As I sit in my current church and write this article, I have begun reflecting back on my childhood as an early 2000s church kid. I've had many discussions with people about growing up in church and have found that some aspects of it seem to be universal. That being said, I thought I'd compile a list of things that you probably experienced if you grew up in church back in the day when Bush was President, flip-phones were common, and Internet Explorer taught us all the true meaning of patience.
1. K-Love on the radio
If you grew up anything like I did, K-Love was on every single time you sat down in the backseat of your mom's car. As a youth, it never bothered me that they seemingly only played the same two or three Stephen Curtis Chapman and/or Natalie Grant bops on a loop. Am I the only one who remembers dramatically staring out the backseat window as Does Anybody Hear Her by Casting Crowns played over the speaker? Did the fact that I had no idea what the song was about at nine years old, stop me from having my moment? No. Yeah, the DJ's were a little too “positive" and “encouraging" at times. However, I must admit that I still break out the tunes of my childhood every once in a while when I'm feeling nostalgic.
2. Youth pastor couture
Every youth pastor between the years 2000 and 2008 seemed to follow a simple formula when it came to getting ready in the morning. I can't remember ever seeing one who wasn't wearing bootcut jeans with flip flops paired with some kind of graphic tee. These were always accessorized with a Jesus fish necklace and an acoustic guitar, finished off with over texturized hair. The picture above is a photo of a closeted, 2002 Lance Bass for reference.
When they weren't strumming along to an acoustic version of Oh How He Loves, they were probably over-enthusiastically asking you personal questions about your home life. All with good intentions though.
3. Vacation Bible School
Now, Vacation Bible School or VBS, for me was a big part of my life as my mom was in charge of it for our church every year. My summers were spent painting props and picking costumes as we planned out the week's events. Events included, but were not limited to group choreographed worship songs (which I pretended to be too cool for), games (which some kids took way too seriously), a peanut-free snack, a Bible lesson, and an M&M obsessed rodent with the beady eyes of a killer which is pictured above.
4. PluggedIn Reviews
Going to movies was fun and all, but if the selected movie had anything worse than a PG rating, it was time to consult the eternal, God-ordained, moral authority, Focus On the Family. I'll never forget the anxiety I would feel as I watched my mom pour over the words of a Focus On The Family, PluggedIn review. If you don't remember these, they were those online reviews that told your mom whether or not the movie you wanted to see had any F-words or boobs. Of course, it was always disappointing to have to explain to my friends that we had to pick a different movie because “around 40 minutes in, a nipple is visible." However, I don't resent my parents for being cautious about what I was watching. They kept a lot of crap from going in my head and I find myself quite grateful for that as an adult.
5. Church Camp
Whenever I hear those two words in the same sentence, I'm transported back to humid summers of my youth. The awkwardness, the heat, the insecurity about showing off my man boobs at the pool always made camp the most memorable part of my summer. Who could forget the cafeteria food and how it solidified like a block of cement in one's stomach? Was it chicken? Was it beef? Was it horse? All I know is that it was a truly a test of my trust in God at every meal. I could never poop for a month afterward. Meals were usually followed by chapel services where I would rededicate my life to Jesus for the eighth time that month. Tears were usually shed. While I believe the Holy Spirit was moving, I think the sleep deprivation and lack of air conditioning contributed as well. Lastly, anyone who went to camp, would never forget the most important rule - no purple. This basically meant don't touch anyone of the opposite sex with anything more than a Christian side hug. Anything more may have resulted in an unplanned pregnancy.
While it may sound like I'm knocking these things, I'm actually quite appreciative of my roots. They grounded me into faith in the same Jesus who was with me as I listened to K-Love at eight years old and who is still with me in my weekly existential crises at 22. Thanks, God.