Teens filter into youth group, smiling and waving at their friends. But no one talks. No Christian rock blasts in the background. No snacks are passed around. It’s difficult to have normalcy when youth group is through a screen.
Online youth group is quite the experience, but it means the world to me to talk with my small group, learn about Jesus, and pray together. I never realized how important fellowship was until a global pandemic snatched it away. Now I crave it more than anything.
While many teens attend youth group, many others don’t. Maybe it’s because they can’t get their device to work, or their family wants to have a movie night. That’s totally understandable. But some just don’t show up. It’s much easier to skip out on youth group when it’s online.
This saddens me, because I’m realizing now that I need my church family more than ever. We all do.
The church needs fellowship. God created the church for that purpose, among other reasons. It’s God’s gift to us. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s Christ’s bride. Some churches are opening back up, but what about those that aren’t? Should we still make the effort to gather, even online? Why do we even need fellowship? Scripture lays out three reasons.
1: We’re Called to Build One Another Up
The biblical mandate for fellowship is clear. The early church met together continually, even under the threat of persecution. They broke bread together, served together, listened to the apostles’ teaching together, and prayed together.
The Bible is filled with illustrations for the church. We are God’s household (Ephesians 2:19-22), the bride of Jesus (Revelation 19:7), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), and the body of Christ (Romans 12:5). All of these metaphors give a sense of togetherness. You can’t have a full, functioning body without a foot or a hand. And no one cuts off their own hand because they think it’s not needed.
We were created for fellowship. Our goal should be to build each other up in Christ, not tear one another down. As the writer of Hebrews says:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
In this anxious time, we desperately need encouragement. When we’re afraid, we can seek comfort and prayer from the church, being reminded of the truth that God is with us.
We can uplift fellow believers as well. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” When someone in our youth group is hurting, we should rally around them. How can we do that if we aren’t meeting together?
Through our fellowship, we stir one another up to service in Christ. When we’re home alone, it can be tempting to put faithfulness aside. But Christ calls us to good works no matter our circumstances, and we can echo his call to one another.
2. We Are Called to Ensure a Firm Foundation
We all know the parable of the foolish man who built his house on sand and the wise man who built his house on the rock. A storm destroyed the foolish man’s house, but the wise man was safe.
We’re in the midst of a storm right now. Do we have a firm foundation? Are we turning to God’s Word for strength and peace when the world is shouting that this is the end?
Gathering together with the church helps you to use this time to build your faith. Take notes during your pastor’s sermon. See if your youth group offers a Bible reading plan, devotional series, or a list of Christian living books. Take advantage of those resources. And don’t be hesitant to reach out to others and ask them if they want to grow alongside you.
When we feel weak, we can turn to our church family and be reminded of Jesus’ sufficiency. We can build a strong foundation with our youth group at our side, studying God’s Word and growing closer to him together.
3. We Are Called to Know God and Make Him Known
If there is anything you get out of this article, know this: you need Jesus.
We were created not only for fellowship with each other, but fellowship with God. He is everything. He is our greatest joy and treasure. All of life is meaningless and hopeless without him.
God wants us to be with him. And although we can never fully comprehend God, that shouldn’t stop us from striving to know him more and more. What thirsty person wouldn’t get a drink from the well because it was too deep?
Now is the time to know Christ. Not when the coronavirus is over. Not when you graduate high school and are thrown into college. Now. Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with you. Why wait to experience fullness of joy?
Youth group helps us along our journey with God. Through Biblical teaching, fellowship, and worship, we draw close to God and form the foundation of a relationship that will carry us through the rest of our lives.
Not only are we called to know God, but also to make him known. Jesus invites us into the adventure of making disciples who make disciples. This is our purpose and it’s one we can’t neglect whether we’re able to meet in person or not. After all, how can we make him known to others if we don’t talk to anyone else? Discipleship has greater challenges when we can’t meet in person, but there are still ways we can help each other grow in our faith.
Attend youth group—online or in person. Encourage your friends to join in a Bible reading challenge with you. Genuinely listen and respond to how they’re doing and what they need. Pray for them. If you have friends or family members who are nonbelievers, sprinkle your faith throughout your conversations like salt.
We need fellowship, whether or not we’re in the midst of a pandemic. Discover life as the body of Christ: building one another up, developing a strong foundation, and pursuing God.