My boys just left for church, two hours early, and they were at church until after 10:00 last night. The reason? They were practicing for this morning's worship service.

I am delighted. Not by the extra practice necessarily, but simply by the fact that their youth band is being given the opportunity to play. Then I learned the reason behind all of the extra practice...

"Mom, the youth worship team will be judged a lot harsher than the regular worship team! We have to have everything perfect!"

Don't get me wrong, I always encourage my kids to do their best, but wasn't there something wrong with this reasoning? Why should the youth be judged more harshly by the church at large than the adults?

"If the regular worship team makes a mistake, no one will notice," they explained. "But if the youth worship team makes a mistake, we will be sure to hear about it!"

A little later, after sending one son back upstairs to change his shirt and lecturing the other son about wearing jeans to church, I asked them what songs they would be doing.

"Well, we’re not doing most of the songs we would normally do for youth," they explained. "They would be considered too 'youthy.' And we're going to do a hymn at the end, to endear the audience to the youth!"

Hum. Well, I'm the first to not necessarily enjoy the music of today's youth. I'm kind of partial to the old hymns, and I understand that the older people might not want to listen to the youth's music for the entire worship service. It wasn't until the boys had left for early morning practice, however, that the entire thing began to work on me: the youth of today are, after all, the "church of the future!" Discouraging the youth, criticizing them for their choice of music and dress and trying to make them conform to adult standards will only drive them away from the church. If we don't encourage our young people, they won't stay. There won't be a church of the future!

Wait. Do we want the church of the future to have such different tastes in music and dress? Are we allowing a "degradation" to happen? Will the next generation be a weaker church because our youth are not carbon copies of us?

When I was a youth, my parents didn't approve of the music of my day either. Nor did they approve of our dress. If they were perfectly honest with themselves, they would likely admit that their parents didn't approve of their music or style of life either. Could this be why church attendance is on the decline? Why so many churches are only attended by those in the senior category?

Besides, what is far more important that what style of music you play or whether or not you make a mistake is your relationship with God!

No, I can't say as I necessarily "approve" of the music my boys listen to, and yes, I did lecture them on the way they were dressed, just this very morning. But I can tell you one thing: Many of the youth at our church have a strong relationship with God, and this will take them a lot farther then making them conform to our standards!

So what do we do?

We encourage our youth. We accept them for who they are. We listen to them and love them unconditionally. Music, hairstyles, dress and all. It is by our own examples that we can show them what it is like to have a close relationship with God, and in so doing, we are ensuring not only that there will be a church of the future, but also that it will be stronger than the church of today!

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John 4 NKJV)

In His love,

Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.

Follow me on Twitter @lynchaffart