On Friday, we were going through Design for Discipleship 2.1: The Life (NavPress) and we began with the section on “God’s Godness.” Question #7 tells the student that God is omniscient and that He knows what is going on in their life. So, what did I do? Being the troublemaker pastor that I am, I decided to point out the elephant in the room. I singled out one of my students and let him know that although his parents were no longer going to our church and he was going through confusing times, that God knew what was going on in his heart and that God would watch over him.
This set us off on an entirely tangential discussion that spanned the entire remaining portion of our time together. Again, as the troublemaker pastor, I asked them if any of them knew why parents had left our church. Two families left in the fall . . . two families left this winter . . . which adds up to nine students. Three siblings have left our church in the past few months. What does that mean? That means that the parent(s) and one child attend our church while the one other child attends another church. Another of my girls is on her way out next month as soon as her parents find a church. That’s a total of thirteen students. There are five others, but I am not going to count those folks, because that would just be petty. Thirteen’s no small number, though when the group is over 50. A quarter of the ministry has left.
Back to the study . . . none of my guys could really answer. Why? Because their parents felt that it’s not something “kids” need to know about. I agree. Kids don’t need to know, but as far as I was concerned, there were no kids sitting at the table at that moment. The youngest person at the table was fourteen. Even though he was born when I was in my first year at UCSD, I still see him as a man.
No one really had a solid answer for or understanding of or explanation for the departures. So, without naming names and getting into the details, I tried to disclose what I could.
1) Some adults have been hurt by other adults.
For example, there are two moms that are not able to swallow their pride and reconcile. One said something behind the other’s back and the other one does not acknowledge the hurt she has caused. Another issue is the fact that our church is located in one of the most affluent communities in California. So, believe it or not there are some moms that are not as financially wealthy as other moms and they are either jealous or they feel that the rich moms rub it in their face. Then, there are those dads that don’t feel they need to attend church anymore because they feel there is so much hypocrisy among the leadership, which leads to my next point.
2) Some adults have a low opinion of church leadership, which includes pastors and elders.
I have heard the whole gamut of criticisms against our pastors. The one that kills me is the belief that our pastors are lazy. Others doubt whether our elders are Christian and believe that they wield too much power. They are clamoring for a rotation so that others can try their hand at administration over the church. There is even a group of folks that are saying that our pastors and our elders do not have passion and they are not filled with the Holy Spirit, which leads to my next point.
3) Some adults believe that the church has no passion and is not a place in which they can grow.
They have stuck it out for years, but they don’t feel the passion. They don’t feel the fire. Therefore, they must leave, so that they can grow in God.
I ended our discussion by telling the young men that this lack of love, lack of respect, and lack of passion has also found its way into our high school ministry. I warned them that if they didn’t want to end up like their parents, then they needed to do something about it now. Unless radical change is made now, then an overwhelmingly painful degree of radical change will be required later.
I don’t think my students have realized the amount of love they have withheld and how much bitterness they have harbored. I challenged them to reconcile even over the smallest thing. I don’t think my students have realized how much they have disrespected me and how much they have disrespected my wife. My wife and I have let so many things slide. I challenged them to not only learn how to respect me, but to respect their teachers, and to respect one another. I admitted that perhaps I had not earned their respect yet and that I would work towards that goal. I don’t think my students have realized how much the absence of passion stemmed from the fact that they have had a lack of desire for worship and a lack of reverence towards God. I challenged them to take personal steps to strive after God and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill them . . . to provide direction and empowerment.
After almost an hour of discussion, we never did get to question #8. I’m such a troublemaker pastor.
(Ugh. As I’m writing this, I get a text from one of my students about this very topic.)