When I was growing up, my family did not attend church regularly, so going to church events was never “automatic.” For me, going to a church event—summer picnics, wintertime sledding, VBS—meant getting an invitation. I didn't know it then, but those invitations were more than just invitations to have some fun; they were invitations to learn about Jesus and other important Bible stories. They were my look into the church. Events like these are perfect opportunities for you to encourage your youth to invite others because those invitations could very well be life-changing for someone (like me).
An Invitation to Experience Joy
Though we weren’t churchgoers, we had family friends who would regularly invite us to go with them to church events. My parents would always put off saying yes, but when they found out about this particular church event, they allowed my sisters and I to go.
Every winter, the church hosted a sledding event, constructing a hill that seemed to be taller than the steeple. There’s always an ample supply of snow during the winter up here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but realistically, the hill was probably not as tall as I remembered it to be at six years old. They’d gather huge sledding tubs, and we’d ride down and trudge back up for hours. We’d run as fast as we could and jump on the tubs, sliding down until we slowed to a stop. When our feet were frozen and our faces were like ice blocks, they’d have a warm meal—chili, soup, hot chocolate—for everyone to enjoy.
From beginning to end, the laughter and togetherness of the people were evident. This was the first event with the church that showed me what joy there is in Christianity. I think that’s when I noticed that Christianity existed outside of four walls and Sunday mornings. Seeing how the congregation came together to not only worship but to serve the community invited me to see how they lived their faith out with joy.
An Invitation to Experience Community
A neighbor invited my older sister and me to join their church’s VBS. This was our first experience with this church, and going into it, I was nervous that our friends would leave us alone and we wouldn’t feel welcomed. Quite the opposite happened.
We met and connected with so many new people. When the friends who had brought us told us that they weren’t able to go on the last day, another family stepped up to bring us along!
Though I was nervous at first, this became one of the best VBS experiences I ever had. The community they fostered during the week made the event so much fun that we wanted to go back, even “alone,” without the people we knew best. This welcoming nature at VBS allowed me to learn who Jesus was. I still remember how they taught the feeding of the five thousand and the giggles we had passing around a tray with two rubber fish and five slices of plastic bread. They welcomed us into their community and made us feel excited for each new day when we learned more about Christ.
An Invitation to Experience the Church
My invitation to the church that eventually became my home—Good Shepherd—came in a simple text message: “hey would you come to church with me?” I was nervous and fearful that the people would be overbearing and judgmental because of my lack of knowledge about Christianity in general. What I learned is that people were friendly and not pushy, and I got to know how the congregation behaved.
Because of this simple invitation, I heard the Gospel and I heard something that clicked. Without that invitation, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Without that invitation, I wouldn’t be writing this.
Looking back, it was those previous experiences through VBS, summer picnics, sledding nights, and the general event invitations that made me feel comfortable enough to walk through those doors. Church was not comfortable to me, but knowing that I had been introduced to certain concepts, behaviors, and biblical texts made it feel slightly, very slightly, less foreign.
So, who knows? Someone among your youth may be inviting others not just to have some fun, but to a lifetime of loving Jesus.
Help teens stay connected to the church. For life. Check out our latest resource for youth ministry, Connected for Life.