Spiritual Field Trips

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I kind of expect kids to be bored at school. But it’s heartbreaking to me when I see that same boredom on the faces of teenagers in church. And let’s face it - church is a lot like school from an adolescent point of view. It’s designed by and for adults. And most teenagers are there because their parents make them attend. My kids are a little like that. They’re nice about it because they want to please us. They say they like church, and I know there's a lot about church that they enjoy. But their faces tell another story. If I look at them during worship, they seem bored. They stare with emotionless faces, apparently resigned to endure another hour of adult stuff in the name of worshipping God.

We’re a church family, meaning we're committed to worshipping together on Sundays. But lately I’ve been watching my daughters’ faces on Sunday mornings and wondering what I could do to make God and faith and scripture and Christianity more challenging and meaningful to them. But it’s hard because they are teenagers. Their generation has a post-modern outlook, which means that modern worship styles don’t connect with them very well. And, honestly, if it’s not on Facebook or being beamed to their mobile phones, they have a hard time connecting. So last weekend, Jeanene and I announced that instead of going to church, we were going to the McNay Art Museum. Afterward, we would have a picnic and talk. Our two teenagers came instantly to life. You’d have thought I announced that Christmas was here early. We were going on a spiritual field trip.

The art museum was great. My youngest walked with me, her arm entwined with mine. Later we fed fish in a pond outside and had lunch. While we were eating, the conversation lazily turned toward church, God, and all things spiritual. My youngest daughter mentioned hearing a lot about Islam at school these days. When I suggested the possibility of going to a Muslim prayer service, both girls became very excited. “Oh, that would be awesome. I’ve always wondered what their worship would be like.” I definitely liked seeing them become enthusiastic. “Okay,” I said. “Maybe we could go to a Muslim prayer service or event, and then talk about it afterward. Kind of like we did today. We could talk about what we Christians believe and what they believe.” There was another enthusiastic response. Both girls began chatting with great energy. Our thirteen-year-old announced that she would also like to go to a Buddhist service. Jeanene and I looked at each other, wondering if we had hit upon something important.

So that’s what our family is going to do over the next few months. We’re going to be taking spiritual field trips with our girls. We’ll attend services at our church, but we’ll also go elsewhere. I know some families might be uncomfortable visiting outside of their own faith tradition, but my girls are the curious type. So we plan to take spiritual field trips to other Christian traditions and also other religions.

Future field trips may include:

  1. A Muslim service.
  2. A Buddhist service.
  3. A Catholic service.
  4. A suburban mega-church service.
  5. An Assembly of God service.
  6. A Mormon service.
  7. A traditional Southern Baptist service of the type that Jeanene and I grew up attending.
  8. An Orthodox Service.

Before each visit we’ll do a little educational preparation for the tradition we are visiting. Afterward we’ll have lunch and talk. I don’t know what will come of this. But I know that I have two teen-age daughters who are suddenly excited and can hardly wait for Sunday. That’s got to be worth something.

Gordon Atkinson

Image by Kirsten Michelle