I’m stumbling across some of our cities’ best kept secrets. Trouble is, they are secrets that want to be discovered.
In many University locations I visit, leaders of churches and student work tell me the same story. There’s always a couple of “big churches that seem to attract the students” and the others end up saying something along the lines of “we wish we had students in our church family, but as long as they’re going somewhere else...”.
Statistically we know that at the moment 73% of students who call themselves Christians, are not “going somewhere else”. If the big student church isn’t their flavour, and for thousands of Christians it may not be, all the other smaller church families are not finding these students turning up at their door instead.
They just don’t turn up at all.
What’s really struck me the last few weeks, is just how brilliant these small churches are, these well-kept secrets that students don’t seem to hunt-out and commit to. Why is it that students notoriously don’t stay in smaller city communities with a bunch of families, a handful of elderly people, and the biggest heart in the world to see you follow Jesus? I wonder if it’s because we shop around for the best-packaged brand of church we can find? Which naturally counts out congregations with older hymns, paper news letters and a building a little further out of student quarters perhaps?
I have a friend who would love to be mentored by an older Christian bloke, but can’t seem to find this. Yet I’m also meeting heaps of small church communities bursting with older men and women of faith wanting to welcome students into their family. These wonderful secrets pray some students will turn up and try them out, not just default to the big student church automatically. They are asking God to call people from the 18s-30s to come along, dig in regardless of the struggles, and build and lead new work within their church. I’ve met countless 60-somethings passionate about student mission, if they could be given the chance.
So here’s my challenge: not for students to leave churches they’ve already settled in, no way...
But, for you to start discovering the small secret churches all around you too. For those of you still searching or those who know you are not really part of your church but just following the crowd and going through the motions, I challenge you to consider that maybe, just maybe, the obvious “student church” option, or the “easy” church option may not always be the right one. What if you are called to dig-in alongside a small church, bringing fresh life and passion that could breathe into it growth, and create new community? It might even make the perfect home for your housemates, course mates, not-interested-in-church mates too?
What if our generation was meant to be a present and living part of every church, not just the obvious ones? What if we went out and found all the small secrets and went public with this?
What if these smaller churches, these littler expressions of God’s Kingdom, were like a mustard seed, “which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade”? (Mark 4).