5 Ways the American Church is like a High School Kid

Turn on any “coming of age” film or nighttime drama targeted at teens and you’ll see all the stereotypical high school cliques we’ve come to know and, well, maybe not LOVE but at least recognize:

  • The popular kids
  • Jocks and cheerleaders
  • Stoners
  • Band geeks
  • Wannabees
  • Gamers
  • Nerds

The themes are consistent over time too. The struggle for popularity, peer pressure, sexual and chemical experimentation, you know the drill. For some high school was/is “the time of their life” for some it is recollected with a shudder typically only reserved for the darkest of nightmares.

What has started to become more and more apparent to me lately though is just how much the church in America is starting to resemble high school. Now, to be clear, when I say “the church in America” what I mean is the closer to mainstream evangelical slice, and even THAT is hard to define or defend, but I think you get the picture.

I’ll offer up as evidence 5 ways in which I think this slice of the church is starting to look, feel, and smell and LOT like high school.

Fitting in

High school kids want desperately to fit in. Wearing the right things, saying the right things, hanging with the right people are all a part of the equation measured against the most popular kids.

It’s sadly comical how hard the church is trying to “fit in” these days with the popular kids. I’ve seen media centric church web sites that are cutting edge snazzy but say nothing about what the church believes or even how to contact them outside of email or text. They look COOL but feel hollow.

Defensive comparison

The constant evaluation against the popular kid standard results in defensive comparisons. “I’m not like her, I’m my own person” or “That guy tries too hard to be like the popular kids. I’d never do that”

It seems like 90% of the “church advertising” I’ve run across lately is based on defensive comparison, “We’re not like those other churches that make you feel guilty, we’re caring, authentic, accepting, etc. etc. etc. “

Shock value

The rise in social media now allows kids to “hide” behind the shield of the internet and say or do things they would never do first in real life.  You see kids who seem to have one personality in real life and a radically more aggressive, shocking one online.

In trying to fit in with a media saturated-what’s the latest sensation-what’s broken through the malaise-culture churches are trying more and more outlandish tactics to be noticed. I read today of a church in Pennsylvania that kidnapped youth group kids at gun point (not loaded) staging what looked like a real life abduction to dramatize what life is like in countries where Christians are persecuted.

Lack of confidence

Oh there are the cocky kids to be sure. Even most of them are hiding a lack of confidence behind the bravado. That lack of confidence breeds defensiveness in conversation.

Do I need to say anything here? Yes, I believe the church in the US is under attack. Yes, I believe that we need to be ready to defend our faith but no; I do not think we need to go about that defensively.

It’s funny how attractive the right level of confidence can be. And if we truly believe we “win” in the end why be defensive?

Rejection of parental norms

This is a given in high school yeah? Though most people will say the kids wake up and come back in their lat twenties.

How many examples of this do I really need to provide in the church?

  • “Expository preaching is dead”
  • “It’s about experience more than learning”
  • “None of those boring hymns”

Sad really that there isn’t a parental role over the church in America, someone who could offer up some wisdom and much needed discipline.

What does that say about the notion of being “one body”?

Am I wrong here? Is it ok that the church is going through it’s teen phase? Or am I just missing the point entirely?

3 responses to “5 Ways the American Church is like a High School Kid

  1. You are right in so many ways. Love the analogy. I do think that much of what is happening with the American Church is an attempt to communicate and celebrate God in a more “today’s” way (I’m avoiding the word contemporary). Upgrading our language, styles and awareness of current issues without compromising Truth. it is a search for God’s newness in the midst of the “old time religion.” The problem is that many attempts have gone too far the other way wading in the shallow end and/or throwing out the good stuff of the past. That nasty pendulum swing!
    I think your article is very appropriate and needed. Thanks!

    • Thanks Tom.
      Contemporary, relevant, “today’s” way, no matter how we put it…
      When the method starts to compromise the message, when the “new” finds it necessary to condemn the “old, we’re in deep deep water.

  2. You are not wrong. This is what I see in so many churches today, and people seem to want to be in that atmosphere. Not sure if it’s the desire to be trendy or to fit in with the popular kids or what. What I know for sure is that I’m so thankful my church is not like this. I wouldn’t attend there if it was. But, I will do my part in making sure it doesn’t get that way.

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