Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Generation Lost?

I ran across a reference to this article on another I blog I read Faith in Action.  My good buddy over there pointed me to this article in ChristianityToday which referenced the article run in Outreach magazine, a Christian Magazine dealing specifically with issues of evangelism and outreach. The author/apologist Josh McDowell says the American Church is losing a generation as youth leave the Church in alarming numbers. What do they believe? What are the issues? And how can churches turn young people back to God?  Recently, McDowell sat down with Outreach Editor Lindy Lowry to talk about what young people think about church and Christianity, the need for intergenerational ministry, and what church leaders can do to help avert this growing crisis. I am not going to post the entire interview just some interesting points I picked up on, if you would like to read the entire interview you can get it here.

The main thing I got from this article was just to give more thought to youth ministry.  I think for one thing our messages to youth must be more engaging, we can't e relational as Bro. McDowell suggests in the article if we can't relate. That's a big thing that Bro. McDowell overlooks, communication, we adults have to admit we have a hard time understanding and being understood by youth.  A lot of time the gospel message just doesn't translate into youth hip speak or whatever you get my point.  I found an example on youtube.com of  Tye Tribbett ministering to youth at one of his concerts and it is awesome the way he translate the gospel language in a powerful, revelatory way.  In my view he really opens them up to hear the Word of God in a way that would make them want to make that commitment to living for Him thats why I put Tye's video at the beginning (part 1 of it)  and end (part 2) of this post. 

Lindy Lowry: Josh, you say that Christian young people are walking away from the Church. Are they walking away from the modern traditional church or Christianity?

Josh McDowell: It's a balance. Parents tell me, "Josh, my child is losing his faith; he no longer believes what we've tried to share with him his whole life." Basically, any parent with a child 15 years of age or younger, will probably hear phrases like, "Well, Mom, that's your truth" or "If it works for you guys, wonderful—but it doesn't work for me."

My research and observations tell me that youth are walking away from their perception of what Christianity is and teaches. They're saying, "The church I've attended since I was young is no longer relevant to me." They're not really saying that Christianity is irrelevant, but it's how they've understood Christianity.

LL: How do they understand it?

JM: They define Christianity primarily by their experience with their church's youth ministry or youth group, which they see as boring. They attend for the fun, food and fellowship, but for most kids, the youth leader's "spiritual devotional" is boring. Remember, though, that half of today's churches run less than 75 attendees overall, and can't afford a full-time youth leader. So for most kids, youth group involves a small number of students led by a volunteer youth worker with little expertise and little time to prepare...

 ...They see church as more of an observing and listening place than a participating and interacting community. They're there, but nothing really gets through to their minds and hearts, and as a result, we see little transformation in their lives. And that's why when they get to college and their philosophy professor starts to talk about other faiths and beliefs, they fall away. They were never grounded in the first place, even though they were at all the church events. Events are only valid if they initiate or intensify the transformation process. The idea of just throwing in events with no real purpose other than to keep young people busy or entertained is counterproductive, as the research shows...

LL: Why does process-driven ministry resonate with youth?

JM: Because it's all about relationships, and today's teenagers are perhaps the most relational and community-oriented generation in history. Studies reveal that relationships score extremely high in the hearts and minds of our young people. God gave us truth relationally, through His Son. So we must teach truth relationally, which means understanding that we have a relationship with our heavenly Father, which drives how we live...

LL: What are the first steps to becoming process-driven?

JM: I am a big believer in intergenerational youth ministry. We have such a departmentalization of Chris-tianity when everyone goes to his or her respective, age-specific areas on the weekends. The toddlers go to one place, the tweens, another. The youth have their spot. The marrieds gather here, the singles there. The seniors are someplace else. Kids need to learn the truth of the scriptures from other generations and see how it's worked out in their lives. Hardly any family sees that today. Churches should offer one or two classes for the whole family on Sunday morning. Youth come with their family, and they learn truth and experience community among the generations...

LL: How can leaders evaluate their youth ministry to determine if it's process-driven and transformational? Are there any signposts they can look for?

JM: They need to observe their youth, then ask themselves some questions: Has there been a change in the belief systems of my kids? As I talk to them, is it different from talking to a non-Christian young person? Have I seen distinct changes in their character? Are they more involved in how they talk about God and Christ? Has there been a change in their pattern of worship? What are their relationships like with their friends? Are they influencers or are they influenced? Are they sharing their faith? Also, if their parents are not playing a big part in their spiritual lives, there's a great chance that youth will walk away.