I’ve been working in the church planting and church turnaround business since I was twenty-six years old. Let’s just say that was awhile ago [my wife just whispered “A LONG while ago.”]. One might think that I’m immune from the allergy to change. But, sadly, I’m not.
It was Grandparent Church Camp. Three days, two nights, with your not-quite-old-enough for a week-long camp and grandparents were encouraged to attend with an appropriately aged child. I took one of my grandsons. His mom took him regularly to a local Big Box Church (she’d left her mainline denominational church because their children’s wing wasn’t secured and she was concerned about a non-custodial parent – so she switched churches). I liked the church she attended and was impressed at how immersed my grandson was in their children’s ministry.
Until Campfire Night. The camp leaders were young college students and they knew how to keep the kids engaged. They sang Morris the Moose, a camp favorite, and several other camp songs. I was sitting next my grandboy and watching him have a good time. Then the guitar playing leader said, “It’s time to wind down for prayer and for a conversation. So let’s sing one that everybody knows. Let’s sing Jesus Loves Me. They began singing and my grandson looked over at me and shrugged, “I don’t know this song, Papa.”
I was livid. How could a church as good and fine as First Big Box have missed this important, life-altering, spiritually nurturing, heart-empowering song? I told him it was alright and if he listened, he’d learn it. But inside I was “I have to talk to my daughter. How could she take my grandchildren to such a horrible church that was SO missing the basics with these kids.
The good news was that we weren’t allowed to have our cell phones, or she’d have got an earful that evening.
The next afternoon was Swimming Day! It was a perennial favorite and we were splashing around having a grand time, the previous evenings faux pas far from my mind. The same camp leaders were the lifeguards as well and they showed up at the pool with a boom box that I think took two of them to carry. They were playing a variety of modern Christian songs … very loudly … so they could be heard over the water play.
We’d been there at least a half hour and was sitting on the edge of the pool relaxing. A not-too-familiar Christian rock-n-roll song was playing and I noticed my grandson was singing along with it. I asked him about the song and he said, “Oh, we sing this one all the time at my church.” The song was every bit as uplifting and theologically sound as the Jesus Loves Me chorus from the night before.
And that’s when it struck me. I’d been so incensed that my grandson didn’t know MY generation’s music (and my parent’s and grandparent’s generations), that I’d lost my perspective. I don’t sing the old Latin songs that my great, great, great grandparents were familiar with … and that’s okay. And my grandson wouldn’t be singing the songs that I was familiar with. And that was okay. Instead, he was singing music that was inspirational and uplifting to him and to his generation – and who was I to suggest our songs were somehow better than their songs?
All that’s to say … Embracing change isn’t easy for any of us. But if we’re going to reach the next generations, we’re going to have to truly let go of our own proclivities and preferences in order for young adults and their families to forge a meaningful faith that will take them into the future.