Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A scary question

i've really been thinking a lot about some things i've read lately...nothing new, but it is pretty timely. some recent stats (from the barna group, as well as other church behavior tracking organizations) have suggested that as many 90% of the kids we have in our youth groups will leave the church during their college years. 90%...? you gotta be kidding me!

does this mean that we are doing something wrong in youth ministry? or does it mean that we are doing something wrong in our overall approach to church? or is it the inevitable outcome of walking the "narrow path"? i think all three may be true, at least to some degree...

there is no question that we are missing the mark in youth ministry. we try our hardest to make church fun and interesting, to make our youth programs exciting and relevant, to make Jesus look "cool"...you know, like a homeboy. the reality? kids of today have been shaped, influenced, molded, and otherwise manipulated into believing that if it's (whatever "it" happens to be at the moment) not making them laugh, making them feel good, making them smarter, making them more friends, or making them money, it's not really worth doing. the problem? we are trying to compete with an entertainment industry (sports, media, music, fashion, technology) in a game we don't stand a chance of winning.

we are also missing the mark in our overall approach to church. in spite of all our attempts to make our preaching, teaching, worship, and activities relevant, interesting, and culturally significant, our young people are still not connecting the dots. they are still bored. they are still disconnected from the adults and greater church life. they still see "church" as basically for those over 35. they go through the motions of our sunday morning rituals, enjoy seeing their friends, and can't wait to get to lunch after the worship hour. and we are not doing anything to help them! i realize there is much more to church than sunday mornings, but if we can't do a better job of drawing young people into our corporate gatherings and our larger life of service and fellowship, we should be ashamed.

i also think there is a lot of truth in the fact that Jesus said that many would "call" him Lord, but few would actually pass through the narrow gate. God has always worked through a remnant... a small group of faithful, radical, passionate rebels who live with reckless abandon, totally sold out to kingdom values, and willing to fly in the face of popular culture, political correctness, personal comfort, and financial security. the call to authentic discipleship is not easy. it never has been.

i love the church...warts and all. i want this generation of young people to love the church, also. what do we do?

1 comment:

Erin said...

I believe the statistic....but I don't know the answer.

I do know...from my perusal of various churches in the past few years...that churches don't seem to want young people.

They don't talk to you, or remember your name. You can go for weeks and weeks and noone says hi. There are lots of classes for people older than you or younger than you - but not for just you. And if there were, you'd be the only one there anyways.

Church activities never work with your schedule, and church people don't seem willing to get together outside of church. Most churches are leary of giving college kids any responsibility - so why go? You can't be a kid anymore, and you can't be an adult. Where's your place?

They do seem willing to turn down their noses though, if you wear the wrong thing, sing too loudly, or have chosen the wrong career (theatre is of the devil you know).

Church seems to have nothing to offer college kids except one more lecture for the week.

I know that your church has done many things to combat this. lots of activites at lots of different times, no dress code, friendly people, diverse people, and discussion instead of just lecture. I don't have an answer on what more you can do.

I think most of my friends don't want to feel played. They don't want to feel baited by loud music or games,(though I'm not saying either are bad); they don't want to feel like you have to trick them into listening. They're suspicious of everything and would rather believe in nothing than have to sift through a bunch of stuff to find the truth.

Why isn't just the truth enough? But then - how do you get people to listen? I'm thinking maybe finding a way to package the truth isn't the answer...I think people are. Just genuine friends who really care and aren't just looking to carve another notch on their "people I've saved belt" and move on. Getting people to invest in other people for the furtherance of God's Kingdom...and for the pure enjoyment of friendships - because I think God wants us to have that....

Am I rambling?

All easier said than done, huh....