Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Youth Exodus

I'm back and digging out from under the pile of stuff I need to catch up with. I'll write a bit about Seattle later.

Meanwhile, this morning I received the monthly "Minister's Letter" from the Assemblies of God headquarters (USA). It included an article which contained some quite alarming information about the numbers of young people who not only leave our churches but leave their faith when they are in their 20s. It is well over half of them. I know this problem is not unique to the Assemblies of God.

And when I arrived at church I read an email with a link to a Leadership article by Mark Breaux (a teaching pastor at Willow Creek) which begins with this paragraph:

Fannie Hamilton sat among teenagers during the Sunday service. She used her left hand to hold up her stroke-affected right hand in praise, belting out the words to "My Glorious" by Delirious. A few minutes later, she stood next to a 16-year-old, who joined her in belting out the words to "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." She was a small group leader in our youth ministry—at the age of 82.

WOW!

Here is the rest of the article. There are some thought-provoking questions and suggestions.

I began thinking about how we connect the generations at our church. I often include them in references in my sermons or prayers. I am aware of their presence. I love them, and I think they know it. Youth are included on our worship team, in our ministry teams--several are ushers/greeters--so what more do we need to do to bridge the gap? Anyone have ideas or strategies that have worked? I'd love to hear them.

8 comments:

JWD said...

My husband just edited this book Contemplative Youth Ministry which I believe may be the best book on youth ministry ever written. You might want to check it out!

Anonymous said...

I saw that article too :(
Thanks for mentioning this book jwd. My son-in-law is starting a youth pastor's position on July 1st in a Presbyterian church that is seeing its youth ministry dwindle. I just ordered it (along with 4 others...you know how THAT goes!) Maureen

SingingOwl said...

I looked at the link. I'm going to get two copies, at least! Thanks, jwd!

JWD said...

Alright! I'm so glad it looks good to you. I really do think it's a winner.

Teri said...

Having been in youth ministry for a few years before coming to Egypt, all I can offer you are two things that really worked for us in a small-ish church.

1. have adults who are not parents of the youth cook dinner for youth group meetings, then eat with the youth and chat about life.

2. do a prayer-partner "program" in which each youth either chooses or is matched with an adult--a college student, a parent-aged-but-not-one-of-the-youth-parents person, or best of all one of the older members. I had them all wear wristbands...you know, the not-really-paper kind? they decorated them with their names and whatever else they wanted, then exchanged with their partner. They wore them for the entire time the program was going on--four to six weeks at a time, with the intention of remembering the person in prayer each time they looked at it or touched it or whatever. needless to say, this was also a lesson in praying without ceasing and in the value of short prayers! (we gave them one wristband per week, so if they got icky or stretched or whatever then they could change to a cleaner-looking one.) Each week they were to talk to each other at least once about what was going on in their lives and what they wanted the other person to pray for. At the end we had a dinner together. A lot of the partners became friends and chose each other the second time around as well.

those are my intergenerational ideas of the moment. i hope you find a way to connect people together...it's important!

peace

LutheranChik said...

We have the same "youth drain" in our denomination, and in our church. The irony is that we have a great youth program -- 20 teenagers in a congregation of a little over 100 regular churchgoers, and a lot of these kids are kids from the neighborhood without a supportive churchgoing family, so their participation is quite extraordinary -- but once they're confirmed they disappear.

I've discussed this phenomenon with others, and some of us are coming to believe that it's just a part of the way our culture is working nowadays -- that most kids are going to drift out of churchgoing in their late teens and 20's, then come back as they're more settled in their adult lives and starting to ask the Big Questions again. So our task then becomes equipping them with the theological and spiritual grounding to give them something to build on once they're ready to come back. The question still remains, what exactly is it that's pulling them away from a faith life lived in community.

But anyway, one of the things that our pastor does to connect the generations is to take teens with him on his calls to shut-ins and AFC homes -- the kids sing for people, make them things, etc. We've also had our Sunday School kids design various holiday cards and greetings for our older members.

see-through faith said...

bless Fanny Hamiltion and all the Paulinas like her.

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