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.

Living in a Fantasy Football Island

…the Holy Grail usually is just bragging rights until the next season.

Ah yes it is that time of year again. The time where everyone from the amateur arm chair quarterback to the CEO of a fortune 500 company will get their chance to manage a football team. Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us and that means fantasy footballers unite.

As I sit back and ponder the fate of my favorite football team in real life, the (as for now) Oakland Raiders, I have to sit back and think of the years that I spent chasing the Holy Grail of NFL fantasy football’s number one ranking on Yahoo or ESPN’s fantasy football league. BTW, the Holy Grail usually is just bragging rights until the next season, but if you are real fortunate you might get a trophy, we will talk about that later though.

Hours I would pour over match ups and history of the players abilities and their track records. You would look deep to find that one guy that everyone would leave on the board because he was too old, or too young, or he was a kicker. Then you decide is round 5 too early for a kicker or will a defense really make the difference this year? Do I draft a QB or a running back first? You pick up the local fantasy rag that gives you every tid bit of information you would possibly need to get you the leg up on the competition. Then enter the information age. Everything has now changed. Now it is at your finger tips. Every stat, every scenario, every player profile. From where they eat to how much they get paid, to if they can perform on artificial turf when the temperature is above 60 and the opposing team stayed at a Marriott Hotel last night. You can now have the app that vibrates consistently in your pocket on Sunday morning beckoning to the Pastor to cut things short today, after all it is about to be kick off time. We are connected more than ever to our fantasy football competitions.

Just to put this in perspective, let’s look at some stats. This is always fun to do even if not completely accurate. These stats are courtesy of Sports Management Degree Hub.

fantasy

So back when I started playing fantasy football we still used pad and paper to record statistics. That would be around the 91-94 years. The change is considerable.

fantasy2

This goes to show ya that fantasy sports are not just for the unemployed blue collar workers, but it reaches across the spectrum and you can clearly see that even the educated, white, full-time employed, male is capable of chasing his dreams of being a fantasy GIANT!

fantasy3

Again, fantasy football knows no bounds. If you factor in that consumers spend an average of $465 per year on fantasy football and do the math, you would see that as a nation we spend $18.6 BILLION per year. That is 6X’s as much as the NFL itself and 4.5 x’s the value of the league’s top valued team  (the Dallas Cowboys).

So, do you get the picture when it comes to this fantasy stuff?

So what does this have to do with the price of chicken wings on draft night at the local Buffalo Wild Wings? Well, I believe this has Kingdom ramifications.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, America still proclaims to be Christian nation. In this poll, 83% of Americans replied to the question, “What, if anything, is your religion?” by saying Christian. Although according to Barna, that same group of folks are doing a poor job of making disciples of the gospel.

In fact there is a nice little twist in Barna’s study that caught me off guard. The twist is this. Many Christians in church believe that they themselves are discipling someone at the current time, (52%). However when Pastors were asked if they feel that people in their congregations were actively discipling anyone, less than 1% said that was a true statement. Actually the answer to that question is different than both of those.

The fact is that everyone is discipling someone of something. The question comes in as to what are we discipling? Are we making disciples of fantasy football? YOU BETHCA! Are we making disciples of the love of money? YUP! Are we making disciples of internet football information and daily mobile phone updates? ABSOLUTELY!

Conversely, are we making disciples of the one true God? …EH Are we making disciples of the truth of the message of God through getting the wisdom of His word within us? not really Are we discipling others so that they can encourage and make disciples themselves of other? signs say nope While 17% of the Canada and US populations combined are engaged in Fantasy Football there are currently only 20% of Christian adults that are involved in some sort of discipleship activity, with the majority of that taking place within the walls of the existing building (i.e small groups or Sunday service). I guess that I feel when Jesus said this, he actually meant it.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Mark 16:15

Did I dazzle you all with my Google skills and my data collection prowess, I am in quality after all? That was not my intention. Furthermore for all of those friends out there engaged in fantasy football, let me say this, NO OFFENSE INTENDED. I feel these days that I need to preface every statement with that for the thin skinned folks that take every word I say as arrows in the chest. Maybe this scripture is for you?

But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14

Fantasy or not to fantasy, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of disobedience to God himself, or take arms against the will of men to disciple anyone of anything, rather than choose Jesus and stifle the critics. In the end the decision is yours. Just listen the next time you slip out of service to make that last second trade because the injury report just updated, God may be calling you into something deeper than the promise of annual ritual of fantasy football. If I were a betting man, I would say that he is.

Oh and to mention that trophy thing again.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, Matthew 6:19