It has become the odd expectation of Youth to be drawn to churches or ministries that provide a feeling. The young generation we see today is more in tune with their emotions and are not only aware of them but know how to communicate and actually live their lives based on them. It's a hard to convince someone of obedience when they 'don't feel like it'.
I have recently been taking the Youth Group through a series I called 'BeReal. Your Faith for Real.' Of course, as an adequate Youth Pastor would, I based it off of a new social media platform which promotes the sharing of authentic moments. The reason I felt led to lead this series is because of a pattern. It is a pattern I experience at a young age and now I watch from an older perspective and knew it was necessary to address.
How many times have we seen teenagers come back from camp or a retreat or conference on fire for the Lord? Every time. Now how many times do we see that fire last more than 2 months? Almost never.
For the longest time I couldn't figure out why. I think it's easy to identify the lack of discipline and devotion to the Lord and the commitment of forming healthy spiritual habits. However, what I have picked up on is the large contrast between the camp experience and the home church experience. Camps and conferences are filled with no sleep which fuels physical weakness and spiritual thirst, games and loud music, incredible worship, and spirit-led, biblically based preaching that brings conviction and truth. Our home church has all of the elements necessary to lead the saints in worship to the Lord, but it never carries the same emotion, production, or isolated devotion that a conference does. Here is the key: One should not cave to the other. We don't need conferences to make everything less than so that it matches our home church. We certainly don't need our home church to match the experience of a conference. So, what do we do with the effect of these differences?
We must lead youth to the truth. The truth is that God's ability to move in our lives is never based on our emotions, and neither should our love or devotion of Him. If we expect to feel chills or something during worship, we miss the point of worship. If we expect to feel related to and challenged and convicted after every sermon, we miss the point of hearing the Word preached in church.
I don't think this is a reminder to teenagers alone though. I have caught myself wondering if my church experience was less than when I didn't have the same feelings afterward. It's easy for us to place our preferences into the real priorities which makes them take places that they shouldn't. Let's remember what worship, study, prayer, and devotion actually looks like and remember that above all, God is unchanging, and we are to pursue His kingdom with humility, courage, boldness, and love for the God who saves.