This Sunday morning I was working with our High School group at church and a new student who is a junior in High School joined us. I greeted him and asked all the usual questions that we ask of new students. Through this conversation he told me he was looking for a youth group to attend, his family did not go to church, and he was not involved in any church. I mentioned a few students in our group that he might know and he denied knowing them.
10 minutes later, another student who is the same age came in for the first time and gave me the exact same story. I introduced the two students to each other and then to some students in our group and proceeded with the morning. After group I found out that both of these new students know each other, both attend another church in the area, and both were sent on assignment from their church to “check out other ministries”.
I have no problem with learning from each other so that we can all do the best job possible but something is not right with this scenario. First of all, both of these students had well- rehearsed lies about who they are and where they are from. Apparently their church wants them to use dishonesty at times. Secondly, both of these students attend a huge church in the area who have a High School group larger than our entire church. They have a new youth facility that costs more than 5x our entire church building. What do they possibly think they can learn from us? Anything that works for us cannot be applied to their situation because sheer numbers make it impossible to replicate.
This whole assignment is set up to fail because: 1) it teaches their students that dishonesty is okay at times, 2) if the students like the smaller churches better they will become frustrated with their current church because they are too big to replicate small church ministry, and 3) if the students don’t like the smaller churches they could gain an “elite’s” perspective on their own church experience and unless the students are more mature than most adults, they will get the wrong impression about what makes a church good.
The point is this for those leading other people in ministries. 1) Jesus never used dishonesty. 2) Learn from others but focus on what God wants YOU to do in YOUR situation, not what other people do in their situations. 3) Church is not a competition. The best possible scenario is for all churches to be faithful to what they think God wants them to do and to do it whole-heartedly. Success is not measured in numbers, but it is measured in faithfulness to God’s call to each individual.