Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

Keeping Young Adults In Church Depends On What Your Church Values

3 · 14 · 19

This is my sixth, and last, reflection on the book Growing With by Kara Powell and Steve Argue. You can read my reflections from the beginning here.

Currently, I’m 50 years old and have started attending a new church. After 30 years a youth pastor and associate pastors, this is a new experience for me. I have no role or responsibilities, yet. It’s hard to be new, anywhere, you’re trying to figure out things and find your place. I am also an older attendee in a younger leaning church. I might be experiencing what is feels like a for a young adult, 19-25, but in reverse.

Kara and Steve talk about faithing with our kids through life and faithing often involves “churching”. Church, for many adults my age, is something you attend, but as Growing With points out,

Church is less a place for young people seek to attend and more of a community with which young people participate.

I can over emphasize how important this is. I banged the drum loudly and often in the churches I served to make known the need to connect young adults, post graduation, into the life of the church. Some times the drum was heard and other times it was ignored.

To this point, in my previous five posts, I’ve spoken as a parent; but let me put my youth pastor hat on for a second (I’ve never really taken it off). I always did my best to involve my kids in youth and in the life of the church, but as my kids got older, it got harder and harder to connect them with the rest of the body.

I’ve gone through the, “Hey, get up, it’s time to go to church” routine. This is a classic case of having the wrong parental posture when addressing or young adults. I have to break it to you, unless your young adult sees the value in going to Church, i.e, their connection to it, they’ not interested. But, you say,

“Yeah, but if I can just get them to come to church, God will do something.”

It’s not God who needs to do something, it’s the church, the community, the people who need to do something. By age 20, showing up to hear a sermon or someone preaching only has so much pull. Showing up to be a part of something is far more appealing.

Depending on the leadership, culture, and vision (how they view young people) of your church; getting your kids involved may be harder than you think. If the church values attendance, sermons, classes and compliance, your young adult will find it hard to fit.

On the other hand, if your church values connection, serving, experimenting and discipleship, there will be ever expanding opportunities for young adults to plug in.

My recommendation, as both a parent and a youth worker, is to get your kids serving early. The earlier you connect your kids gifts and talents with the rest of the church body, the more likely they are to be affirmed and will want to serve again.

This is part of my premise in my book The Disciple Project. I suggest that teenagers need a season on unity, community, focus and the connection of serving with other adults rather than having a youth meeting. Youth meetings are not the prime motivators why students grow in their faith. Actually doing the gospel, in community, and connecting what students believe with action is far more profitable.

Giving up 12 meetings a year to focus on developing gifts, connecting students with adults and serving the community is, by far, better than any youth meeting or message a youth pastor can come up with. Youth Pastors and Pastors just have to be daring enough to do it.

Another component Growing With suggests that will encourage young adult to keep attending or re-enter church is mentorship. Chap Clark’s research in the book Sticky Faith reveals,

“teenagers benefit from a 5-1 ratio when they can name five caring adults in their lives who support them with no strings attached”

In a recent study by the book store Lifeway, there are five reasons young adults drop out of church. Four of which a youth work has not control over and one that he or she does.

The people in my church loved by kids, but I can’t say they felt connected to any of them. Connected, to me, means they would have gone to church there out of the relationship they had formed with them through service or depth of understanding or both.

I wish I could have found at least three other adults, besides their mother and I who could have connected with my boys on another level and with no strings attached. Maybe they had them and it just did not take.

Here’s what I know, my kids have to had to, have to, take initiative in their faith. As much as I want them to live for the Lord and did everything I know, albeit imperfectly, to keep them in the faith, I recognize that the choice is ultimately theirs, The Apostle Paul said.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

I Corinthians 15:1

If you hold firmly. That’s our part. That’s our kids part. Most of us taught our kids a work ethic. We don’t mourn every time they lose a job. We know at some point they have to show up on time, work hard and get along with others. They have to hold firmly to the thing that is going to bring them further in life. The same is true of faith. Hold on and you move your life forward.

It’s the same with faith, and although the consequences for not holding on to faith is great than losing a job, I know I can’t hold firmly for their faith for them. They must hold on, invest in themselves, grow their own soul.

If you’re a Christian parent, I know that your kids not living for the Lord feels like a loss, like someone dear to you has passed away. It feels like you failed, but you haven’t. Your kids, wherever they are now, spiritually, will not be in the same place five years from now.

For the prodigal son, it took a famine for him to recognize the love his father had for him. We may have to wait and hold on until our kids run out of spiritual gas before they realize what they were looking for was in from of them the whole time. Let us be patient, wait outside and watch the road for them to return. In the mean time, walk with them, grow with them until such a time appears.

For more insight into mentoring young adults in your home or in the church, grab Growing With here.

Related Posts

Rocket Launching 101

This article, as well as graduation formsgraduation gift ideasgraduation service sample andgraduation song suggestions (over 40) Are a part of Launching Well: Graduating Your Senior Class In Style resource. If you are not subscribed to the Youth Ministry Round Up...

read more