by Brandy Webb
When you go to church, look around you. I want you to pay attention to the average age in your congregation. Do you have a lot of youth? If you do, that is awesome. If you don’t, your group is like the majority of Christian churches around, at least in the United States. According to a study done by Barna, “[n]early six in ten (59 percent) young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away, and the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade from 44 percent to 52 percent, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing in America” (“The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna Group). The question we have to ask ourselves is, why? Well, according to Pew Research Center, the number one reason is “the questioning of religious teachings” (“Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion,” Alper). Just a quick side note, the term “nones” means someone who doesn’t identify with any religion. They do not consider themselves agnostic, atheist, or any other type of religion.
Why do you think the number one reason is questioning religious teachings? My idea, we may have failed at making our faith a living, breathing thing. In other words, “actions speak louder than words.” Wouldn’t you question something if it seemed that people just “talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk”? The truth is, just going to church once a week and on the Holy Days is not going to convince others of our faith. In fact, my faith grows more from watching and listening to other believers who live out their faith. You know the ones who are strong in God’s Word; who rejoice in trials; who still believe that God is in control even though their lives are hard. I am realizing that faith reveals itself more through a living, breathing person who lives a life of faith rather than a sermon.
So, are we living out our faith to the point that our youth believe because they have seen the belief of others? Or do our lives show hypocrisy instead? These are questions I am asking myself. I have two teenagers that I want to grow up and be strong in their belief in God and Jesus. My husband and I need to live by example through our actions and words. They also need to see others do the same, which leads me to another question I ask myself: do our churches today make the youth feel as part of the family, or do we make them feel like the church is for adults only, especially baptized adults?
Does your local congregation have a youth ministry of some sort? The same article with the Barna research found that churches that had quite a few youth were more likely to have some sort of youth ministry. However, the lower the youth numbers the lower the chances that there was a youth ministry, and the lower the chances where the ministers felt youth ministry was even important. I would think that the groups that had fewer youth would feel more of an importance to reach out to the youth because, without youth, a group will eventually get old and become non-existent.
Another point I found interesting in the same article is they found that the most popular youth program was “youth mission trips” (“The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna Group). This made me think about the fact that one major point of a mission trip is serving others. I do want to point out mission trips do not have to be expensive excursions to foreign countries. You can start a “mission” in your own home area. Some ideas could be visiting the elderly, helping the widows in your congregation, serving food in low income areas, etc.
The point is, we are to try our best to walk in the footsteps of our Messiah, which means we need to know how He walked. He served others. He also loved the children, and He desires them to come to Him. Our youth should feel His presence within us, and they should feel important when around us. They are just as important family members of God as we are. We have a job to do, every one of us. This is not a job for just a select few who are ordained. No, the falling away of our youth needs to be fixed, which means everyone of us need to use our talents, our faith, our walk, God’s Word, our testimonies, etc., to reach out to them and make them feel at home within God’s people. We need to make sure we do not forget the instructions that God has given us:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.—Deut 6:6-7
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.—Proverbs 22:6
Then children were brought to Him that he might lay His hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid his hands on them and went away.—Matt 19:13-15
Remember, Christ wishes to find faith on the earth when He returns (Luke 18:8). This cannot be accomplished if there is not a generation behind us to take our place.