We have long known that we lose many of our youth to other interests to satisfy their spiritual needs and this is borne out by David Kinnaman in his research, “You Lost Me…” What you might not know is that more youth leave the church during their middle and high school years than will leave during their college years. Over 60 percent of young adults who attended church in their teens will ultimately become spiritually disconnected at some point during their twenties (The Barna Group).
Is there a solution to this problem? Yes, I believe it reflects the need to effectively lay a good foundation that requires a comprehensive response to Peter’s statement: … “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,…” (1 Peter 3:15). We are often weak in equipping our youth and new followers in what it means to follow Christ in the first place and like a baby who needs our constant attention we must understand that growth and maturity takes time. Growth rests in the assurance of a person’s foundational conviction regarding the cross – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the clear implications of what He taught. You might be wasting your time if you bypass helping a young person establish the hope that is within them. My suggestion is make sure you are filled with the conviction that Jesus is our LORD and Christ and teach it with passion. Don’t wait until a child is in middle school to teach them this same conviction if you have them in your children’s ministry. Conviction compels. Do a quick survey of your youth to determine the state of their passion for Christ and focus on that all-compelling truth before you do anything, and that is anything else. Without a changed heart of conviction there will be no changed life and no youth in your ministry.
And almost an afterthought on the above – While in seminary, our President took a more obedience centered focus on learning rather than an option approach to learning, his supposition was – foundations are not an option. Therefore without regard to ‘belly-aching’ his comments were, “I do not accept complaining or argument when it comes to understanding the Word of God. There are some trues that are non-neogotiable, learn the material. He went on to assign entire chapters in the Scriptures that were to be memorized. Was it a daunting challege, oh yes it was. I tell you to this day, am I ever thankful for the discipline put before me. I rest heavily in those foundational trues I learned in those days. They have brought me back from failure, no great failure, and helped me be an effective minister of the gospel. I look back to my youth and one of the greatest blessings of my life was the required drilling of the truth in my head, which was the required memorization of the Scriptures and their meaning in helping someone receive Christ as LORD and Savior.
“Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11 Therefore be intentional!
Recommended Resource: You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman.