About a month ago some of the youth from Willowtree and I were talking about church and our experiences. What was interesting was that most of the youth identified church as a place that made them feel bad about themselves more often than it made them feel good about themselves. Reflecting further on my conversation with them, this was something that really saddened me. I don't think that we should be leaving church feeling bad about ourselves. It was sad because our churches sometimes focus more on how our sins disconnect us from God, rather than on how we can grow in relationship with that same God–who above all else wants to connect with us.
Church can AND SHOULD certainly be a place that we share sorrow or pain with one another.
But it should also be a place where we can share joy and recognize God's presence in one another's lives.
I think that it is really important to listen to the insight and honesty of our youth and reflect on what we are teaching and sharing in our churches. Part of the problem in terms of youth attending and being connected with churches might be a result of a failure in truly presenting who God is. When we look at Jesus interactions–whether with the woman at the well or the women caught in adultery, or with Peter after he had denied knowing Jesus three times–a constant theme seems to be that God delights in eliminating shame from people, not giving it to them. Are our churches presenting a God before whom we are never good enough? Or are they helping us to be reconciled to a God who created us in his own image and who wants to take away our shame?