One of the greatest complaints I hear from church leaders is that people will skip service for any and every reason. “If we could get all of our people here at once, we wouldn’t be able to fit them all in!” “People just aren’t as committed to church as they used to be…” “This world will do everything that it can to take people out of church!” “People don’t love Christ as much as they used to!”
I want to stop right here. What I am about to say might be slightly revolutionary in nature and it certainly isn’t what someone would hear from most church leaders. If my students are involved in extra-curricular activities at school and those activities require them to miss a Wednesday night service, I want my students to engage wholeheartedly in those extra-curricular activities at school.
It’s not that I don’t want students to be in church and be engaged in Scripture; I do. I say this understanding that serving Christ truly means that we cannot ignore the world and always retreat away from it. It seems more beneficial for the work of the Gospel for our students to be involved as much as they can be in their schools.
Here’s what I notice in Scripture. Hebrews 10 challenges us not to give up the meeting of ourselves together. The Christ follower cannot give up meeting with other believers. We come together to praise God and to encourage one another. This is a necessary part of our lives and our walk with Christ. We need each other. What’s crazy about this is the part about us being an encouragement to each other, even more so as the day draws near. As church leaders, we cannot both encourage our brothers and sisters while at the same time condemning them for missing a meeting. Being an encouragement means that we support our congregations and our students as they live life in the way of the Gospel. While we all have a responsibility to not forsake the assembly, we also have the responsibility to encourage each other. In fact, this is one of the very purposes of the assembling of ourselves together.
So long as my students are not giving up church altogether, I will always support their extracurricular activities: even if those activities sometimes overlap with church services or events. Any pastor should do the same.
The Great Commission, in Matthew 28, also demands that we reach the world with the story of what Christ has done. This means living in the world. I am convinced that by trusting my students with the opportunities they have been given, that our church will actually experience growth and not decline. When our church members miss one meeting we have to trust that they are not simply skipping to skip. In fact, we can’t always know what reason they might have for missing. If it is to participate in school athletics or a band recital or anything similar, we know that they will be in contact with people who do not know Christ. I pray that my students take advantage of that opportunity.
If basketball season requires you to practice on Wednesday nights, do not feel guilty for missing service. This is the primary reason we record even our youth lessons at Gorman. I ask that my students stay caught up on those lessons and use the opportunity to build relationships with their teammates and friends. When they get the chance, I hope that they will invite their teammates and friends to come join us!
This last month we’ve been learning that Scripture actually gives us quite a bit of freedom. Thus, it is our prerogative as leaders to extend such a great freedom to our members, so as not to burden them but empower them in the way of the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Associate Pastor of Youth and Students
Gorman Baptist Church
 We must also consider that the activities we choose to devote ourselves to say something about where our priorities are. This is the only comment I will make on this here.