“Waves of mercy, waves of grace
everywhere I look, I see your face
your love has captured me
oh my God, this love – how can it be?”
Five members of the youth choir were kind enough to grace us with a performance of ‘Every move I make‘ on Sunday. This song brought me back to a time when I used to sing the song myself. My church was a contemporary one, the songs that the youth would sing were the same ones the adults themselves would do. So instead of being one of a few kids expected to perform for the church, the whole congregation would sing these songs together.
I wondered to myself if it would be wise to warn the youth that once they graduated high school, their days of actually singing contemporary music at this church were over unless they were to join the adult choir in which case they could expect to continue doing performances for the rest of the church indefinitely. For those who aren’t exactly choir material or inclined to give performances, their days of singing contemporary music at church would end much sooner than that but they could still take comfort in that they could still sing these songs all alone at home as much as they wanted.
It’s one of the big mysteries about living in this area. For some odd reason, when people live in cities, churches of every kind and style are available for people to choose from – contemporary, traditional, plain, decorated, mega, small, somewhere in-between or a little bit of both. Out here people live in the countryside and churches are much more limited. Most denominations do not have a presence in this area. Even the ones that do feature one style above all of the rest – traditional.
But churches often go to great lengths to appeal to children, not just through VBS; but the rest of the year they invariably get special treatment or some variation of a holiday just because. So they often aren’t afraid to lure kids to church with contemporary music. For one, the similarity with secular music is far less intimidating than trying to get a batch of shy middle school students to choose a hymn to attempt to sing. Two, music education isn’t what it once was and the odds are that everyone will know how to read music and sing confidently as a middle school student is markedly diminished compared to what it would have been like decades ago.
Which is why many complain of the ‘bait-and-switch’ feel of church as it’s beloved youth graduate to adult-hood and realize that there’s nothing for them anymore. The songs they used to get to do are no more. Special trips? Nope. Getting together for a game, a movie, or a bite at a restaurant? Sure – on your own time and your own dime. The church that I attended when I graduated High School had no college and career class. It had nothing to move on to. After years of ‘graduating’ from the 10th to the 11th graders, the 11th to the 12th graders – I didn’t know how to adjust to whatever the church expected of me.
In my last few churches, there’s been a big problem that they also have no real ‘groups’. Most of that is due to the fact that these churches are just so small and so empty that only a few last long enough to graduate – those who do see no reason to stick around when the closest people to their age are usually slightly older than them who are young married couples with toddlers and there’s usually not very many of them either.Most of the churches I’ve been to are decidedly operated by a majority of older believers who have no desire to do anything different. Is it no wonder, then, that so many of the younger generations feel that there’s no place for them in this church – the one that baited them with music they liked and switched to something foreign on them? I hope that if I last long enough to help make decisions in the church that I remember to always leave room for the ‘children’s music’ to be the ‘adult’s music’ as well.