Our VBS theme this year: “Giving Us your Kid For 10 Hours 1 Week Won’t Overpower Your Family’s Neglect of all things Spiritual.”
Most are not shocked when kids who grew up in church leave the faith when they leave mom and dad’s house. I’ve heard statistics that like 80% of church kids leave the faith in their early 20’s.
We’re used to this news and yeah, some people are concerned about it, but most of the solutions to the problem demonstrate a lack of true concern. Usually we just double-down on what we’re already doing.
People are taught Christianity as kids; therefore Christianity is often linked in with “what kids believe.” To be an adult, someone who is sophisticated and a free-thinker, you have to depart from what you learned as a kid.
In today’s climate where atheism and materialism are considered cool and enlightened, kids flee the church. What’s rarely reported on is how many of these kids come back, especially when they have kids. I doubt the number is gigantic, but I know some who left the church for many years in their 20’s who later came back. The world holds out answers; young people try those answers. The world’s answers aren’t good; they tire of them and return to what is solid and helpful.
In all honesty, I doubt any kid is saved. I’m not saying none are, I’m merely saying I doubt they are. Kids don’t know enough. They don’t know the alternatives. All they know is what mom and dad say. They go with that and if mom and dad are playing games with faith, the kids will call them on that, blame the church, and leave what they think “the faith” is.
It is stupid to think that dropping your kids off at church will do the work for you. Kids follow the parents. Kids who leave the church generally have parents who aren’t in church much.
After many years of doing kid’s ministry in our church, long enough to see results, it became obvious that nothing we were doing with kids was making any difference. Kids who had parents whose faith was alive to them (and if I can be blunt: kids who had a DAD whose faith was alive), generally had faith that didn’t quit. Kids that didn’t have this, regardless of what the church did, generally left the faith. But they didn’t so much as leave it, as never come to it to begin with.
I’m ok with young people “leaving the faith” more than playing a game at faith and deluding themselves and blaspheming the name of God by posting their verses on Facebook next to the photos of themselves being drunk at a bar. Pick a side. “How long will you halt between two opinions?” asked Elijah.
At least when they leave we know they left. What is better: entertaining a kid in a church that doesn’t teach or letting the child use their brain and make a choice, even if we don’t like the choice? Is maintaining a person in church the same as having them be saved? Are we concerned about their salvation or our church growth?
Because it seems to me if we were interested in the salvation of people we would concentrate on highly biblical training, a thing called “discipleship.” Teaching people to observe whatever Christ commanded us to do.
This does not involve cute kid programs and goldfish swallowing youth pastors. It requires a sincere prayerful, Holy Spirit guided teaching of God’s Word, which will no doubt drive even more kids away! But at least we’ll know. One way to drive down the number of kids who leave the church in their 20’s is to have them leave earlier.
Kids have heard stories from the Bible with cute moral lessons that have nothing to do with the point of those stories. They are leaving Sesame Street level Bible stories for more attractive entertainment options. This will not be fixed by the church copying worldly entertainment, yet that appears to be the main strategy of most modern Christian children’s ministry.
Teach the Word. First teach it to the adults. If the adults get it; the kids will have a higher chance of following it too. But as long as adults think it’s the church’s job to teach kids, kids will continue to falter.
Being a Christian is hard. Even most people in the church aren’t doing it. Rather than bashing the church or stupid kids or youth pastors, grow your own faith and teach people around you to follow Christ. It’s the only option that has a shot at working because it’s the option Christ told us to follow.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
2 thoughts on “Failing Youth Ministry”
Good post. For a number of years now I’ve been trying to convince our church that we need to focus on Dad’s ministry, men’s ministry. Many churches spend so much time, energy, and money on youth, but is that the most cost effective use of our time and resources? I think not and there are many studies that back this up. You reach one Dad, and he’ll minister to his wife, his kids, his community, his friends. In my area too, we are reaching a handful of lost kids, and while that’s a good thing, they still have to keep living in the same broken family, with the same peers, in the same broken community. That’s huge weight to put on a kid.
It’s a tough thing figuring out how to best allocate resources in ministry. I think getting the dad’s is the way to get the kids, yet most believe if you get the kids you’ll get the family. In many ways, I think we’re doing it backwards. But it’s just one guy’s opinion and I won’t stop anyone doing what they feel they need to do before the Lord in spreading the Gospel.
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