Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jenga faith should be welcome

A few weeks ago I heard the best description of how “emergent faith” is developed and the primary reason to those between the ages of 12-25 walk away from God and the church. In fact, it's so good that I'm taking all the young adults at church through it individually.

It all has to do with the game Jenga.
You know the game...
It isn’t complex. You begin with a tower made of 54 finger-sized wooden blocks. In turn, you remove a block, placing it on the top of the tower. With time, this become increasingly difficult and, inevitably, someone losses the game once they knock the tower down.
The way Jenga was used to describe young spirituality, reflects what I’ve seen and have mentioned as the “drop out points of youth/young adult ministry.”
Predictably, there are events/times when a young person is more likely to disengage with faith – year 6, year 7, year 9/10, baptism/confirmation, year 12, first year of university, moving out of home, getting married, having a child and a relationship breaking up.
Some drop out point are caused by life change...
Ending primary school.
Starting high school.
Starting higher education.
You "graduate" from a group.
Moving out.
Starting a family.

Others develop relationally...
Your friendship group changes.
Peer pressure increases.
There's awkwardness caused by being in the same group as your ex.
You get married.
Put simply, there are times when life will change and a young person will need to decide, once again, if God/church/youth group still belong in the “Jenga tower” that is the life they have built. At various junctions, life will give everyone opportunities to consider the numerous wooden blocks which make up their “Jenga tower.” At these moments a person will decide that the block belongs - remaining a part of their tower, no longer belongs - and is tossed away or will be held in tension.
Do you retain the belief that God loves you when your mum gets cancer?
Do your principals about sex, sexuality, friendship and alcohol stay the same in light of what those around you are doing?
Do you still believe the bible is true when you hear it get verbally bashed at university?
Will you keep attending church if you date someone who isn’t a believer?

As you can probably see, this isn’t just a struggle that teens and “emerging adults” need to wrestle with.
But the important message these age groups don’t hear loud or clear enough is that you’re still welcome no matter what your “Jenga tower” looks like.
If it feels totally destroyed due to tragedy impacting your life… you’re welcome in the midst of your pain.
If you aren’t sure about what you believe… bring your struggles and doubts with you to church… they are welcome.
If you’ve deliberately discarded the “God stuff” from your tower… you’re always welcome at church.

The message of welcomeness, irrespective of what makes up your “tower,” is a powerful one.

One that young people, especially, need to hear.
And just maybe, a message that some older folk could use as well…

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