Alright guys, today we’re going to have story time!
Brace yourselves… it’s about to get real up in here…
Once upon a time, I was an awkward teen. More accurately, I was a shy, insecure, awkward teen who was apart of my (now former) church’s youth group. I attended youth group regularly during Sunday school hours and on Wednesday nights, participated in the studies, and helped out with a few fundraisers. Our youth group was pretty small, with about ten kids at the most, if I’m remembering correctly. Nevertheless, though our youth group was of little population, it did not prevent cliques from forming. And naturally, as a result of said cliques, there was an unspoken “coolness” factor that we had to live up to; one, I might add, of which I did not meet the standards. So, what did the coolness factor consist of?
The Coolness Factor:
- Attending church camp
- Attending youth events
- Attending CCM concerts
- Being apart of the praise and worship team
- Listening to all of the contemporary Christian bands
It has already been mentioned that I was a shy, insecure, awkward teen. I’ve also always been a homebody. All of those ingredients coupled with the fact that I was never exactly “friends” per say with my fellow youth groupers due to the intimidation factor of the cliques caused me to not participate in most of the youth group outings. From the time I was old enough to attend church camp, I was afraid of going because (this is going to sound absolutely pathetic, I know) I didn’t know if I could handle things without my parents for an extended period of time. As for the youth events, though I eventually went to a Winter Jam concert and an event about purity, I was around 16 years old and my sister had since then aged up to join the youth group. I was never apart of the praise and worship team because, let’s be honest, I can’t sing, and I wasn’t about to pretend like I could. And, though I do listen to a few CCM artists these days, I hadn’t grown up listening to contemporary Christian music (my family prefers more traditional gospel music). Therefore, I didn’t know why I should have to start then just to fit in at youth group.
So, what was so wrong with the cliques?
I could have talked to the kids in the youth group if I had really wanted. The thing was, I didn’t feel welcomed. Ironically, I had been a member of that particular church longer than the majority of my fellow youth group members, and I was the one who felt completely out-of-the-loop. All it took was for one youth leader to notice my lack of participation in the youth events to create a bias against me. This youth leader would constantly interrogate me in front of the others as to why I couldn’t/didn’t want to go to the events, sometimes rendering me speechless. The kids eventually began to treat me differently; hardly anyone talked to me, while some of the more popular members made fun of me. The preacher eventually caught on and played favorites with the kids who participated in all of the events, letting them basically do anything they wanted. In hindsight, both I and the other church members were at fault for creating a communication barrier of sorts, going completely against the teachings of the following verse:
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous…” -1 Peter 3:8
All in all however, my main problem with the cliques (or youth group discrimination in general), was that though the youth group spent all this time and effort going places to worship outside of the church we attended, we hardly ever spent time studying God’s word during our biweekly meetings. When I look back at the six years I spent in youth group, the most vivid memories I have involved planning out the details for Vacation Bible School, gathering ideas together for fundraisers, or listening to the rest of the youth group talk about sports teams. For the most part, our study books and Bibles remained untouched.
The root of the problem with youth group discrimination, as well as all types of discrimination within the church, can be narrowed down to one obvious factor: if we begin to leave God out, we’ll begin to leave everyone else out too. Notice before how I said that the youth group I attended rarely ever dug into the Word of God. I can honestly say that I had no spiritual growth whatsoever during those six years, due to the fact that I grew up within a church that glorified self while setting the Bibles on a shelf somewhere. You see, there is a distinction between Christians and church members: Christians will study the Word of God and approach all people in a Christlike manner, whereas church members just seek to perform actions of the church. Now, I’m not saying that you are not a true Christian if you are an actively involved church member; however, if the actions you perform within the church don’t point to Christ, I’m calling you out dude.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” -1 John 1:7
Any reason we can conjure up for discriminating against someone within the church is a direct reflection of our need to turn our attention back to God. As Stacy L. Sanchez puts it, “We aren’t called to be like other Christians; We are called to be like Christ.” Therefore, just as we shouldn’t have to conform to the world’s view of what a perfect Christian (which does not exist, by the way) acts like, we shouldn’t discriminate against other Christians who do not act exactly like us. God created each and every one of us in our own unique way, and as long as we believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, do our best to abide by God’s commandments, and seek to do His Will instead of our own, there should be no room or desire for our own prejudices to take effect.
So, talk to that quiet kid in youth group. Act as a brother or sister in Christ to the new couple at church. Actively seek out fellow Christians, and build eachother up instead of building walls.
Goodnight and God bless!
Featured Image found at Google Images | No copyright infringement intended