meadowrueflowerOver the past couple of years I’ve enjoyed leading chapel twice a month for the middle and high school students at my sons’ school. Sometimes I’m not sure if the kids are smiling at me because they are thinking, “What an idiot!” or because they are genuinely interested in what I have to share. But either way, it’s an opportunity to encourage the next generation in their faith.

For the last chapel service this year, I challenged the students–particularly those graduating–to stay open to the presence of God in their lives, to continue exploring their faith, and to stay connected by going to church.

“There are lots of different churches,” I told them. “You don’t have to dress like a Pilgrim or wear a prairie skirt and sing three-hundred-year-old hymns. Explore. Be adventurous. Find a church that speaks to you.”

Why did I say this?

It is estimated that 80-percent of today’s high school and college graduates who have grown up in church will no longer stay involved after leaving home.

With children of my own approaching this stage, I have a theory of one reason this happens. It’s awkward stepping through the doors of a new church. Even for adults. Particularly after being accustomed to one particular church and style of worship.  So, imagine how hard this is for an eighteen-year-old.

During college when I was studying in Jerusalem, I noticed that many of the folks who attended the Charismatic Anglican church where I went on Sunday morning were the same people gathered under a tent at another church that evening. I might run into them again at a home Bible study later in the week somewhere else.

In other words “church” wasn’t one particular building with one particular pastor–it was an organic community of believers worshipping and growing together across the whole city.

It was beautiful.

And open.

And inviting.

So, with my own children, I’ve deliberately introduced them to churches other than our own. This past winter I visited a great Sunday school at a Methodist church in a neighboring town. Now our whole family is participating in a wonderful 12-week evening class at a Baptist church in the other direction. And I love when my son is able to attend mass with a Catholic friend. On my list of churches to visit are a family-led church up the coast and a college-oriented service in Portland that includes a light show and smoke. Yeah, smoke.

Are we still committed to our home church? Absolutely.

But when my children are ready to leave home, I want them to know they are part of a MUCH bigger community of believers. One that can’t possibly be contained in a single building. One they can explore on their own. One that has a place for them.

“In him [Christ] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord,” Ephesians 2:21.

What do you think?