by Nick Tucker – Associate Pastor – Youth and Service Experiences
Fundamental BIG Church
I remember when I first was brought back to church during my sophomore year of high school and having my views of church being completely shattered. I thought that when I agreed to go to church again, I was going to be sitting in the wooden pews and bored out of my mind. I was completely mind blown by the end of the night, after shoving marshmallows in my mouth and trying to say, “Chubby bunnies.” Youth group became a door through which I was able to learn more about Jesus, and the relational side of Him. However, it took me about a year until I finally went to “BIG church.”
I was at a youth winter camp, and there came a time where we were challenged to pair up with someone we didn’t know all too well, and just spend time talking about life, faith, and other things! Now being the knucklehead, teenage boy that I was, I was stoked about this 1-on-1 time! I had it all mapped out in my head. I was going to go up to one of the cute girls at camp and ask to do a 1-on-1 with them. God had other plans for 17-year-old Nick.
When the time came to pair up with someone, I got up from my seat, and began to walk towards some of the girls at camp; but out of nowhere, I was cut off by the Middle School Pastor of our church at the time. I had only been involved in our High School Ministry at that point, so I didn’t fully know the Middle School Pastor. He asked me if I would like to go for a 1-on-1 with him, and I agreed to do so. Little did I know, this 2-hour conversation changed the trajectory of my faith. The pastor’s name was Ed, and he took the time to get to know me, as well as share about his own life. The conversation was incredibly fruitful, but he challenged me in a way which I was not expecting. He challenged me to start going to “BIG church” and making it a priority in my life. From that point on, unless I was out of town, sick, or had a legitimately good reason, I attended every Sunday service for the rest of high school and into my first 2 years of college.
There is a reason why Ed challenged me to attend “Big Church” that I didn’t fully grasp until years later. The reality is that Sunday morning services are a fundamental part of our faith, especially for youth. There is something incredible that happens when we gather as the Church. There is something that happens when youth are exposed to not just their youth pastor, but to all pastors in the church. When they can experience intergenerational worship, and see the habits and roots dug deep. For myself as a teenager, I began to love Sundays more than youth group! Worship was better, teaching was better, I got to interact with more than just my friends. Youth group was a great thing for me! It was something I loved going to, but youth group cannot and should not be “church.”
When youth group becomes “church” youth are far more likely to walk away from their faith when they become young adults. A 2019 study by Lifeway Research says this about teenagers:
“The dropout rate for young adults accelerates with age… While 69 percent say they were attending at age 17, that fell to 58 percent at age 18 and 40 percent at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, around 1 in 3 say they were attending church regularly.”
It is easy to say, “well once teenagers graduate high school, then they will just come to Sunday’s church service.” I think statistics would say that is too late for the church to act. Sundays are incredibly important for the development of our youth as well as their overall spiritual health. This is why Sundays are branded as an important part of Youth Ministry here at Covenant Grove! We encourage all our youth, middle school and high school aged, to attend on Sunday mornings. We are active on Sunday mornings! Sundays are of extreme importance for all people, but especially youth if they are to stick with their faith through their young adult years.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says this, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Sunday mornings are the perfect opportunity for us to motivate one another to acts of love and good works; especially youth. Let us not neglect our meeting together but encourage one another. Youth group cannot and should not be “church.” Youth group is a great doorway to introduce youth into the faith, it is a great supplement for faith development of youth, but there has to be a point that youth become a part of the entire body. They are an important part of the body, and I love when I get to see youth on Sunday mornings.
I remember sitting in Sunday morning services as a teenager, with all my other teenaged friends around me. I remember being a youth leader and sitting with youth in a Sunday morning service and how amazing it was to see them absorb all that Sundays had to offer. I remember being a Youth intern and taking up four whole rows in the sanctuary, filled with youth. I love that we are a church with a huge heart for the next generation, and it is with a huge heart for the next generation that I want to encourage all our youth and parents of youth to get involved in Sunday mornings. It is important and will make a massive difference in the lives of our teenagers.
I remember very vividly the conversation I had with Ed. I was challenged to start coming to “BIG church” and I did so reluctantly at first. But over time, I discovered and learned just how good “BIG church” was for my faith, and my walk with God. I saw how awesome it was that I began to know our Lead Pastor as a teenager, I began to know our Worship Pastor as a teenager and felt as if I didn’t just have one or two youth pastors, but I simply had pastors who cared about my soul and about me. I learned from the wisdom and experience of the ushers and greeters. Sunday mornings became a fundamental part of my faith and have remained fundamental through my years of being a Christian.