By Jessyka Albert
For the past six years, I have had the opportunity to make many dorm rooms, houses, apartments, and even offices my home. The space I have been inhabiting for the longest amount of time since college has been my office at Boulder Church.
Over the years, walls have been painted and carpet ripped out (bit by painful bit), but it has always felt like my own. It feels like home even when it’s filled to the brim with Vacation Bible School decorations and craft supplies. It feels like home when it’s filled with kids studying the Bible for baptism. It feels like home when commentaries are spread out on my desk. It feels like home when it’s perfectly clean and organized and when it’s dusted with glitter and chaotic.
If you were to walk into Boulder Church, you would be able to tell my office from all the other offices in the building. If the pink heels displayed at the bottom of my bookshelf didn’t give me away, the photos, decorations, and overwhelming amount of craft supplies surely would. You can see someone’s personality shine through the spaces they inhabit whether these be at home or at the office. Maybe even a locker or a car. Who we are oozes out into every corner of every space. What is most important to you on the inside is evident on the outside as well.
The same is true of our churches. What they look like, smell like, are decorated like, and sound like is a reflection of who we are. For example, our church has a ton of young families with kids. This means our church looks like a church that has a lot of kids. We have a check-in station for kids’ Connect Groups. You might hear a few crying babies. Fellowship lunches include games and forts outside after dessert. Oh, and we have balloons for almost everything. Our church looks like a welcoming church for families and it has attracted more and more of them.
Here’s where it gets sticky. Many churches want young people to attend and even feel at home in their churches, but aren’t willing to redecorate. I have a similar reality coming to life for me in a personal way in October. I’m going to be getting married and, you guessed it, living with a boy! Because we have both begun our professional lives, we have already established how our apartments are decorated, along with a cleaning schedule, protocols for meal preparations, you name it. But come October, we will be building a home together. This means compromise, growth, and something new. For example: Kiefer is not a fan of my velvet tufted headboard and I am not a fan of his giant Razorbacks rug. Both of us will be giving up some things that were “home.” Both of us will be gaining some things that will become “home.” But most importantly, we will be creating a home together.
I hope you’re understanding the metaphor. When I say “redecorate the church,” I don’t just mean changing out the shag carpet. What I mean is being open to a new way of doing church. To make young people, any people, feel at home anywhere, you have to open up space for them. It could mean clearing out some drawers or letting some picture frames go on the walls. It could mean a new worship song or a different order of service. If we don’t create that space, we are simply offering a hotel-like church to people. Hotels are nice, but they aren’t where you live, where you create memories, where you grow.
It wouldn’t seem right if I told Kiefer that when we move in together he had to get rid of all of his stuff and we would only have my furniture and decorations. At that point, we wouldn’t be moving in together.
Take some inventory of your church. Not just the physical look of it, although that might be part of the journey. Ask, “Is there even space here for someone who is incredibly different to feel at home?”
If there is not space for someone to make your church their home, they will treat it like a hotel. Both your church and newcomers will be missing out on creating a community. On creating a home together.
–Jessyka Albert is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church. Email her at: [email protected]