High school graduation is upon us. While certainly not in the form we have always known it, in a few short weeks, high school seniors will be moving on to the next stage of life.
Whether it is college, the military or the workforce, these young men and women are taking the next step in life’s journey. With this come excitement and apprehension, fear of the unknown.
I have met many of these graduates and have full confidence most are on their way to being productive members of society.
Church life during this season is completely different than any other norm pastors have ever experienced.
May is usually one of the most exciting times of the year as a congregation celebrates with its graduates and ramps up for summer retreats. I can say May is one of the busiest months of my calendar year. With graduation ceremonies also come parties, baccalaureate services, gifts, meals and a worship service to celebrate the hard work these graduates have completed. Having teenagers at multiple high schools only complicates the matter.
Recently, I joined a Facebook group called “Youth Pastors Only.” I still maintain student ministry responsibilities along with my other duties at church. I am always looking to do a better job of discipling our teenagers. I hoped this group would give me wisdom and unique ideas on reaching a changing generation.
With over 60,000 church youth workers from all over the world, I was excited about the prospects. Boy, was I ever shocked at the questions, anti-biblical views and immaturity of the people working with our youth!
One post stuck out to me. A young man was inquiring about graduation gifts for his students when he asked the following question:
“Looking for grad gifts for the seniors in my church who admit they do not follow or care about God and have not attended any form of church or youth gathering in over two years. They are still members of the church, and I am expected to provide a gift for them. Anything spiritual will be met with hostility. Unfortunately, a Bible or devotional won’t sit well with them or their parents.”
I feel for this young minster. I have been in his situation before; an unhealthy church with unhealthy expectations. He is simply trying to be obedient in the church context in which God has placed him.
I don’t lay this appalling situation at his feet. Right or wrong, I blame church leadership for allowing and even promoting this toxic environment. Yes, I understand the argument that people may get their feelings hurt and leave the church.
However, allow me to counter. So you want to stand before the throne of God one day and explain how you used church funds to appease hostile reprobates? If someone disfellowships themselves from the body over such a petty matter, are they truly regenerate and showing the fruits of repentance?
Sadly, I hear stories like this from young pastors on a regular basis. They love their church and desire to submit to leadership. However, they confess privately that senior leadership cares more about appeasing the big givers and keeping their jobs than building a healthy congregation.
Is this really where we find ourselves in church life today? Are too many pastor(s) puppets rather than prophets?
How can our God look on this and smile?
Andy Waits is associate pastor for worship and students at First Baptist Church of Springville.