Enjoying the Journey
A fellow preacher and personal friend asked me recently how I believed we could do a better job of retaining young people in our churches. It is a problem of epidemic proportions. The vast majority of young people are exiting the local church by the time they are eighteen.
For many years I said to prospective youth workers that we must get young people connected to more than the youth group. It is my conviction that, as early in life as possible, young people must find their place in the church. It must be their church. The pastor must be their pastor. And some work for the Lord must be their ministry. This cannot begin when they graduate from high school.
As my friend and I talked two definite things were brought to my mind. Without both we will never help establish another generation in the faith.
- We must give them the truth. So much youth ministry has been built on events and excitement. Events end and excitement subsides. Only the truth extends to every generation.
Young people are bombarded by a corrupt culture. They are exposed to so much so early. The access to evil as grown exponentially in recent years. Only one thing can preserve them: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9).
Young people need the truth. Several years ago I conducted an experiment with kids in a Christian School. They were young people from good homes and a great church. Through it I learned that the best young people are grappling with the worst problems. They have questions and those questions must be answered from God’s Word. (To learn more about this project and my conclusions read When Young People Ask Hard Questions.)
This is not a day to simply “have fun” with young people. We must give them truth. Pastor Sexton used to always say, “We don’t have to be afraid of the truth.” Indeed, we do not need to fear questions if we have God’s Word. We have what they need and it is time to engage young people in the discussion.
- We must give them love. Young people are desperately seeking someone to love them. It is a basic need of every man and a special need in a society filled with so much hate. The world gives its substitutes and so do many carnal churches. Our kids need to experience grace and kindness in their interaction with us.
The One who impressed these two thoughts on my mind was the same One who inspired the words written in Ephesians 5:14-15,
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things…
When do children “grow up”? When they are given the truth in love.
Our mission is not to build the youth ministry – it is to build young people. If you build the young people, God will build the youth ministry.
The battle will continue to rage but armed with divine truth and love we can see great victories won. May God help us all to pass it on to the next generation…