1) My writing partner and part-time wannabe-Holy Spirit has been accosting me for months to record a song I used to do called “A Thousand Pricks of Light.” David Kern has begged for it. And I think there was some protest on the part of Graeme Pitman as well. So, basically, that covers all the readers of this blog. So here: clickie-clickie.

2) Before One-Eighty last night, I was chatting with one of our deacons (and father of two girls in the youth group). He told me that some friends of his from the community have a son in One-Eighty. They weren’t sure what church it was. They said it was the one “that all the sudden just started growing.” (Never mind that our attendance has been slowly dropping over the last few months). At this, Bill (the deacon) said, “Let me ask you something. Is your son kind of gothic?” To which they replied, “YEAH!” Bill smiled and said, “He goes to First Presbyterian Church.”

I should note that the young man in question is by no means “gothic.” He spends almost all of his time playing World of Warcraft and talking about zombies. However, he has many friends that one untrained in the nuances of youth culture might consider “gothic.” ( “Punk,” “emo,” and “scene” would be a bit more appropriate…though still insufficient.)

I love that Bill immediately assumed that since this couple’s son was “gothic” he went to First Pres’s youth group…and assumed correctly…and assumed joyfully.

This signals a subtle transition in the thinking of our church. Not long ago, an elder was approached by someone in our church. This individual suggested that perhaps we should have some sort of dress code for One-Eighty. The concern was not over the sometimes too-short shorts and other immodest dress of “Covenant kids” (i.e. church kids), but over piercings, skulls, tight jeans and studded belts that characterize the dress of our “Community kids.” The elder respectfully explained to the concerned member that perhaps that would send the wrong message. “We don’t want these kids to think that they have to change themselves in order top please God.” He or she (thankfully I don’t know who it was) reluctantly agreed that a dress code would not be wise.

As I reflect upon the sudden growth of One-Eighty and the demographics of our students, I am struck by two things. First of all, as Director of Student Ministries, I have never once sought to “grow” our youth group. I never began any sort of marketing campaign. I never set goals concerning attendance. In fact, I have repeatedly failed to keep attendance records. I am not saying that I am above being concerned about numbers, or even that being concerned about attendance is a bad thing. Indeed, as attendance has waned in the last couple months, I have realized that numbers truly aren’t important to me…as long as we are growing. That all changes when you start to shrink. My point is merely that I have never sought to increase the number of students attending One-Eighty; this has happened organically.

Secondly, I have never targeted a specific type of student. Bill joyfully and accurately predicted that this couple’s son is “gothic” (accurately according to their shared definition of “gothic”). How could Bill make such an accurate prediction? The rest of the story is telling.

After saying that, yes, their son is “gothic”, this student’s parents made this statement: “It’s the only youth group in town that will accept them.”

I should point out that there are a number of churches in town that are accepting of people who are a bit out of the norm. Admittedly, students that are a bit out of the norm might not be so accepting of rich kids wearing Abercrombie and Fitch and go to church every Sunday because mommy and daddy do. Nevertheless, there is a perception, not just among students but among their parents as well, that the Church is generally not accepting. They consider it an anomaly (and a blessing) if one church is accepting.

I am struck that our youth group has grown not because we wanted to grow. We have not attracted the outcasts because we targeted the outcasts. We embodied the love of Christ, and even as Christ attracted sinners and repelled the self-righteous, so have we.

If we are attracting the kind of people that were attracted to Jesus, and receiving the criticisms of the kind of people that attacked Jesus…well…then…i guess we are doing something right.

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