Thursday, July 12, 2007


First: this Sunday is my "actual" anniversary date of being at Memorial Drive 30 years. They gave Mary and me a huge surprise a few weeks back. To all Memorial readers, I never in my wildest imagination would have believed I'd get to work with a church as sweet and happy as you! Thank you.....enormously! Now to the topic.

I read a report this week which stated 75% of all Christian youth will renounce their faith or lose their faith in their first year after leaving or not. I have been perplexed over this evidence for the past 25 years. I've taken stabs at stabilizing this crisis; yet I have not the insight nor the skill to make a minuscule dent.

The report went on to say that two of the reasons we are losing these precious ones is because:
  1. This generation sees little relevance between the church and real life.
  2. The church lacks adventure.

What is working where you are for the college through the late 20s? Does it depend on a specific staff person assigned them? Does it take the presence of a dynamic one (or two) of their own among them? Are we needing to give stronger assistance to parents during their earlier ages? What do you see working?

I'm not down on anyone or anything. I'm searching for what's working to continue the great work our pre-grade school, grade school, junior high, and senior high servants have labored over so diligently. I believe the most of us don't need a statistical report to tell us we need to strengthen this area. All we have to do is count. Too many are absent.

I do not regard this as an issue which can afford casual attention. The church splits a gut during the first 17 years training these gold mines. We cannot afford to let this loss trend continue. What do you see as to an effective effort to close the gap? Do we need money? Focus? Man-power? Whatever it is....we need to address is ASAP. Help!


Anonymous said...

Donald Miller says our kids are finding "a better story." One that's more interesting/exciting than the one they find in church. That's disheartening because we have the best story. But I see it happening. He also talks about the importance of experience. As our students mature they've learned much of what we have to teach. They don’t need more teaching, they need more experience. They need to start writing their own story by actually living out their faith (whether it’s feeding the hungry, building homes for the needy, teaching younger kids about Jesus, etc.). They need to move from learning about discipleship to actually integrating it in their lives, which means less time in classes and more time in mission.

Anonymous said...

Send them into the most scary, tough, multi-cultured neighborhood in your town. Give them a children's book and a sack lunch or happy meal coupon to share with a child needing to learn to read.

Tell them to make a friend with the child.

Let God do the rest.

Tim said...

Terry - My wife and I deliver our oldest daughter to York College in about 33 days (but who's counting?)... so this subject is officially REAL to me now!

About 5 years ago, we made a conscious decision to try to break the cycle you describe. We have made tons of mistakes to be sure... and it is definitely a work in progress... AND, most importantly (and I write this with as much humility as I can muster), we have 2 more daughters still at home... anyhow, all that to say we are not professionals at this! We pray for the Spirit's guidance daily...

I was 'raised in the church'... so I guess I am one of those in the 25% who didn't 'leave their faith'... But I was living for a long time on Momma and Daddy's faith... I married very much above myself (thank you God), and my very good wife kept me on the straight and narrow (I guess) until we discovered together that there was more to being a Christian than what we were doing (going to church 3 times a week, working on VBS, teaching Bible class, etc)

So we try to convey that concept to our 3 precious daughters... we try very hard to daily be more merciful and helpful to those around us... and to show Jesus to them... and we began attending a church who shared those ideals (leaving a church we had both served for 35 years!)...

So, for us, it has become a quest for daily service and relevance (there HAS to be a connection between Sunday morning and the rest of the week), and much less about what goes on at the church building 3 hours a week (and we stopped addressing the 'burning questions' of the day - do we clap during our songs?, etc).

As I said, it is a work in progress... I will keep you updated as time goes by...

Of this I am dead certain: Parents, if your idea of "bringing them up in the nurture and adminition of the Lord" means that you 'take' your kids to 'church' (even a good one with a great youth minister and terrific programs), you are virtually guaranteeing that your kids will bear out the statistics Terry has cited...

For me, that would mean that at least one of my three girls would 'leave their faith' after they leave my home... and that's not acceptable to us.

Sorry for the length of my response... I am very passionate about this matter.

Bottom line (and, again, I don't always do it well): SHOW your kids how to serve others - them how to "love 'em like Jesus".

God Bless,
Tim Martin

ran said...

Tim's comment is right on the mark. I have taught first and second grade classes at church for about 30 years. I can tell you at age 6 or 7, fairly accurately, whether the child will continue with and grow in faith as an adult. It has EVERYTHING to do with what mom and dad are teaching. If mom and dad have faith, and are teaching their kids at home, I would say the odds change dramatically. Of course, I am aware that everyone has to make those decisions for themselves, as an adult, and many people will find faith as an adult regardless of what they were or were not taught - thankfully. But if you want to give your children a greater chance at a life of faith in Christ as an adult, teach them at home, make the Bible a real part of everyday life. The greatest push in our churches needs to be with the young families; teaching mom and dad and helping them to teach at home. As Bible class teachers, no matter what effort we put in, we are only assistants to what mom and dad are teaching and training. If mom and dad aren't teaching them at home, they aren't getting much from what I teach, but if mom and dad have already started the teaching at home, I can help and add to it.

I love my kids and my class. I love to see them get involved and enjoy a lesson - to see the look on their face when they get something for the first time, to see them get drawn into a Bible story. It is most rewarding!

Stoogelover said...

I've seen this happen so often. I would say Tim is right on with his remarks. However I've also seen those kids who had great family faith models leave as well.

When I was in graduate school (HGSR) one of my psychology professors said it was his opinion many church of Christ kids who were raised very sheltered simply had to leave the faith so they could come back to the faith as their decision and not mom and dad's decision.

So that makes Tim's comments even more appropriate ... allowing our kids to experience their own faith as early as possible. And that involves them taking risks and often being hurt in the process. If I understand the verses I was studying just yesterday, this is where character of faith is forged in the fires.

Brenda said...

When I was growing up, my parents were very active in church. Taught childrens classes every quarter. They were the teachers everyone wanted. As I started growing older, advanced into middle school, and then the high school portion of the youth group, their involvement became less and less and their place in the church seemed less and less. At this point,I was graduating high school and their involvement and attendance stopped totally at chruch. They also told me it was my choice from this point on what I wanted to do. I could continue at this church, move onto another, or do whatever I wanted. This was the same attitude toward my brother. I left the church for 3 years and came back when I had a crisis in my life and needed God. I've never left since. Unfortunately, my brother never returned to church and neither did my parents. Due to my convictions, I felt it was the right place for me. My brother never found that connection for life after those high school years in the church. He was lost in the mix. He went straight from being a senior in high school, to being an adult in our congregation. That's like trying cram a huge puzzle piece into a spot that doesn't fit.
I tell you this story not with any real answers for this problem. I just know it is a huge one. Yes, the gap is big.
Maybe if my family realized how much they needed God and godly people in their lives, like I did, they would come back, or maybe would never have left at all.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with the "adventure" part. I would be interested to see the breakdown of guys/girls as well. My guess is more guys leave of that number than girls. There is just so much lacking in our liturgy that is adventurous. So much of it just lulls people (men) to sleep to where they would rather just be honest with themselves than continue the hypocrisy. I seriously think we need to re-think "how" we are doing this.

craig said...

Since my time in college ~15 years ago, Tamara and I have been working with different high school and college ministries as volunteers. After coming to Westover here in Austin about a year ago, we asked to speak with our elders to express our desire to serve with the college group. My wife expressed her grand dreams of a congregation who would serve the University of Texas and ACC (the largest community college in the country). We feel Westover should be serving over 1000 students per year. Excited about this prospect, a shepherd asked, "So what success have you had in your decade or so of work?" I responded shyly, "almost none if your doing a headcount." But my dear wife enthusiastically responded, "But we should be doing things that are guaranteed to fail unless God intercedes." Now, there's adventure for you!

Sacrificial service must be a key. Tamara and I continue to learn this for ourselves and hope we can draw our college students into service with us. That will require relationship. We had about 6 with us at the end of last year. Far from 1000. But He will supply the adventure, and draw his own to himself. We simply strive to be faithful in service.

Unknown said...

I don't know exactly where to start. The following things are not in specific order...

One, I feel that people need to be involved. They need to feel important and have a purpose in being with a church. I would presume that everyone responding, so far, is involved in their church. What would happen if your "job" was now filled. Whether it is teaching, song leading, Lord's Supper passing, or whatever. When we don't feel important, we feel like we are "just a number."

Kids are relationship oriented. With problems amongst couples very high, kids are usually forced to be split between mom and dad. If they fail to get the attention at home, they get it outside the home. The same goes with the church, if anyone fails to get any love and attention, then they look elsewhere.

After being raised in the church, I didn't go to any Wednesday night meetings and very few Sunday night meetings while in one year of college. I felt as if I needed to go, but didn't "have a spot." The following summer, our church had a co-ed softball team. I was asked to play - that was the answer for me. It led to playing sand volleyball, going out to eat, and a host of other times to make me feel like I mattered - other than asking "How's school?" each week.

Involvement is a key to keeping any aged person stronger. That doesn't have to be limited to duties at church. Recently, our church took men to an arena football team. We also "tail gated" before the game. We have a young man who is from a blended family with no male role models. I invited him to go with us. He went and loved it! That allowed him to see how enjoyable it is to be with Christian men in a clean environment and have fun.

Also, I think that we need to "become all things to all" teens to win some. Things that were working in the past, may not work now. It has been argued that all we do is "entertain". Entertainers get those who want to come back. Why not make church life fun and enjoyable?

Kids are busy. We may have to resort to learning how to "text message" to communicate. If we avoid what is current, then we just fall behind.

Keeping kids involved by starting early is important. Allow little kids to help with the table or lead a song or two - give them something to look forward to. Eventually, give a chance to say a prayer. I've had my own members question kids serving on the table, but where do we have examples of who did it? I've heard that it is supposed to be Christians. I've been told there were men at the "Last Supper" - they, by the way weren't, so called, Christians yet as that term didn't come into play until Acts 11.

Get the girls a job of passing out visitor cards or something that isn't "cooking and cleaning".

Invite teens to put in ideas for meetings and respect what they want to do. Or even ask what they would suggest for current problems. Do you have artists in your church - allow them to paint or draw something - whether it is on the wall or a cover for a bulletin.

I think I'll quit for now :)

Have a great day!