Faith, not wasted on the Youth

There are no chubby bunny contests and special “youth group rooms” on a college campus

So recently I posted on Youth Ministry. Let’s take a deeper look at some statistics that should cause you to pause, but probably not be surprised.
 
LifeWay Research Study
LifeWay Research and Ministry Development (2007)
 
Study Findings: 70% will leave the faith in college. Only 35% eventually return. 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 – both evangelical and mainline – who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church. “The most frequent reason for leaving church is, in fact, a self-imposed change, ‘I simply wanted a break from church’ (27%).” “The path toward college and the workforce are also strong reasons for young people to leave church: ‘I moved to college and stopped attending church’ (25%) and ‘work responsibilities prevented me from attending’ (23%).”
 
There was another study, by Youth Ministry Architects, that says that the appropriate investment for youth in the local congregation is $1000 per student, per year.
 
SO….
 
Some easy numbers for ya.
– Student begins youth group as a 6th grader
– That is 7 years at $1000 per student per year = $7000 over the life in the church.
– Baseline for youth ministry is 10% of worship congregation (not including rolls that have people that are members but do not attend regularly)
– The average church attendance (Barna Group) is about 89 adults so we are going to round that up to 100 for argument’s sake.
 
SO…
 
On an average, we have invested $70K in these 10 students over the last 7 years, only to have them walk away from their faith at a 70% clip.
 
If this were a business, because mostly it is, we would expect a 5:1 (500%) ROI (return on investment). In reality, we are left with a $49,000 loss leaving us with -170% of our initial investment. (check the math please, it is not my strong suit)
 
Why do I say all of this? Well, it is because I believe that young people hold the key to the future of the body of Christ. I believe that they have every advantage and tool already given to them through the power of the Holy Spirit, but they are hindered by the promise of “bring a friend to youth group” and “you can help in the nursery this Sunday”.
 
I believe that not only will they be given vision from the Lord, but I submit that they already are but they are being told that their “level” of “church experience” would not lend them to sharing that in BIG church, so they shove it down and believe that what they are receiving is not real. They are relegated to youth group worship team and maybe once a month getting to be in front of BIG church. They are banished to an entirely different part of the building for crying out loud. Nothing makes you feel less than saying, “alright all the kids can now leave”. It’s like saying everything that comes next does not apply to you and the adults would like to talk now. 
Paul said this to Timothy…
“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” (1Tim 5:1-2 ESV) 

This call from Timothy is really a call for us to be a family and I believe that means on Sunday and Wednesday and every other day for that matter. We should certainly honor the older generation, but the younger generation matters.

I guess I just believe that if we invested in the young people the way that God has invested in all of us, we might see a different trend in those young people leaving the church as they continue to do. Honestly, I believe they leave the church because they have no idea what it really means to be a part of it in the first place. There are no chubby bunny contests and special “youth group rooms” on a college campus, and if there are they probably involve alcohol or some form of humiliation for standing for your faith. One of the top reasons given for kids leaving the faith is this. They never personally owned their faith. What would that say to the way that we treat them in our local congregations?

It may be time for a change or are we okay with dooming our young people to repeat the errors of those that are walking in faith. Sure, according to the statistic above 35% will return to their faith, but are we willing to take that chance? I for one am not. Will you follow the Lord or will you throw good money after bad? Think about that before you dismiss your young people this Sunday to leave the large group setting.

Why do I care?

Did ya ever get those times when you ask yourself, “Why do I even care?”? The times that you wonder why the things that bother you bother you. I mean you are secure in your faith and you hold God in high regard, you are suffering those around you and your desire is to see life lived out in the context of the gospel. That seems to be a pretty good start on why you would not see fit to ask the “Why do I care?” question. Yet we find ourselves asking that question.

Recently I had a friend of mine tell me how he visited a church where he used to go and proceeded to tell me that over the years not much has changed there. The messages are pretty much the same, the people are pretty much the same, and the open pleadings for money have not changed much. He was surprised that this was the case. The Pastor routinely posts publicly about the financial woes of the church and that there is a need to get people to give or they will not be able to pay the bills. He also told me that the number of people in the Sunday gathering was approaching 11 or 12, (people, not 11 or 12 hundred or thousand). Upon hearing this I almost instantaneously went to “why do they insist on making this so hard?”. Then I asked myself “Why do I care?”.

Then another friend of mine told me about how a church he was attending went with a snow producing machine for a Christmas service, that was not to be outdone by light shows and smoke machines on Sunday morning. That was not the part that made me scratch my head though. It was the part where he lamented over the fact that he has people there that he truly loves and have played a pivotal role in his walk with Christ, yet he has not personal relationship with them. I mean how much relationship can you truly have with someone if you have never been to their house right? We are family ya know. I ask myself “Why do I care?”.

Lastly there are the churches near us that have referred people to us, rather than helping them on their way. We heard things like, “they are more suited to people in your situation” or “they have a very good homeless ministry”. They are right in that we do have a good homeless ministry and we are suited to “those” people, but that is only because Jesus had a good homeless ministry and cared about “those” people. We spent time with those people that sometimes were in other congregations all together, yet had never or very rarely even stepped foot in the home of the Pastor of that church. I ask myself “Why do I care?”

Some of the answers started coming to me over the weekend. We hold a Sunday evening basketball training, bible study, fellowship, relational, character building, loving, sharing, growing kind of thing that is really proving to open my eyes more and more to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been studying in the book of Titus and it has been such a great time of growth for the men involved. This week something stood out to me and leaped off the page.

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7

He saved us because of his own mercy, we are being regenerated with the Holy Spirit, and he is coming back again to get us. The gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we embrace those things. Without them we are children tossed to and fro by any means of doctrine or light show or plea for money or indoor snow storm, okay so I added that last part to Paul’s letter. Speaking of Paul’s letter, the charge in Ephesians 4 is for us to grow up into the fullness of Christ and not be infants forever. There in lies the reason I dislike the reasoning, “I am just a baby Christian” (for the last 10 years), when it comes to serving the Kingdom of God.

It is my assertion that the reason churches find themselves in these positions of pleading for money or directing people away from their own church family is mainly because the gospel message is not released in their midst. They preach it, they believe it, they trust completely in it, but the folks that are attending regularly on Sunday have not been released to embrace the gospel on their own. The Pastor has been held up as the only one that knows what is going on. If it were not so why would we give themselves names like Senior Pastor or Head Pastor? If it they were not believing that they needed to be elevated, why would they build stages and quite literally keep the attenders in the dark while the light shines only on them in a Sunday morning gathering. The prophet Isaiah puts it this way.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5

The very ground that we walk on should be made even so that we shall see it together. Think about that. What if we treated people with that same vision? What if we allowed the Spirit of God to speak through the people gathered and scattered into our world? Would there be a need to beg for money on a Sunday morning? Would there be a need to refer widows and orphans to other fellowships because you are “not equipped” to handle them?

So the question remains, “Why do I care?”. Well I care because God cares. I have prayed Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours, and He has listened and responded. Do I run ahead sometimes? Sure Do I get it wrong sometimes? Yep Am I a broken man in need of a Savior EVERY SINGLE DAY? Absolutely! The thing that I can say for certain is that he loved us first and he guides and directs my path. I am righteous because he is righteous. I am loved because he loves. I am saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.

That’s all I got to say about that, (in my best Forest Gump voice).