I earned my first masters at Oxford. Attending church in England was very interesting (a topic for another post). Having served as a student minister and a volunteer at some dynamic student ministries, I was shocked at the utter lack of youth attending church in England. They just weren’t there.
As I commented yesterday, we are on a similar trajectory in the SBC as approximately 27,000 SBC churches didn’t baptize a single teenager. The reasons are myriad: changing demographics in our rural churches, shifting cultural tides that marginalize scriptural believers, or even raw selfishness.
What is to be done?
1.) Pray. This is spiritual warfare. We must be willing to hit our knees in prayer. I have appreciated Ronnie Floyd’s leadership in instigating prayer meetings around the country. This should become the focus of what we do as a convention. Pray. Pray for the lost. Pray for our students. Pray for our churches. If as God’s people are not willing to pray, we should not expect God to move in our churches or our nation.
2.) Reach Out. I truly believe that many of our congregations pray for God to move. How many of our churches pray but do not GO? We have a mandate from Jesus to share the hope of the Gospel with a lost world. When was the last time we told a teen the Good News that Jesus Saves! Does your church have a passion for telling teens?
3.) Invest. Ministry and work with teens doesn’t just happen. You have to invest. And it’s not just investing through dollars. It’s investing in prayer, discipleship, serving and sharing with them. Invest in youth leaders who don’t want the kids to only have a “good time,” but are teaching them the Word of God.
4.) Go Deep. Most young adults are ready to chew on some spiritual steak. Yet many of our student ministries build a steady diet of spiritual saccharine that misses the point. The idea is not to build moral kids who have good, clean fun, but to have students fall in love with Jesus. Nathan McGuff, a college student, makes a similar claim on his blog. We must be intentional and demonstrate how the truth of Jesus Christ answers the questions of life.
5.) Listen. Just like most adults, teens want to be heard. If your congregation fails to listen to part of its body – the teens – it makes it challenging to truly reach them with the Gospel. Different age demographics in your church need each other. The passion of youth should re-invigorate and encourage the senior saints while the wisdom of those more advanced in years stabilizes and balances those on the younger end of the age spectrum.
6.) Serve. One of the greatest mistakes we make as churches is keeping our ministry silos too rigid. When your teens serve on a project with your Senior Adults, transformation happens. We need to have specialized projects, but if there isn’t at least one mission event that mixes the age groups in your congregation each year, you are missing out on a blessing. The big payout? Teens that serve with their parents or older members of the church body are less likely to leave the faith in college according to Kinnaman (You Lost Me).
7.) Send. I interviewed to be the student minister of a church back in the 90s that were paranoid that I even suggested students should go on mission trips to international locations or to the hard places in North America. Most teens are begging to see how Jesus makes a difference and opening their eyes to the work God does around the world is life-altering and creates revolutionaries.
It’s time. Time for us to step back up to the plate. Time for us to stop skirting our God-given responsibilities. I hope you will join me as we pray for our churches to seek out ways in which God can move amongst young adults.
John Mark Yeats