Building Unity Between Teenaged Christians from Different Churches
Last week at youth group, we talked about the Olympics and how amazing it is that so many countries (83 in this one) come together across barriers of geography, culture, and language to join in the spirit of friendly competition. If all of the Olympic athletes were from the same country, competing in the same sport, this would be no different than any other competition. But what makes the Olympics so great is the diversity. Different flags, different languages, different stories, different experiences. Without this diversity, the beauty of the games is gone.
We talked about how we should celebrate diversity within the body of Christ. Though we may worship differently from other Christians or have different doctrines about baptism or ordination of ministers, we should still embrace this diversity. The apostle Paul discusses this in Ephesians 4:2-6 where he says that we should "make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit." But what seems to happen with teenagers often is rather than embrace their brothers and sisters of different denominations, they argue with each other about which ones are "truly saved" or which ones have the more biblical view of baptism.
I grew up in, was ordained in, and went to seminary in a denomination that is very proud of its doctrine. I learned pretty early on why we believed the way we did and why our belief was "right" or "better than" what some of the other churches taught. But now, I'm in a different denomination. And as we discussed the issue in youth group of embracing Christian brothers and sisters from other Christian denominations, some of my kids were telling me that people from my old church system were the ones at school who were very critical of them because they didn't believe the exact same things they did.
It just seems to me like there are bigger issues to tackle and bigger battles to win rather than who has the correct mode of baptism or of the Lord's Supper. What if Christians were able to truly put their differences aside and come together for a common purpose instead of arguing over which ones were going to heaven? What if we as youth workers made it our goal to teach students to love other Christians regardless of the name on the sign at their church? I think it could be as monumental and beautiful as the Olympics rather than looking like a little league game with a bunch of hot-tempered parents.
So how do we do this?
1. Focus more on the big picture of Christianity than the details of doctrine. Is doctrine important? Yes. But should it be so important that it divides rather than unites the body of Christ? Absolutely not.
2. Spend time with youth workers from other denominations. You'll soon find that while their may be differences in the details of how your churches function, you have a lot more similarities than differences. Then you can help each other become the youth workers God has called you to be. Our youth worker network meets once a month. Every other month we discuss events, joint activities, and vision for our combined ministries. Then on the months in between, we just hang out and fellowship. National Network of Youth Ministries has a website and many tools for you to find a network in your area or start one up.
3. Provide opportunities for students in your area to worship together, learn together, and fellowship together. In our town, we have a city-wide Disciple Now in the spring and in the fall we have a city-wide See You At The Pole rally. We use an interdenominational curriculum for the D-Now from Student Life.
What things do you do to build unity among students from different churches?