Why don’t our youth pay attention?
Why do they seem to care so little?
Why are they more interested in texting rather than listening to the message?
We just can’t keep their attention anymore!
When will they become serious about their faith?
According to the Barna Group three out of every five young people will leave the church. Think about that. 60% loss once our youth turn 16 years old. Other researchers find the number larger—much larger.
Modern youth ministry began over 60 years ago. It started with the same emphasis we still have in most churches—events and message. The idea was simple: gather youth together with fun activities and then share the message of Jesus with them. At DLD we still believe that message is important. Good teaching based on Biblical concepts is imperative. However a classroom setting is not the way to transfer a way of life into anyone. It definitely fails with our next generation of believers. They need so much more than information. They need so much more than to be entertained.
In his book “Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers” Chap Clark calls abandonment the defining issue for contemporary adolescents. Chap says "The culture itself is no longer as attentive to the needs of children and adolescents as it once was, and therefore, the young work hard at finding out how to make it on their own." At DLD we have had people argue this issue with us. Those who argue this often point to the many activities in which parents have their children involved. They also point to the many (and sometimes costly) programs that have been established for youth both in and outside of the church. Jim Warren, President and CEO of DLD, met with over 80 people from local congregations a few years ago. He asked them to consider spending two to three hours a week with youth who had been incarcerated. Over 90 percent of those who had their own children gave the same response. “We do not even spend that much individual time with our own children.” Taking our children to events is not the answer. Taking them to counselors (except in exceptional cases) is not the answer. Bigger, splashier programs will not work. Better teaching methods will not make it happen.
Here is the result of Chap Clark’s research:
“It’s clear that taking on teen abandonment will require an intense, lengthy, proactive struggle from every corner of society, but I have concluded that the best thing we can do is to address the needs of mid-adolescents one at a time at the point of the individual adolescent. Adults must care for and reach the individuals who have suffered from abandonment throughout their lives. Our cultural ethos of bigger, faster, and splashier is bound to fail when we’re trying to address a problem as broad and as deep as abandonment. Kids need adults who can “think small” and invest in the long-term work of deliberate, consistent, authentic, and nurturing concern and care.”
Did you catch that? “Bigger, faster, and splashier is bound to fail.” Clark shares the solution: “Kids need adults who can . . . invest in the long-term work of deliberate, consistent, authentic and nurturing concern and care.” Invest. Long-term. Deliberate. Consistent. Authentic. Nurturing. Concern. Care. These are all words that describe Invested Ministry. The truth: Bigger, faster and splashier is failing with adults. It gets more noses and nickels through the door but it does not produce authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.
The gospel of Jesus is more than a message. It is more than, “Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave.” That is the message. But the good news of Jesus brings us into a relationship with God. That relationship gives us a new way of living—a new life. The church is more than an organization. It is so much more than an educational institution. It is so beyond a social service organization. The church must be a place of transformation. Our young people need to know the facts. Yet, as you remember from school, facts are boring. What is exciting? A new life is exciting. Transformation is exciting. Living in community that invests, cares, nurtures—that is exciting.
What youth need; what adults need are people. Our youth need, we all need, people who are willing to invest all that they are and have into their lives. Our youth need, we all need, people who are willing to walk life with us. We all need to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ by seeing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all need it to be lived out in a dynamic way.
DLD stands ready to help churches move from a focus on events and message. That does not mean that events will not happen. That does not mean that message is neglected. It does mean that invested sacrificial relationships, relationships based on the attitude of Jesus, must become the new focus. A supportive community living the attitude of Jesus brings transformation. It must be the focus in youth ministry. It must become the focus in church life. It must become the focus in every aspect of our lives.