If anyone were to take a close look at our Student Ministries calendar, they would discover that we have a lot of things on our schedule. There are several bible study options, different fun events, and other opportunities for our students to meet together. Someone might look at that and think, “Pastor Brian is crazy for scheduling so many things. There are too many events to ask these students to attend.” At times, I might even be inclined to agree. It can grow wearisome trying to put together so many activities for our students. But then I have to remind myself that there is a purpose behind all these events. That purpose is community.
We are created with a desire to be a part of community. We want to feel like we belong and we crave companionship. If we go back to the beginning of creation, the only thing that God said wasn’t good about his creation was that man was alone. So God created a helpmate for him. Now don’t misunderstand me, I am NOT saying that the things we do as a youth group are for the purpose of pairing up our teenagers for marriage. What I am trying to say is that we were not created to go through life alone and our Christian journey is not designed to be one of solitude. When God gave Eve to Adam, the first community was formed.
This is why we have a lot of student ministries events. Our students, whether they realize it or not, crave community. They want a place to belong, a place where they feel they fit in. And if the church does not provide it for them, they will find it elsewhere. Whether it be in their social circles, their sports teams, or even online, students will find places where they can find community. A recent article from the New York Post on Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of Facebook said, “Facebook is ‘the new church’ and the social network can take on the role that religion once did in giving people a sense of community.” Sadly, many things are beginning to replace the church as that sense of community in today’s world.
It is this push to find belonging in other arenas of life that has motivated me to offer different events and gatherings for our students and it is a large basis for our church to launch the start of our new “Connection Groups.” We want to provide a place where people can connect with believers, to not only study God’s word together, but to walk through life together. It is a wonderful thing to worship corporately with other believers on Sunday mornings, but it is also a huge blessing to be able to meet with believers on a Monday or Thursday evening and talk about how their weeks are going, what’s happening in their family and to pray for and encourage one another as “life happens.”
Being in community gives you the chance to be around people at different stages of their faith journey—and to bear their burdens alongside of them (Galatians 6:2). That’s awesome, because everyone has something to teach and to learn. In fact, it creates the ideal environment to be a Barnabas (friend), pursue a Paul (teacher), or train a Timothy (student).
What it comes down to is lifting each other up, learning from one another, and being the friend each of us needs. That’s how the author of Hebrews describes community: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Not only is it encouraging, but Christian community is, or should be, fun. The world may see Christians as a drab and boring, but that shouldn’t be the case. Some of my most enjoyable times are when I am in fellowship with believers. As I write this article, I am reflecting on the time just spent with our students playing paintball. What a joy it was to have fun with a group of students and parents, building up our community as we enjoy each other’s company. Christians can be witty, goofy and really fun to be around. Psalm 133:1 says, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”
And community prompts us to grow in our love for one another. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he held love as the highest virtue (1 Corinthians 13) and he echoed that thought in his letter to the Christians in Colossae, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:13-14).
People long for community. Our students long for community. And they will find it somewhere. My desire is that they find it within the church. The church should strive to create and foster community where people can study God’s word, be encouraged, have fun and grow in our love. That is where we belong.
Soli deo gloria,