Recently I was asked to comment on the subject of why teens/young adults are leaving the church in record numbers. Books have been written on this subject, but it is a topic that is close to my heart for many reasons – most importantly that I curently have 4 teenagers in my house and nothing frightens me more than the prospect of my own children walking away from the faith. In truth, this keeps me awake at night sometimes, because I see the huge vacuum that exists in the church, specifically in 18-30 year olds and it is my passion to see this vaccum closed.
Recently I read David Kinnaman’s book, “You Lost Me.” (Barna Research Group) http://amzn.to/yVyMzC Through extensive research, Kinnaman cited a wealth of data and told sobering stories of kids who left the church and why. I believe this book is a must read for anyone who shares concern about this topic.
After reading the book, I paused for reflection and realized that as a church we have a lot of work to do to see these gaps that are widening every day, closed. I finished the book around the same time that Presidential candidate Rick Santorum made a statement along the lines that higher education was to blame for this dropout in churches. The opinions on the exact causes and solutions to this problem are many and varied.
Books, blogs and election year soundbites aside, there are no simple answers, but one thing is for certain: the church will survive. If what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 16 is true (and I believe it is), nothing will prevail against the church. That does not, however, give us permission to go laizze faire and not face this issue head on. Rather than cite the opinions of others, I will give a few things from my own experience that I believe this generation needs. These all have their root in a wide variety of issues, so I will not elaborate, but rather leave these points open for further discussion. In most cases, I submit we ave done a poor job in these areas.
1. Youth Are Hungry for What is Real (authentic). (Real worship, real relationships, real opportunities)
2. Youth Are Seeking Formats to Find Answers to Difficult Questions – Real answers, not proof-texted easy answers to major worldview challenges they face in school and find on YouTube.
3. Youth Are Eager for Involvment in Meaningful Projects that give feet to their faith.
4. Youth are desperate to be encouraged and equipped by the church to use their gifts, talents and passions in the marketplace, not just in the church.
I’m sure I could elaborate for pages on more, but I’d like to use the above observations as a basis for discussion and I welcome your input.