The Rules of Engagement in “Big Church”

Benji BruneelCommunity News

With the coming of summer, our Youth Ministry schedule changes some and our JH and HS students have the opportunity to sit in the service more often than during the school year. For some, this is a huge assignment, as sitting through a service in “big church” often seems a daunting task.

Regrettably, many our of students seem to view this time in the service as punitive rather than formative, as something to be endured rather than something to be embraced. I want to humbly suggest three ways that students and parents can gain more out of the opportunity for increased participation in the services.

First, expect to learn something. In Junior College, I re-took Spanish 1 and 2, even though I had taken three years of Spanish in High School. I did that because they would be easy credits and I wouldn’t have to re-learn much. And, guess what? I didn’t re-learn much, nor did I really enjoy the classes. Coming to Scripture is a wholly opposite endeavor.

Because God’s character is so rich and beyond us, there is always something to be learned of him. Each time we gather, we are pursuing the God of the universe who—though he dwells in mystery—has chosen to reveal himself to us in the Scriptures and in his Son. How could we not learn something?! Students, come expectantly, knowing that there is always more of God for you to encounter.

Second, look for the central point. I refuse to believe that students who can read something and track with the main point of what they’ve read—whether it be a comic book, a chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird, or a selection from Homer’s Odyssey—cannot also sit through a 35-minute sermon and “get something out of it.” The two require very similar skill sets.

Just like reading a piece of literature, when listening to a sermon, look for the central point. At the end of a sermon, you should be able to give a recap of what it was about in one or two sentences. A good sermon will be about one thing. There may be subpoints, but the sermon is really about one thing. Put your best detective’s skills to use and find that one thing.

And, don’t let the subpoints distract you from the quest. Instead, as the sermon unfolds, listen for how each subpoint or story contributes to the central point. It may actually help you to jot down key phrases, sentences or Scriptures as the sermon goes along. You wouldn’t want to reach the end of a 2-hour movie and realize you didn’t pay close enough attention to know what it was about. The same holds true on Sundays. Come ready to find the central point.

Finally, be willing to marvel. I think we have a serious lack of wonder in our culture. We are hard to impress. But, the fact that the almighty, holy, perfect, just, compassionate, merciful, sovereign, eternal God of the universe has chosen to reveal himself to finite, sinful, rebellious, prideful, idolatrous people like you and me should cause us to shake our heads in wonder. And, if nothing else, come to church to marvel at such a God and to thank him for such grace. The grace of revealing himself in the Bible so that we could know him. The grace of saving wayward rebels and making them his children. The grace of putting us into a family of believers that encourages and challenges us.

Maybe we could all use a little dose of wonder. And, with it, we just might find that the Scriptures come alive in ways we couldn’t have dreamed. That sermons take on shades and character that we never before noticed. And that the gathering of the family of God is something we wouldn’t dare miss because we can’t imagine anything else that we could possibly “get more out of.”

I’m excited to see the ways in which God uses this summer in the lives of our students. We have a full calendar of camps, Youth Group, and various activities, and I hope he works in mighty ways through each of those things. I know, though, that he works through the gathered family of God coming on Sundays to attend to his Word, and—this summer even more often than during the school year—our students get to benefit from that gathering. So, let’s come ready to meet our big God each Sunday as we gather in “big church.”