Tuesday, November 21, 2006

how to rid your church of youth

i received an email the other day with this excerpt from an article in the november/december 2006 issue of the afa journal, a publication of the american family association...

Young Adults Disengaging From ChurchAgape PressFindings from a new study by The Barna Group reveal a frightening disengagement from Christianity during young adulthood. The study, based on data collected from 2,124 teenagers and 22,103 adults, including 3,583 twenty-somethings, "shows that despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twenty-somethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years -- and often beyond that," a Barna report said.Specifically, 61 percent of today's young adults, who, as teenagers, were churched at one point, are now spiritually disengaged. Spiritual disengagement is identified as being inactive when it comes to church attendance, Bible reading, or prayer. Only 20 percent of twenty-somethings have maintained spiritual activity consistent with that of their high school experiences, the study revealed."In total, 6 out of 10 twenty somethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood," Barna said.And for most adults, this disengagement seems to extend further into the stages of adulthood, specifically parenthood. Despite parental desires to give children spiritual guidance, the new study noted "that just one-third of twenty somethings who are parents regularly take their children to church, compared with two-fifths of parents in their thirties and half of parents who are 40 years old or more."David Kinnaman, director of research for the study, believes these findings lend significant insight into the current state of youth ministry and young adult ministry."There are certainly effective youth ministries across the country, but the levels of disengagement among twentysomethings suggest that youth ministry fails too often at discipleship and faith formation," Kinnaman explained. ________________________________________________________________
should we be surprised?
i have been a part of many student ministries. from serving as youth minister myself, to volunteering for other ministries, i have thankfully seen many ministries who taught their students that they were created for god, and their greatest need is him. but i have also seen many ministries whose only bible teaching comes in the form of quick 20 minutes devotionals after over an hour or two of playing games. why would students continue in the church after they aren't made to go, if what they have learned from our ministries is that we are willing to do whatever it takes to entertain them and make them comfortable?what do we expect them to do when the pizza parties and fifth quarters stop? if there are no churches offering free food and yearly trips to the beach, what is left to convince them the church wants them there?we need more churches who teach their students that there biggest need is salvation. and they need to be taught that they do not deserve that salvation, nor can they earn it. they need to be taught and it needs to be understood by them that holiness is not simply something you do at church, or a way to act to stay on god's good side. holiness is demanded of us from a holy god. they need to be taught to fear the lord, to love him and honor him and respect him. they need to be taught that they are loved by him, that he sent his son to be beaten and brutally and painfully killed so that they might have eternal life. they need to be taught that they were created for god's glory, not to have the best job with the best salary so they can buy the best of everything.if all our students are getting out of our student ministries is "don't have sex" and "don't drink or do drugs", then we are crippling them.there are lots of "moral" people who don't do the "bad things" that we warn our students about. and lots of those "moral" people have no need or time for church.do we want "moral" teenagers who grow to be "moral" young adults and raise "moral" families?or do we want young people who know their creator to be the one true and holy god. people who know their god, and know who they are in light of him? who know that they have nothing if they do not have him?are our student ministries entertaining and coddling our young people? are we sacrificing content to convince them that church is "cool"? if so, how do we expect to compete with a world who can do things bigger, better, and more relevant, exactly like the culture dictates? once they are out of youth group, why would they turn to a place that waters down the culture and christianizes it, when they can have the culture undiluted?we are amusing our young people to death. they do not need ministries that are more "relevant". they need to the word of god. should we constantly assess the effectiveness of our ministries? of course. it is certainly not wrong to speak in a way that your audience understands. but when we begin to compromise the content of our message in order to grow in numbers or "cool" points, then we are harming the ones we think we are protecting. instead of arming them to live in a world that is after them, we are teaching them to look, live, and act just like it.where are they learning to compromise? from the ministries that failed them.


Brittney Colyer said...

Stephen, your post was very interesting, and I completely agree. I also know that our church has a youth that teaches kids "that their biggest need is salvation. and...that they do not deserve that salvation, nor can they earn it." All the things you said, I think are more than crucial to teaching youth in a church...however, this discussion should really be one that springboards from inside the context of family structure; (and I am sure you would agree) the youth minister and workers shouldn't really be the main people that youth get these very important teachings from. Rather, they should ideally come from the parents, and reemphasized in the body at the local church. However, we know that for many reasons this is not always the case (unbelieving parents, parents left kids, abuse, among many other things) and that is where the solid teachings must must must be implemented into the student's lives.
However, I've been learning that even if this stuff is taught (which I do believe is the case at our church), its still up to God to work in the lives of the students. I can only rest on this reality as I see the jr. high students weekly, as I want to bang them upside the head sometimes and just say, "See, can't you just see and apply what the scripture is talking about!" But then again, am I not often like this as a student of the word in my own life.
Anyhoo, long tangent, but thought
I'd add my two cents. YEA FOR THANKSGIVING! I pray as a church we will really understand the true impact of Christ's death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. I pray we live daily lives that are thankful in this way. :)

Brittney Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stephen lee cavness said...


i agree that, ideally, this teaching should come primarily from the home.
i also completely agree that it is ultimately up to god to work in the lives of the students, as it is for all people.
but because god is the initiating agent in salvation doesn't keep us from recognizing the importance of missions, and neither should it cause our (generic "our") student ministries to deemphasize the teaching of scripture for the sake of being a cool place to come hang out. it certainly *can* be, but should never be at the expense of its teaching.

and for the record, i wasn't talking about the church we attend... lest anyone reading this assume that. i know the student minister there well, and respect him greatly for his work there.

thanks for popping by brittney. i always appreciate your input.