A theology of youth rooms and buildings

Theology of youth rooms and buildingsLast December I wrote a short rant about church consumerism, cliques, vision, youth rooms, attention spans and more. A discussion that followed that post on Facebook is worth sharing with you.

Item number 6 in that post mentions that I turned down someone’s vision to build a youth building or at least a youth room in our church because right now we have neither. The reason is because I think it’s more important that the teens become a natural integration into the church body and a youth room/building could unintentionally allow them to separate from the body too much. Plus, I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to feel like they belong in one room of the church building more than any other place else in the rest of the church, nor for adults to reinforce that notion by sending them to their “youth room.”

Here’s part of the discussion between me and a high school student (not from my church) on Facebook that followed my original post:

STUDENT: I don’t know if a youth room is such a bad thing. I would really, for me, enjoy that. You get to do stuff with your own age group and its like a spot where you can fit in. (Well, my whole church is like senior citizens, so I think a room for my church is sort of a good thing.)

ME: I’m not saying a youth room is bad, but I am saying it’s easier to do exactly what you mentioned — separate from the rest of the church (i.e. senior citizens).

STUDENT: Oh, I see your point. Well, I just kind of like it because I’m able to interact more with my age group more it seems that way. Like with other the other generations I get to do that in church and during coffe hour or whatever. But afterwards you are able to get togather and be with people with similar circumstances and problems. Isn’t it important to spend time with your peers spiruatally and with other generations too? I personally like to be with the older generations instead of my peers, but I like also being able to spend time with my peers also.

ME: Yup, there’s absolutely value in both. And like I said, there’s nothing wrong with having a youth room as long as relationships are continuing to be formed intergenerationally. It’s when the youth room becomes the hideout for the youth that the segregation starts.

Don’t get me wrong, the intentions for a youth room/building are usually pure. Like, “Let’s give the youth a place where they feel comfortable, a place where they can belong, feel like they fit in, a place they can make their own and have meaningful conversations about what they’re going through in life.”

I agree with all that and say, “Yes, let’s make the church a place where teens feel comfortable, a place where they can belong, fit in, can make their own and have meaningful conversations about what they’re going through in life rather than sticking them in a corner room somewhere, conveniently out of the way from the rest of the church.”

For me personally, I’d rather not have a youth room than have to fight against that “us” and “them” mindset between adults and teenagers in the church. Biblically, it’s supposed to be “we” and, for me, that’s easier if everyone is together without “our room” and “their room” (like, the church sanctuary is usually perceived as a room for the adults, ya know?).

Agree? Disagree? How does your ecclesiology impact how handle youth rooms and buildings? How do you balance the separation of teens from the rest of the church body? How do you avoid the problems that come from having youth group as a mini-church inside the larger church? Is this part of youth ministry’s contribution for why 20-somethings are missing from many churches? Can it sometimes become youth group vs “big church”? Share in the comments below.

UPDATE: Please don’t get defensive or feel like you need to justify to me why you have a youth room and how you use it. I promise I don’t think any less of you either way! lol

Posted on May 27, 2010

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