It’s a growing trend in ministry circles to lament the loss of the younger generations from the church. A common statistic given for the evangelical youth dropout rate is that 87% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation, never to return. The problem with this statement is that it simply isn’t true. LifeWay Research has done some probing in this area, and found that “about 70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out.” More significant, however, is that of those 70% almost two-thirds will return and become regular attenders once again.
While not as catastrophic as we may assume, this is still a problem. As followers of Christ, these are numbers we cannot ignore. And yet, I wonder if these overblown statistics, and in fact numbers games in general, often do more harm than good. Think about our reaction. Much of the seeker-friendly church movement, the good with the bad, is a direct result of these kinds of statistics. These numbers pose a significant problem, and as human beings often do, we are quick to rush in and propose a solution.
And so we begin to alter our thinking in ways that focus more on pleasing the crowds and less on pleasing the King. Instead of trusting the Master of the harvest, we begin to trust the masters of the markets, and our youth groups begin to look less and less like houses of reverent worship and more and more like warehouses of safe entertainment.
Not only that, but as a culture we have begun to expect this. Our students, we believe, will only be served if our youth groups are exciting, fun, engaging, full of spark. The reality, however, is that drawing crowds and making disciples is two very different things. One looks great on the outside but when we poke deeper we find the results are students highly entertained but rarely transformed. The other can at times feel boring, too churchy, unengaging, but when done properly creates life change that reshape the desires of our students from entertainment-driven to a deeper more eternal focus and purpose, unsatisfied with the vapid pass-times of the culture because they have had a taste of the eternal glory of God.
So, here’s the question: how will we respond to the numbers? Many of you have figured out by now that at FBC we aren’t interested in being event planners for bored students. We are in the business of making warriors for the kingdom. This means at times we won’t be the most entertaining, the most exciting, the most flashy youth group in town. But I firmly believe we will produce some of the most firmly rooted disciples in our community. Then again, I am a little biased.
All of this in mind, I urge you to do all you can to see your students and the students you know to be involved here. We are making an eternal impact. God uses His people gathered around His word to change the world. Sometimes our students just need the accountability to be involved in something greater than they have previously imagined.
Soli Deo Gloria!