You see, churches, like people, have individual personalities. What is a priority to some, is not a priority to others. A no-brainer to you, may require deep thought from me. We learned this the hard way.
When we brought those kids back from camp, they were ready to take over the world. However, some church membership wanted them to be seen and not heard, oh yeah, and mow the grass. Can you imagine the response we got, when we introduced praise and worship, casual Sundays, a dance team, a step team, and youth night? Remember, this was our family church. At that time our children were blood relatives to 98% of the congregation. That being the case, we did not get a major rebuke from the church, only subtle disses.
1. We were no longer allowed to have direct correspondence with other churches, the deacons would notify us of any invites our youth received (our youth would hear about events, meetings, conferences after they had occurred).
2. "All" the church keys were collected, the facilities became appointment only. (we could no longer rehearse or meet regularly)
3. People were no longer available to volunteer with the youth.
4. The biggest diss of them all....we were given a yearly budget of $0
Wow, you might say. Yes, it was hurtful, especially coming from family. But it was more disappointing dealing with 'so called' Christians. But remember this, just as I am responsible for disciplining my own children, God is responsible for the discipline of his.
Because we had been obedient to God, and faithful in our prayer and bible study, God blessed our ministry in spite of obstacles. We paid for many events out of our own pockets. The kids planned their own events based on school schedules and we met at public places. Word of mouth was our best PR and our ministry grew in the name of Christ, and not any particular church. The kids invited their friends to participate and we became community based.
There were many times we wanted to quit out of anger and frustration. We wanted to change our membership because of offenses and the ignorance and immaturity of God's people, but we trusted Him and the work he had called us to in that church. I held fast to Matthew 13:30 "Let both grow together..." This parable from Jesus describes a man sowing good seed in his field, but while sleeping the enemy came and sowed tares (weeds). After the crop came in, you could see the weeds as well as the wheat. The man's response was "an enemy has done this (vs.28)" So he decided to leave the tare in an effort to not kill the wheat. He allowed the wheat and the tare to grow together until the reaper came. The reaper has the final judgment. He will separate the wheat from the tares at harvest. The tares will be burned and the wheat shall be stored.
By the mercy of God, we presented our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1) every week, upholding our commitment to leadership and fellowship with our church family. We often had to do like David did and strengthen ourselves in the Lord (1 Sam. 30:6) with individual prayer, bible study and fasting. We did not fear man or consequences because we trusted God (Heb. 13:5,6). We knew "he would never leave us nor forsake us."
The situation did not get better. It got worse. We were later told that kids from other youth departments could not attend our events. We did not leave our church, nor did we stop ministry in the community. We started hosting "community events." Other youth ministries embraced our kids and we started to form a kind of 'co-op' community youth department with ministries sponsoring and hosting events for young people. Again, Hebrews 13:5,6 rang true as God had our backs.
God allowed us to see our first youth group graduate from high school before he opened the door to a wonderful opportunity in full-time outreach ministry. We can now look back over the toughest time we had in ministry and smile because although it has not always been easy, it has never been as hard.
On the day we left our home church, we were presented with gifts, thank yous, a humongous dinner, and many hugs and tears. Now when we return home we are greeted much the same. Hugs, kisses, welcomes, and food. We look forward to fellowship with our former kids who are now married with their own kids, and enjoying the church service. We usually always wind up there on youth Sunday where everyone is casual, the praise team leads, the dance team dances, and God reigns supreme :)