Over the last few years numerous studies have shown that the majority of people between the ages of 18-33 (Millennial’s) are missing from our churches. Shocking statistics state that 75% of teens will walk away from the church, not necessarily God, by the time they are eighteen. As ministry leaders this information should gnaw at our very souls and drive us to stop and take an honest evaluation of how we minister to the next generation. If the church continues to provide ministry to children and youth the way we have always done it in the past, then we can expect nothing more than the same catastrophic results. In order to stop the mass exodus we need to understand why are we losing them and what we can do to help disciple this generation, as well as the next.
In this series I want to focus on three reasons millennial gave as to why they walked away from the church:
- What they learned was just a nice story.
- They didn’t feel like they belonged.
- They were not a part of anything worthwhile.
I have devoted my life to ministering to children and youth. The reasons millennial gave as to why they left the church cut to the core of who I am, and what I believe I am responsible for as a ministry leader. The Bible is not “just a nice story” it’s God’s story, and the history of Him working in and through His people to accomplish His will in the earth. I hate to be a Debbie downer, but I feel the Spirit of God shouting loud and clear “It is time for the church to wake up”. It’s time to eliminate the passive attitudes that say “we need to have something for the kids” so lets put a little money in the budget for snacks, crafts and a part-time, ill-equipped leader. It is vital that we understand that these are the same children who will be sitting in, or missing from, our adult services.
1 Cor. 12:25 says… there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
If we are going to eradicate young people feeling as though it was just a nice story, that they don’t belong, or worse yet, not a part of anything worthwhile, we need to take a good hard look at how we minister to the next generation. One area we can focus on is eliminating a culture that promotes silo ministries. This type of culture creates walls and inadvertently segregates one age group or ministry from another. Before you gasp, humor me for a moment and give me a chance to explain. I am a firm believer that there should be various groups that minister to specific needs in the church such as; children, youth, college, women, men, etc. I also believe that if we are going to leave a generational legacy, we need to promote an atmosphere of inclusion rather than exclusion. Imagine what could happen if we purposely planned our calendar year with the goal of combining various ministries to work together on a certain tasks or event? There is so much valuable information that we can learn from each other through ministering together. Our young people need this today more than ever. Children of God, both young and old are equally valuable to Him; He loves them, died for them, and desires to use them to impact their world. God shapes our character to be the people He has called us to be as we interact with our brothers and sisters of all ages and take this faith walk together. It’s experiencing life with “one another” in scripture that God refers to numerous times.
Studies show that in order for a young person to stay connected and feel that they are a valuable part of the church, they need five or more multi-generational relationships that are actively involved in their life.
- Children and youth need to experience God, church and life, in community with other believers.
- They need mentors of all ages that they can look up to and confide in. Believers, who will be authentic, allow them to ask questions, share their doubts, love them, hold them accountable, and walk this hard road together.
- They need opportunities to come along side other believers of all ages and together serve God with the gifts and talents He has given them, so they can put feet to their faith.
I hope you are hearing my heart in these statements. I’m not talking about a young persons love for the Lord but their love for the church. I believe when God spoke about “His Church” He was not referring to a building but a family of believers and seekers of all ages, who long to know God intimately, strengthen their faith, experience a sense of belonging and together accomplish worthwhile God given tasks in the earth.
There are some strategies that we as ministry leaders can focus on in order to be intentional about dimming the exit sign. A few of these steps are fairly easy to implement within the classroom environment and will transpire because of your influence. Other steps will take a tremendous amount of time in order to be built into the culture of the church. I encourage you to seek God, pray, and be patient. Be the person who will lead the way, cast the vision and fight for the next generation until all the pastors, elders and leadership in every department are on board. I have listed below four practical steps we will discuss in future posts, that as leaders we can take in order to impact the Kingdom and prevent the next generation from walking away from the church.
Eliminating “It Was Just a Nice Story”.
Connecting with kids so they “Feel Like They Belong”.
Including kids into the body so they feel “A Part of Something Worthwhile”
What would happen if?
Review the three reasons millennial gave as to why they walked away from the church. What area do you think your kids are currently struggling in and are there steps you are taking right now to address it?