When I was in high school (I still like to think that wasn’t that long ago) everyone I knew who went to church, only went to one church—their church.
Is this a bad thing?
I don’t think so.
First, there are a lot fewer church-going Christian students than before. So students are now looking for their “tribe” where ever they can find it.
Second, different churches have different strengths (and weaknesses). The big churches “down the street” are great at attracting students through big events, high entertainment youth nights, and giveaways. They’re able to reach a lot of students who would be scared (yes scared) to step foot into a traditional looking church. Their ability to reach the unchurched is a great thing!
On the other hand churches like Fellowship, because of our size, have different strengths. We are able to easily connect with people. The first time someone comes to us, we know their name. We’re also able to focus more deeply on discipleship. More than once a student has told me that he likes coming to Fellowship because he can ask hard questions. Others have told me they like the fact that the groups are small, and not overwhelming.
Here’s the thing. One kind of church is not better than the other. As long as we’re all doing our best to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples, we’re all on the same team. And there is no need to worry about competition.
Today students like being able to grow in their faith through both big and small churches. They like experiencing God through Gospel-driven entertainment, relational settings, and making deep connections with adults and friends.
All this is fine as long as one thing doesn’t change.
That is your student has a church home. By church home I mean, that they are committed to a family of believers on Sunday morning. Obviously I’m biased toward having them commit toward the family of believers at Fellowship.
But here’s why this matters. Church is like a family. And your student needs to be committed to a family and have a family that is committed to them.
Research shows, the teens who flourish in their faith after high school are the teens who had multigenerational relationships in their home church. That is the teens felt comfortable around and loved by the whole church family and not just their peers. They felt connected to the parents and the grandparents of the church as well. Teens only experience these kinds of relationships when they and their families commit to making one church their home church.
So don’t feel guilty if your teen wants to go with their friends to another church. It’s not a competition. Every church exists for a reason—to display the glory of God in the manner God has called them to. Let them enjoy seeing how God is working in another church. But on the other hand encourage (maybe even require) your teens to be committed to a home church—a place where they feel a part of the family. A place where they will be known and loved by multiple generations and given the opportunity to flourish in their faith.