By the way, that last Sunday I blogged about (with much music provided for the congregation by our youth ensemble) resulted in an interesting report from a parent.
It seems her 8th-grade boy came into church and noticed the three microphones, the guitar, the monitor, and the small amp for the bass guitar, and got his mother's attention. Now before I tell you what he said, let me share with you that this young man is one whom our ecclesiastical advisers at the synod and district offices would tell us to LISTEN TO: he's public school, Hispanic, dresses in a hip but not outlandish way, is not super-involved in the youth group, and carries himself in a cool, detached way.
But his response was not what the Baby Boomers who run Ablaze! (the LCMS church growth initiative) expect. He looked at the guitars, the kids, and the mics, turned to his mother and said: "We're not going to become like Uncle Ben's church, are we?!"
Frankly, I'm not surprised. The research on youth & worship music confirms this: young people understand the difference between what is appropriate for different occasions, and don't expect every part of their life to have the same soundtrack. Just like the rest of us wear different clothing and eat different foods at different occasions, so do young people understand that the Divine Service is not a place for entertainment, but a place for reverence.
Once we had the service, mom reported that her son was no longer concerned. Church was still church. Our piety didn't change. As I wrote in my last post, Bethany doesn't become a different congregation just becasue our youth sing or because a guitar gets plugged in.
And yet the LCMS as an institution doesn't understand this. They think that somehow we have to change our piety if we're going to 'reach people for Christ'. Why don't they understnad that there is nothing in our piety that works against evangelism or missions or nurturing the faith in the next generation?
Frankly, I think the real obstacle here are pastors, parents, and teachers who don't embrace who we are. Anyone who works with kids knows that if you are positive and sincere in your joy about something, the students will buy into it.
No, the problem isn't the kids. The problem is church leaders. They either are deceived into thinking that somehow Lutheranism is incompatible with youth - or maybe some of them just don't believe in it themselves.