As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And We Wonder Why...

I've heard it many times before, the beaten dead horse statistic that young adults are leaving church when they hit college and aren't coming back until they have kids. Here's a thought: maybe it is time we stop quoting statistics and work on changing them... just a thought.

I did a little research before I sat down to right this and found 101 Different reasons why young adults leave the church. I think, as a young adult myself, very few of them actually know what they are talking about. This one article did hit home. It bears the subheading "Young adults will leave church if they are overlooked." It was published by the Baptist Press in 2006.

Being a Baptist, I feel very comfortable in saying, leave it to us to nail the problem square on the head and then do nothing about it. It's like searching for years for a diagnosis of a chronic illness. The doctor finally figures it out, announces the diagnosis, then leaves. As if you have the medical training to treat yourself.

In the article, it polled Christian young adults (there's an idea: ask the people who are actually in that stage of life) asking what they were looking for in a church. I can hear the 'older' generations thinking now. Immediately, they all went down the "all these young people want is drums and a fun time." You would be wrong, and if I may, you would be half the problem.

Here is the other half. Of those young adults polled in a 2006 survey conducted by Lifeway Research, 73% of 18-34 year olds thought it was important to be able to develop relationships with people their age. 71% felt hands-on service in the community was important. 68% wanted to be able to explore religious environment without pressure (a.k.a. establish themselves in their own faith). 67% wanted to be able to get advice from people with similar life experiences, and a whopping 66% felt it was important to be able to utilize their own talents and gifts in the church.

The percentage of those things I see done in the modern-day church- 0%.

Notice, nothing was said about music, or games, or programs. In fact, the article goes on to say this, which is really the whole point of this rambling blog. It says,
"I truly believe [this generation] wants to embrace Jesus Christ and His plan for their life...They want to embrace church, but only the genuine, earth-shaking, Christ-powered New Testament church. For some churches, that’s going to mean changing methodology but not the message of the Bible.”

Johnston said the solution is simple: Give this generation the unbridled truth of the Gospel, without apology, and they will actively embrace it.

And that's where we, as a church, have fallen short. We give the truth like we give vitamins. We pump it full of sugar and make it a flavored and cute chewable. Church is a dietary supplement. Let me ask you this: can you survive on a bottle of vitamins?

In a little over a month, Reckless will be launching. Reckless, along with other already-established ministries such as The Rebelution, are geared toward activating this generation of young people to live life for Christ.

Frankly, I'm done. We're done. Done settling for second best in our walks with Christ and in our churches. Done settling for a faith that can barely move a blade of grass much less a mountain. Done.

The problem holds guilt all over our churches. We lack discipleship. We lack responsibility. We lack depth.

We have these children's and youth programs. They are shallow, pumped full of music and a good time. Pumped full of points and systems and strategies. Mass-produced and microwaveable. Tell me, can you survive on that?

What we need is depth. What we need is intention. We need a generation of leaders willing to do hard things (to steal Alex and Brett's line) in order to raise up a generation of young adults who will do hard things. I have seen it and I still see it. This generation of teenagers is a generation that is done with the sugar coating and fluff. Give them the truth raw and wriggling and keep your nasty chips (yes, I am in a quoting mood today. Name the movie!).

Liken our faith to a swimming pool. There is a community pool in my back yard, literally. There is a shallow end, a deep end and a wading pool. As a church, we have our youth in the shallow end. We don't want to scare them by going into the deep end, so we let them play in the shallow end. Then, once they hit college age, we push them down the water slide into the deep end. We expect them to become actively involved and step into leadership roles. And we wonder why they drown.

How about, instead, we take the teenagers to the deep end and teach them how to swim. Guess what, though, swimming lessons are best one on one. Less likelihood of drowning that way. What does that mean for us? That means a few things. First, we have to get in the pool. Second, we have to know how to swim (hard to teach someone when you don't know yourself). Third, we have to patient and willing to teach.

But it's so much easier to mass-produce a lesson and hand it out along with our little fortune cookies. It is much easier to smile and nod and keep walking than to sit down and actually have a serious conversation. It is less time consuming and less expensive to just meet with youth on Sunday and Wednesday. Besides, we don't have the gas to drive to McDonald's or the money to buy them a $1 cheeseburger. Can't they figure out how to swim on their own?

A few do. But just a few. The rest grab on to the life raft offered by the world and climb out, never to return again.

And we wonder why...


Maggie said...

Well said.

Chris Krycho said...

Quite right. Somewhere in the last few decades, churches became convinced that it was too much challenge that was pushing teens away. They got it entirely backwards: it's the sugarcoated gospel, combined with a bunch of moralizing in place of the Cross of Christ, that has lost us our voice.