This past year I attended three different churches. From about January to May, I attended Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kokomo while in school at Taylor University. From about May to September I was at my home church, 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Finally, I was at McKinnon Reformed Presbyterian Church in Melbourne, Australia, from about October to December.
In the last couple years, I have heard from various RP pastors the idea that church members ought to move close to church so they can be involved in the life of the church. (A legitimate and important exhortation.) Being a young person, I move around a lot and so it's hard to follow this advice. In the last five/six years, I haven't stayed in the same living situations for more then about 9 months. This is characteristic of most young adults.
Where Does that Put us Young People in the Church?
Churches normally don't do well with people who move around a lot. It takes time to get to know people, meet their needs and invest in their lives. When after a couple months of hard work, all that work seems to go to waste when you move.
To answer the question, young people, like myself, have a major role to play in the church, even if we aren't there for more then a couple months. We are called to be an example to the rest of the congregation in speech, life, love, faith and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12) The role of the young person is to be an example to the congregation, even if he/she is only there for a couple weeks or months.
Below, I outline some practical suggestions I have discovered over the last five years that have helped me. (And no I don't think I've done a good job of following my own suggestions.)
1. Be at church on Time and EVERY Week
This one can be very hard when you live about 40 minutes away from school, and you were up late studying in the library. (interpretation: on facebook in the library) Regardless, do what it takes to get there on time. If you can't show, make sure someone in the congregation knows you're not. Believe it or not, people notice.
2. Talk to People
It's really awkward at first, especially if you're the only person there your own age, but it's vital that you go up to people and talk to them. Ask them questions and act like they're a human being even though they may be a half century older then you or are the equivalent of creepy little aliens since they're an endangered species on college campuses. I.E. Little kids.
One a side note, It was really hard for me to remember people's names at church because I saw normally saw them once a week. In between that time, I saw and talked to hundreds of people. Members easily get squeezed out of the young person's memory. Hence, write people's names down. (I never did that...)
3. Pay Attention to the Church Schedule and ATTEMPT to Attend
I know time is valuable, but even if you don't plan on attending all church events, the least you can do is go to the pot luck dinner. You'll get free food, good food, and people will begin to realize that you're not there to feel holy, but want to be involved in the church. (I failed miserably at this one.)
Even if you don't go to any events, it'll give you feeling for where the church is at and how you can pray for them.
4. Smile and Praise God
You're at church in the body of Christ. Rejoice and be glad even if you haven't slept for a couple days. (I frowned a lot... I get an excuse since I was a serious philosophy student.)
Note: it may be beneficial to write out our theology of church on Sunday. Basically answer the question, why do you go to church?
5. Don't fall Asleep during the Sermon!
Guilty as charged. Even if the sermon is the most boring lecture you've heard in your entire life, don't you dare fall asleep. Do whatever it takes: pinch yourself, bring a drink or take notes. I personally took notes, even when I didn't care or disagreed with the pastor. (Sorry Pastor York, Pastor Johnston, Pastor Faris, Pastor Hart. It hasn't happened to often.)
6. Be An Encouragement
Churches go through hard times. Having a young person who regularly attends can be huge. Just attending can be a great encouragement. It could also mean taking on a more formal role or simply talking to people.
In conclusion, remember that you are an example to the church so it's vital you play a part, even if for a little while.
In the next couple days I'll write something on how the church can help young people. Many of these thoughts are just starting to come up. So thoughts and suggestions will be great.
note: Part II is now up!
note: Part II is now up!