Throughout my youth ministry career, I’ve intentionally taken students to worship in other Christian congregations.
The first time I did this I was working at a multi-ethnic congregation. One spring I canceled our own youth worship service for multiple weeks and instead took my youth to worship somewhere else each week. I intentionally chose congregations that dramatically differed from ours, including a contemporary Christian service entirely in Spanish and a Catholic mass. In each instance, I arranged our visit with someone from that congregation in advance and in the process, also arranged for our youth to have the opportunity to hang out with students from that congregation after worship. Such a gathering created the space for teens to be able to learn from and about one another’s traditions.
More recently, I took my student leadership team to a worship service at Willow Creek Community Church. Having spent three months discussing the importance of welcoming people into our high school ministry, I wanted my students to walk into a church setting with which they were totally unfamiliar and then learn from how they were welcomed there.
Each time I’ve intentionally taken students to worship elsewhere, I’ve had good reasons for doing so. Since youth are naturally curious about Christian traditions that differ from their own, intentionally taking students to worship elsewhere gives them the opportunity to learn about other Christian traditions, find value in them, compare them to their own, and in the process, grow in and solidify their faith.
Despite these valid reasons for taking students from my congregation to worship elsewhere, each time I’ve done so I’ve been asked, “What if they like it better?”