The Church is loosing 50-70% (some studies say 80%) of its young people by the time they go to college. “Why are we loosing so many young people?” is a question that has hounded the church for a while now. Here’s my explanation:
They were never a part of the Church to begin with.
I’m not talking about church membership. I mean they may have never been saved. So, once they’re out of mom and dad’s house, who force them to attend church, or Bible camp, or whatever, they simply stop going.
I don’t like talking about other people, so I’ll talk about myself. Once I left my mom’s house I stopped going to church – instantly. Why? Although, I attended church nearly every Sunday, sung in the youth choir, did VBS every year I was never actually saved. I hadn’t encountered Jesus. I knew about Him, yes, but I never knew Him. i didn’t submit my life to Him. That was the old man. 2 Cor 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
One of my pastors asked a question during a sermon one day, “Why do you come [to church]?” Simple question right? I thought about it and I couldn’t think of a great theologically sound explanation. My answer was simple – I want to. Once I really got saved I became a new man. The new man instinctively wanted fellowship with other believers, wanted to grow in knowledge and relationship with the Lord. I didn’t have to be told to read my Bible, pray, witness, or go to church. I wanted to. I can’t fully explain it, but I wasn’t driven by tradition or religiosity, I just wanted to. A local body of believers is the easiest, most convenient, practical way to ensure that I am growing as a Christian. It gives me ample opportunities to receive and to share my gifts.
So why aren’t youth going to church? They don’t want to. There are numerous reasons, mostly excuses, of why they don’t go. It’s impossible to address them all. But, the fact remains that if they are not in regular fellowship with a local body of believers, they are dead or dying spiritually at best. Church attendance is a barometer of spiritual health. That is why Paul exhorts us “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves as in the manner of some” (Heb 10:25). Here’s a great article that I feel deserves some attention. http://www.churchleaders.com/children/childrens-ministry-articles/166129-marc-solas-10-surprising-reasons-our-kids-leave-church.html
The Body of Christ in general is scrambling to find answers. Is it how we do “church”? Are we being too political? Can we be more inclusive? Unfortunately, in it’s attempts to attract younger believers, the local church ends up loosing its identity because we are trying to perform for those who may not even be saved. It doesn’t make much sense to ask the unchurched how to have church because what you will end up with is a church that chases fads. What is required is for the local church to have a vision from God and follow it.
An important aspect of this is to ask how the local church can do its part in ensuring generational faithfulness. It is more important for the local church to do what it can to give a young person every opportunity to become a part of the Kingdom of God. That end is more important than filling the pews on Sunday morning. However, pew attendance is still important to the survival of a local body. Looking at the mass exodus of young people, I think the Church can do more in helping young people develop a genuine relationship with their Heavenly Father.
So what’s the solution? I have read numerous articles and statistics that show that when mom and dad are involved in the spiritual discipleship of their children, those children are more likely to keep the faith. Although, the decision to follow Christ is ultimately an individual decision, we can greatly influence that decision by being actively involved in their Christian upbringing. This is more than dropping our kids off at VBS, Sunday School, worship team practice, youth group etc. It is intentionally having faith based conversations, worshiping, praying, studying God’s word, and serving together. Essentially, we take the lead over the youth pastor and Sunday School teacher to evangelize and disciple our children. The local church can do a better job of fostering the type of environment that empowers and equips parents to evangelize their children. And it’s totally Biblical. Check out Deut 6:4-9; Ps 78:5-7; Eph 6:4.
Let’s start there.