Our growth started reaching into a certain direction the last couple of months. But, it’s too much for us to handle well. So, we had to put a cap on it. We had to limit our growth in that direction. I hated having to do it but it had to be done.

We’ve been attracting some community kids (about 8-10 of them) that have no connection to any of our small groups. When they come on Wednesday nights, they just hang out in the courtyard, in the coat closet, roam the hallways, and walk around outside. I say “we’ve been attracting” but I don’t think it’s really “us” (meaning church, youth group, youth leaders, worship, teaching, small groups, etc.) attracting them. I sat down with them this Wednesday night to talk with them again and they told me that they just want to hang out with each other. They know the kids in our youth group but they don’t “like” them. They don’t have any real interest in participating with us in any way.

Some ministries would say “So what! Let them come! They need Jesus too!” But you see, our ministry is not designed to just gather a large group of kids and preach the gospel to them. We’ve designed our ministry so that every student who walks through the door is embraced in a small group so that they can experience their Journey with Jesus in community with others…not alone.

So, I gave them two options.

First option: If they come onto the church campus on Wednesday nights between 6:00 & 8:00 (starting next Wednesday), they have to participate with our large group, attend teaching group, and commit to a small group … stay with them.

Second Option: Don’t come. 🙁

I told them that I really want them to be apart of who we are. I’m willing to find a new small group leader for them so they can stay together. But, they have to participate in what we’re doing. No roaming. I explained that we have to protect the integrity of our community and the purpose for why we’re here. Letting kids come and just roam really eats away at that integrity and can ruin the quality of what we’re doing.

If they choose to come and also choose to not participate, we’ll call parents and send them home.

Some might object: “You should never tell a kid that you don’t want them to come to church.” But, I disagree. Not only do I want these kids to meet Jesus and experience the life changing power of the gospel and the beauty of christian community…I want to protect the quality of that very same experience for all the other kids. So there’s this tension between wanting to cast a wide net and needing to catch only what we can handle. Right now…we can’t handle a wider net … especially with those kind of fish.

That’s probably how they heard me, too. “The church doesn’t want us.” That breaks my heart because it just isn’t true. We just can’t handle what they bring right now. I pray that God would supernaturally communicate his love for them despite our inability to fully express it right now.

Perhaps at some point in the future we’ll be able to recruit someone to be a courtyard minister who can reach out to those kids. Perhaps someday my attention will be able to engage the issues they bring to the table in a better way.

But I know my personal limits. I know our team’s limits. And I know our ministry’s limits. Unfortunately…right now…it’s right here.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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