Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting with a twenty-something who is working in the area for the summer. He is a Christ-follower having come to believe in Jesus through an association with a novel youth ministry in a Canadian Prairie town called Joe’s Place. His story is another amazing example of how God is still in the business of touching people with his saving grace. This person certainly had the odds stacked against him as far as achieving healthy significance. Doesn’t sound like he ever knew his mom and was raised by several partners of his father until the latter married in recent years.
The youth ministry that finally reached him was a weekly no-drugs allowed gathering which offered food and drink, activities, love and friendship in a Christian atmosphere. There was also some deliberate communication of Christian truth in that setting. After awhile, someone led him through some Bible texts that helped him want to put his faith in Jesus. He prayed to receive Christ and then started attending a church recommended by the youth ministry. After he graduated from high school he went on to Bible College and now has his sights set on one day planting a church in one of Canada’s large cities.
Talking to him made me realize again how different it is for the young people of today than it was for a former generation. The kind of church experience that has captured his interest and seems effective in introducing new people to Jesus is characterized by typical post-modern features. The Worship Service style is definitely low-key in terms of overt leadership. He talked about it as a large group Bible-study — intimate, relational, participatory, and conversational. The pastor teaches, he says, but it doesn’t have the feel of a presentation.
So how do people from non-church backgrounds come into the church? Well it sounds like most of them come by way of the small groups. The groups are largely inductive-type Bible studies that also have a strong social dimension — groups have BBQ’s and parties that give regular participants an opportunity to invite their friends. They hear about the regular Bible studies and are introduced to Christian love and truth in that way and then end up coming to church.
Does the church have programs for particular age groups, etc? Yes, they are starting to see the need for children’s programs that are separate from the main event on Sundays. That’s about as far as we got in our discussion. But it does demonstrate some of the ways that younger people are thinking about church these days. I thought there were some interesting things to consider in his description of effective current church ministry.