the Body of Christ. These are all lessons vital for teenagers to learn. The Gospel story is one that has been told and retold for 21 centuries on 6 continents in millions of local churches – that Jesus Christ has come into the world to die for sinners and offer Himself as the hope for mankind. And that experience has looked very much the same for all 21 centuries: live, die, get married, have kids, work a job, serve the church, pray, worship Jesus, tell others about him – a very ordinary life. And in that ordinary is a thing of beauty. Church business meetings function that same way, they’re very ordinary and not always exciting, but they serve as a time for the church to come together to reflect on their contribution to the Gospel story.