Where are we failing this generation?

Well, I know that my last blog was put in a long time ago, and that I said it would be over “Being true to myself,” but in the past couple of weeks a lot has happened, and I’d like to share some thoughts on some stuff.

First of all, our vacation at the coast was pretty stinkin awesome!  The whole weekend was great, as we got to visit with friends and family both, gator tail was eaten, and the kids were really great on the the trips to and from Rockport.  The only real meltdowns we had involved apple juice at starbucks, and us not bringing a real dolphin home for Mady.  On our way home, we stopped off in Burnet to see off my sister and triplet cousins for college.  I’m extremely proud of those girls, and am prayerful they’ll have an awesome experience at school, and will succeed in their goals, which I have no doubt they’ll be able to do.  Now, on to what this post is really about…

My wife and I had a discussion on our way down to the coast about something she had heard on the radio.  The radio broadcast was about a study done on the reasons why high school students stopped going to church after they graduated.  There is a documentary on the matter at http://www.dividedthemovie.com, which you can watch for free, that is one young man’s investigation into this statement.  The numbers that several independent polls and research projects came up with are startling.  43% of students leave church or lose any faith in church between grade school and jr. high.  45% of students lose this by high school, and 10% by college.  Another statistic that was concluded by another study was that 88% of children raised in “evangelical” homes, left the church by the age of 18, never to return.  Where is the disconnect?  This disconnect is the result of a lack of true discipleship of the family by the church body.  So often, we experience great numbers with our children and youth groups in our Wednesday night programs, but when it comes to the parents of these kids and teens, there is no real fellowship.  In the town where I serve right now, we have the problem of what I like to call “The Great Summer Dropoff.”  We will routinely go from 25-30 youth on Wednesday nights to none until about the third week of school.  The catalyst for the numbers to start building back up is usually attributed to the 5th quarters we do after the home football games on Friday nights.  Now, that’s all fine and good when our kids all come back and remember that we’re “open” as one student put it, but consistency is lacking in the attendance department.  Where does this lack of consistency come from?  I used to wonder if I was implementing the right programs at the right times, or if I was chasing the kids off somehow, either by something I’d done or said.  The stigma with church, in our town at least, is that church has become a place for youth to come hang out during the school year and a place to come drop the kids off for an hour or two and get fed for free and stay out of trouble.  Which we are totally glad to be able to provide a place for that, but in the grand scheme of life, we have to understand that the parents of these kids and teens are not being reached.  We have a Monday night evangelism team that goes out twice a month, but that team consists of maybe 3 or 4 people each time we go out.  As one of our deacons, who is a very godly man, said last night “We can change our programs, Sunday School structure, and targets, but if our hearts aren’t changed, these programs will end in the same result as they are now.”  Which is so true, how often do we sit around and wonder where the people are on Sunday mornings?  How about Wednesday nights?  We invited them during the week to come to church with us, but they didn’t come.  What is the reason behind that?  Our churches today have become so focused on the entertainment value of church and have lost sight of the fact that the Gospel of Christ is where the real meat is and where the focus should be.  Until we decide, as a church, that we truly care about people’s salvation, our programs will generate big numbers and small results.

It has to start at home

The above statement is more true than we realize.  A pastor can be the leader of the world’s largest congregation, a youth pastor can be the most effective at his calling, a children’s minister can be the most innovative planner we’ve ever seen, but as great as they are, they cannot replace the most influential person in a child’s life.  Their parents.  Statistics show that if the head of the household, the father, comes to know Christ, the rest of the family will follow.  Why is this?  The father is the designated leader of the family, not in a tyrannical way, but in the example we are given in 1Timothy 3, the overseer of the church is called to manage his family well so his children will obey him (Philliphrased version), as well as other passages in Ephesians that speak of the wife submitting to the husband.  Now, this is not to say that the woman should be subdued and like a dog that’s been beaten as some would like to take that scripture as saying.  In any healthy family dynamic, there will be compromise and discussion of course, but the husband is called to lead that family.  The only way a father can lead a family appropriately is if he is grounded in Christ, and is continuously growing in that walk.  We have to be able to reach these fathers, and help them to guide and lead their families.  In order for that to happen, there has to be mentoring from the older men in the church family.  It is a trickle-down effect of biblical proportions!  To get that started, a lot of times our hearts have to be changed first, then we can move to guiding our programming and structure in a direction of functionality.  I brought this up last night at our business meeting, and all of those who were in attendance seemed to agree with this, and that excites me.  We go out tonight for some evangelism and visitation, and I am prayerful that we will have more than the 3 or 4 there tonight.

The blog on “being true to myself” is coming soon, I may have to make this blog an every Monday thing instead of daily, but I would like it to be more frequent than once a week, but we shall see!  Until next time, have a great week, and seek the Lord in all you do!

Here is the trailer for the “Divided” documentary

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2 thoughts on “Where are we failing this generation?

  1. i appreciate how you are wrestling through this topic. it seems like finding out who is to blame for students walking away from the faith is all the rage right now. unfortunalty, this debate has been going on ever since . . . i guess abraham and the way ishmael walked away.

    on one hand we all love chap clark’s writing on individuation and how students must separate form their parent’s identity and develop an identity of their own, including faith. and then kara powell’s writing about how we need more adults in the lives of students to create sticky faith.

    but at the end of the day, it is a total mystery how it works. it is going to be real and authentic for our students they will at some point have to walk away and figure out their faith separate from their family and church of their youth.

    instead of freaking out about it or blaming someone else, maybe we should be like the father in the prodigal son story and make it known to both of his sons that their place is always with him and while they are working it out, we will stand at the edge of the property and wait for their return.

    • behindthecross says:

      Hey Benjamin,

      it does seem as though this topic has become all the rage lately, but I do think it has become that way rightfully so. We are just now seeing the effects of the lack of discipleship within the family unit, and how it is breaking down throughout our society. I live in a town of 800 people, and at the end of the school year last year, we had around 25 youth coming to our wednesday night service. out of those 25, only 1 had parents who hadn’t been separated by divorce or by something other than loss of life. many go home each night to a parent who is not sober, to one who is on drugs, or just doesn’t care about their child just as long as they aren’t in jail or trouble. this may just be the demographic of our town, but the theme is the same throughout the country: parents aren’t parenting, parents aren’t discipling, and churches aren’t realizing we are failing to provide the help needed until it’s too late. this may not be true of every church, but by far it is the status quo. it’s great to have some awesome programs, great music, fun trips and whatnot, but when the gospel leaves these kids at the door as they walk out because they don’t have support at home, we have to reach out to the parents. these kids know i’m always here for them no matter what, they can come stay with my family anytime they need to, and the same is true of our pastor. we have gone past the edge of the property and into the enemy territory after these kids, but we need to find a way to reach their parents. if you’ve ever read a book called “This present darkness” by frank peretti, the city in that book is eerily similar to our city. this town boldly rejects the Gospel of Christ, and laughs or curses as we try to share the Gospel with them. the problem we are seeing is that students who leave the church, don’t try and work it out, don’t ever try to “get back into” church, and that’s where we need to figure out what we need to do.

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