7 reasons to bring your teens to “Big Church”

May 25, 2018

As a youth pastor, I’m glad that youth ministries provide wonderful, exciting opportunities for students to be brought into community, encouraged in their discipleship, and engaged with the Word of God. At the same time, there are times when the offerings of student ministries can sometimes seem to be competing with the corporate gathering on Sunday mornings.

While I desire that what we offer for students is a quality, engaging experience, I fear that if students were to only come to youth activities on Sunday morning and skip going to “Big Church,” it would ultimately be spiritually harmful. I hope, therefore, to make a case for taking your teenager to “Big Church.”

1. It is pictured in Scripture: While there is no explicit mandate to bring your kids to “Big Church,” we have an idea as to what the corporate gatherings might have looked like in the early church. In both Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3, Paul specifically addresses children. This means that he would have expected children (and by extension, teenagers) to be present during the reading of his letter, and thus, the corporate worship service. When we bring our kids to the corporate gathering, we are continuing a practice that existed in the New Testament churches.

2. It gives a fuller view of what the church is: The local congregation is a body of believers made up of all kinds of people—young and old, rich and poor, from all different backgrounds, vocations, and more, all gathered around the Lord Jesus. Bringing our teenagers into the corporate worship each Sunday serves them by helping them see that their church is made up of not just teens, but a variety of ages and stages.     

3. It allows the students to participate in all the activities the church is called to: As a local congregation, we are instructed to engage in a lot of activities. We are called to sing, hear the word preached (1 Tim. 4:13), pray (Acts 2:42), read the Bible and hear it read (1 Thess. 5:27), take up an offering (2 Cor. 9:11-15), take the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:24), baptize (1 Pet. 3:21), and much more. Bringing our teens into the main corporate gathering gives them a fuller picture of the activity of the church.

Youth ministry is a wonderful thing, but it is not always a great picture of what church attendance will be like as an adult.

I want to point out something about the topic of preaching, in particular. While there’s preaching in many student ministries (and there should be), it is not the same thing as preaching during the corporate gathering. In youth ministry, preaching is expounding the Word for a subset of the church, and even if the format of the sermon and the style delivered were the same as that of the pastor, it is not the same as the Sunday morning gathering of the entire body of Christ. There is something beautiful about people from different backgrounds, cultures, and ages, all sitting under the preaching of God’s Word, together. Students miss this if they never attend.

4. It allows students to become acclimated to what it is like to be an adult in church: Youth ministry is a wonderful thing, but it is not always a great picture of what church attendance will be like as an adult. Illustrations will not always be crafted for their specific place in life. Music won’t consistently be selected for their musical style preferences. Corporate worship does not always invoke all of the senses and learning styles. And that’s a good thing. If students have no exposure to this in the duration of their adolescence, though, it will be a rude awakening to them when they reach adulthood. Bringing them to the corporate gathering helps them see what it’s like, and not be shocked or turned off by it.

5. It makes youth ministry supplemental, rather than the main thing: I believe youth ministry is a good thing (I’m a youth pastor!), but it can be problematic if the student ministry is the only connection your student has to the local church. Youth ministry is designed to be a supplement to the activity of the church, not a replacement of it. When we take our students to “Big Church,” it means we are keeping the main thing, the main thing.

6. They get to serve their congregation: In many churches, student are able to serve in a variety of ways on a Sunday morning. From greeting people, to taking the offering, or handing out bulletins, students can serve. Even without serving in formal ways, just being a welcoming presence to those around them and participating in worship serves to encourage the body of Christ. Serving helps students transition from consumers to contributors in the church. This kind of buy-in can help them understand and experience the value of their place in the body of Christ.

7. They get to see their parents sing: One of my favorite reasons that students should attend “Big Church” is the opportunity to see their parents sing to God. Sure, there might be singing in the student ministry Sunday School class, but this is nothing like the whole body of Christ coming together to sing praises to Christ. And the opportunity to hear their parents sing, to see them devoting themselves and turning their minds and hearts to Christ, will help youth see the genuineness of their parents’ faith. You can’t put a price tag on that.

So my encouragement to you would be this—bring your kids to the corporate worship gathering. If it means that you have to sit in the lobby while they are in Sunday School, do it. If it means you sign yourself up for a Sunday School class and go together afterward, do it. Give them the opportunity to see the body of Christ, to hear voices lifted up to the Savior, and to sit under the Word of God being preached to his people.

Josh Hussung

Josh Hussung is pastor of youth & families at Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24