In the fall of 2003 Faith Church’s youth group merged with the youth group of our sister church. Well, we kind of merged. What led to the merger was that our sister church, at the time, was renting space from a local Christian school, and their rental arrangement was not conducive to having a consistent youth group gathering. So in early 2003, our sister church approached Faith Church about having me be the youth pastor for a combined youth group. At the time, I had been at Faith Church for less than one year as youth/associate pastor. I agreed with Faith Church’s leaders that the merger idea had the strong possibility of being a win-win for a variety of reasons. We worked out the details and launched the new group that September.
For the launch we decided to rent the gym at the Christian school, thinking that it would be good to start things off on our sister church’s home turf, as the rest of our youth group gatherings would take place at Faith Church. Being in a gym, I planned a sports-themed event, as well as a teaching time. When it came time for the teaching, the students sat on the bleachers, and the two groups were completely separate. Faith Church students to my left, and our sister church students to my right. It wasn’t surprising that they naturally gravitated to people who were familiar. As I looked at the two separate groups, though, I had to admit that the merger wasn’t starting off very well.
I suspected this might happen, so I had planned a symbolic unity activity. With the students on different sides of the bleachers, I told them I was going to play a song, and during the song they were follow the instructions of the song. The song I picked was “Come Together,” by the Beatles. I will admit that the lyrics of that song are basically nonsensical, except for the chorus, which repeats over and over, “Come together.”
I played the song, and you could see the loathing in the eyes of the students. They begrudgingly got up and found someone from the other church to sit next to. Over the course of the next three years our youth groups were officially together, one group. But I can’t say that true unity took place. Did any enduring friendships between the two groups happen? Maybe a couple. Why did the groups fail to bond? Unity is hard work, isn’t it? It’s not just difficult for teenagers. We adults can struggle. As we continue our study of Ezekiel, God has some very important words to say about this common human struggle. Take a moment this weekend, read Ezekiel 37:15-28, and then join us on the blog next week as we talk about it further.