We discuss the importance of being friendly. We stress the need for convenient relationship opportunities. Visitors and new members need friends. However, that discussion tends to be a faceless generality dealing with a hypothetical.

An alarming number of college students from Christian homes and church programs leave Christianity when they leave home. This has happened for decades. Conservative estimates are that 55% of our children cease actively expressing faith when they go to college. Wonder what the percentage is for those who begin jobs?

We had an exceptional group of senior high students who became college freshman this fall. They had excellent fellowship with each other. They encouraged younger teens. They were spiritually active with peers. They provided quality leadership in our youth group.

Last week on the same day Brad received a call and a letter from two of those freshmen. Both were "strong;" true leaders within our youth group. One wrote, "I miss you guys. I'm starting to see why so many college kids leave the church. It's just hard to get excited about going to church when you don't know anyone there. It is SO different from home."

One called. She is searching for a local church where she feels welcome. Though she attends with two sophomores from this congregation, she feels like no one has noticed her at any of the church functions or activities. For the first time she realizes how special it was to be a part of our youth program and our church family. She misses the involvement and the encouragement.

Sobering? Perhaps frightening? Our own flesh and blood, strong members of our own spiritual family are discouraged in a month. Suddenly the importance of and need for friendliness and relationship are real and urgent, not hypothetical.

What difference would a friend within the congregation make? A friendly voice that cared? A face that noticed you were there? They do not want to be lost in the crowd; they just feel lost in the crowd.

What about people who know no one when they walk into our building? What about those who sit in our assemblies for weeks and know almost no one? Do you think it really matters?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 28 September 1997

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