1. Accept

CORe churches are grace-oriented, fully accepting and loving young people.

Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)


Additional Bible texts:

Numbers 35:6-34 (Cities of refuge)

Deuteronomy 19:1-14 (Cities of refuge)

John 15:1-17 (Jesus and love)

Romans 14 (Differences and acceptance)

Philippians 1:9-10 (Love and discernment)

Jesus told his disciples that people would recognise his followers by the love they had for one another. Many young people do not feel loved or accepted in churches. Each generation is always different to the previous one, and this divide often results in young people not feeling accepted. This is why many young people leave the church before they can develop a mature faith.

CORe churches understand how important it is to accept and love young people. They do not let a generational gap or cultural norms stand in the way of the faith of the youth. Orienting themselves on grace and doing their best to reflect God, CORe churches accept young people and love them for who they are.

CORe churches recognise that love, grace, and acceptance allow young people to mature in faith.

CORe churches are grace-orientated, fully accepting and loving young people.

Thought

Paul Tompkins, United Kingdom

Wouldn’t it be great if your local Seventh-day Adventist church was known as the most loving place in town! Jesus told his disciples that people would recognise his followers by the love they had for one another. Many young people, however, do not feel loved or accepted in churches. I’m sure you will agree that this is very sad and together we want to do something about it.

CORe churches, however, are different.  When the CORe concept was first established one of the dreams was to follow the example of a well-known food chain that had placemats showing where their next great restaurant was.  In our case, to have a map showing the cities and towns in the country marked with a flag, or similar marker, sharing where the next dynamic CORe church could be found. Visually showing a network of grace-orientated churches, that were fully accepting and loving towards their young people.

Jesus modelled full acceptance to those who were true seekers after faith. 

Just after he had fed the five thousand, with five loaves and two small fish, the disciples got into a boat and went across the lake to Capernaum. 

Others followed in search of Jesus, and when they found him and amongst other things asked for a another sign that they may ‘see and believe you.’ Jesus talked further about bread from heaven and then declared:

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty. (Matthew 6:35)


He then added:

‘All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (Matthew 6:37)


The words are so inclusive – Jesus welcomes ‘anyone’ (or ‘whoever’ as some other translations read). These are universal words that invite all to come to Jesus with the assurance that they will never be driven away. You know if we were on social media I’d give that a triple Like!

By so doing young people have the opportunity for their faith to develop and mature in a safe and accepting environment. Importantly, CORe churches are committed to aiding this all important faith development by loving and accepting young people for who they are.

My experience in coming to the church was as a community kid who attended a Seventh-day Adventist school. My parents didn’t send me to the school to become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian but rather to gain a good education. But by God’s grace I found so much more. Looking back, I can see that it was the friends that I made and the loving pastoral care of the local youth director that made all the difference. Without putting it into words at the time I felt valued and accepted and when I started attending church I found a warm environment that allowed me to grow at my own pace.

I believe the Lord was very good to me and I want to see others have the same warm, accepting and faith-developing experience. That’s why I believe so much in the relational principles of the CORe initiative that nurtures belonging. 

I know that it works because it made all the difference in my faith experience.

Discussion 

  • Have you ever heard of someone in your church not feeling accepted? Why weren't they accepted? What contributed to them not being accepted?
  • Why is it hard to accept others who are different from ourselves?
  • How was Jesus able to accept everyone, no matter their situation, without compromising who he was? 
  • What type of people do you have a hard time accepting, and why?

Implementation questions

  • What do you already do to accept and love young people?
  • Are there elements of your church’s culture that need changing to accept people more?
  • What can we do to better implement grace-oriented acceptance in your church?
  • Can we implement at least 3 of the suggestions below?
  • What is achievable to promote acceptance within the next 12 months?

Suggestions for implementation

  • Create a greeting team that welcomes everyone.
  • Implement a plan that encourages the members to invite people.
  • Foster an environment that supports new ideas.
  • Create a system so all members can learn the names of all members (a 'facebook').
  • Regularly discuss whether members are feeling welcome, and create a system of pastoral follow-up.
  • Plan a sharing service where everyone can talk about moments where they were accepted and when not.
  • Create small groups to foster acceptance.