I have seen a number of news stories and articles lately about how the Christian church is losing the younger generation. And I will admit, as a Christian mom to two teenagers, this is alarming!
Young people, even those raised in church, are apparently leaving. Kids, active in their youth group, are growing up, graduating high school, and, as they enter into adulthood, many are leaving the church building behind. They have no desire to attend services or “fellowship” with other church members. They want nothing to do with organized religion, and they have no intention of calling themselves “Christian”.
And we say the church has lost our youth. Have we? Can you lose something that was never truly yours? I can’t help but wonder…
Have we lost them or have we failed them?
Are they leaving Jesus, or just our out-of-date, gossip-filled, judgmental congregations? If our youth have had true encounters with the living, life-changing Jesus, could they really just walk away?
And, if after years of fun-filled youth group events, they haven’t met Jesus, we have a much bigger problem than diminishing membership numbers. We’ve missed the point, we’ve lost their hearts…and they are missing Jesus!
Not all churches are “losing” the next generation. Some churches are actually growing with large groups of college-age, early 20-somethings and beyond. Some believers are actually leading new people to Christ! What is the difference?
The difference is Jesus!
Jesus says,"My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, they follow Me." (John 10:27).
So how do we ensure our youth meet Jesus? How do we keep them active in a Body of believers?
John 10:27 is the key! Believers know the voice of Jesus, know that He loves them, and they follow Him! This is what we must teach the next generation–but first, we have to evaluate our own relationship with God!
Who do We Belong To?
As believers, we belong to Jesus. We have confessed that we believe Him and we trust Him for our salvation. But do we know His voice? Are we listening?
If we aren’t listening to Jesus, how can we ever hope to teach our kids to hear Him? When our words and actions don’t match, the discrepancy is deafening! If we confess to know Jesus, but don’t trust Him, don’t believe Him, don’t live our faith in every moment, we have no reason to expect our kids would want to join the charade!
Kids who see genuine faith and have met the Risen Lord Jesus don’t leave the Body of Christ. They develop a relationship with Him and begin to grow in their faith.
Have we taught our youth to listen and follow Him?
The Shepherd Knows His Sheep!
He knows every detail, every sin, every thought of our lives…and He loves us with an intense, unconditional love. Our relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship we will ever have. It is one that affects every other relationship in our lives. So, it is worth our time to evaluate how well we know Him!
Prayer is open, direct communication with God. If we neglect to spend time in His presence, sharing our heart and listening for His voice, we miss out on the divine knowledge and wisdom that can be ours. We miss out on His presence!
Believers who have genuine conversation with God, know Him, they know His voice. If we want our youth to know God intimately and follow Him courageously…we must teach them how to pray! Genuine, heartfelt prayer from the innermost secret heart. Not memorized, not automatic, but dialogue with our Creator, Provider, Protector, and Friend.
Sheep Follow Their Shepherd
We can’t lead our children somewhere we aren’t going ourselves. We can’t expect them to follow Jesus, be active members in their church, if we aren’t leading and guiding them by example.
Jesus will lead us on the right path. It will not always be the easy path. In fact, it usually isn’t! But it will always be the best path, the safest path, and the one that brings Him glory!
Finally, if we want to keep younger people involved in church, we must understand what church is…and what it isn’t. And, as always, the real issue, the deeper issue, is a heart issue.
We have to decide, “What is our goal?” What is our hope for the next generation? Do we want church members, or do we want Christ followers? Because those can be two very different things.
If church is the building, the service, the fellowship, then it can be easy to leave. “I don’t like it”, “It’s not for me”, and “I’m not comfortable” become valid reasons to avoid it.
But, if the church is alive, the living, breathing, Body of Christ, … ordinary people striving to live holy lives, honoring Christ, and sharing His love, then through His followers, people meet Jesus and experience His life-changing power, and they are transformed into believers. His power, love, and peace are undeniable and He changes everything!
When Jesus changes you, you know it, you feel it, and you want more of Jesus!
So, as Christian parents, leaders, youth pastors, as believers who are part of the Body of Christ, it’s time to evaluate…
~ Are we leading our kids to Jesus or just taking them to church?
~ Are we teaching our youth to love their youth group, or are we teaching them to love Jesus?
~ Are we taking them to a weekly performance, or are we showing them how to worship?
~ Are we hoping they have fun, or are we discipling them into a growing, passionate relationship with Christ?
~ Have we taught with our words, but failed them with our attitudes and our actions?
~ Are we reaching out to the hurting, the scared, the lost? Are we effectively changing lives and changing the world?
~ Are we Jesus to our world, or have we become an exclusive social club with restrictive rules, “secret handshakes”, and membership guidelines that our kids can’t wait to escape from?
The answers matter!
As a mom, and as a believer, I want nothing more than to see those I love find Jesus, to know they have discovered their purpose in life, and secured their hope for eternity. There is truly “no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth!” (3 John 1:4).
Our family has been incredibly blessed with dedicated youth pastors that have taken the time to invest in our boys. We are part of a life-giving church that exists to bring others to Jesus and is reaching the next generation. Pastors have taken time to get to know our kids and are teaching them how to follow Jesus. And for them I am eternally grateful! At home, and at church, our kids are learning that there is nothing more important than Jesus. And I pray that they will follow Jesus every day of their lives!
I know there are no guarantees. God brings the increase and every person must decide about Jesus for themselves. But, clinging to the Word of God, I pray my kids have a firm foundation and solid understanding of what it means to truly be a Christ follower, a member of the Body of Christ.
I believe there is incredible hope for our youth and for the next generation. I believe God is about to do some incredible, amazing things through them. They have exciting possibilities of being used by God in ways that we, their parents and grandparents could never have even imagined. They can reach around the world in a second. When this generation gets hold of God’s power, they absolutely change the world! The fire and passion in their young hearts is powerful. They are not window shopping. They want genuine, transforming faith in a living Savior.
It’s time the church wakes up and starts acting like the Body of Christ for the sake of the next generation!
I think it is beginning to change. I think lifeless, monotonous, empty traditions are being replaced with meaningful, genuine, life-altering transformation.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with church events and youth groups. There is nothing wrong with fun, laughter, and friends. These are good and important things. We love ours and will continue to be involved. But they can never eclipse the power of God’s Word, the love of Jesus Christ, and the need for salvation.
It’s time for the Body of Christ to stand up, stand out, and stand on the Word of God. We must live boldly as Christ followers. We must believe God’s Word, every word, and be who He has called us to be. It’s time to be real, genuine, humble servants of Christ and let His love, His power, and His glory shine through us!
As believers, we must believe. As followers, we must follow. And as redeemed, we must say so! And leave the results to God.
Jesus Changes Everything!
Follow Jesus, and bring someone with you! Lives depend on it!
Lord, I want to follow You so closely, there is no room for anything in between! Transform me, strengthen me, and equip me to share Your love with others. Help me never be a stumbling block, but use me to point others to Your Son, Jesus. Those that are leaving the church, grab hold of their hearts, and help them see You, hear You, and know You, in a deep, powerful way that can never be denied. Change their hearts and empower them to change the world for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
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I would also love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or leave a prayer request– and I pray you are abundantly blessed in the fullness of Christ!
This post is linked up at these encouraging blogs: Weekly Linkups including Grace and Truth @A Divine Encounter, Faith and Fellowship @Simple Moments Stick, Christian Fellowship Friday @Holy Splendor, From to House to Home @I Choose Joy
photo credit: Sheep High On Blencathra via photopin (license) (edited)