Mar 14, 2012

How the Church is Failing Our Youth and What We Can Do About It

Almost all churches in the US struggles with reaching youth and young adults.

Even churches with fantastic youth programs see a huge drop off of youth who graduate high school and move into adulthood.

One of the things that the church has been saying for decades is that we've got to pass the torch of leadership from one generation to the next so that the church of Jesus Christ will continue strong into the future.

I don't think this is the best analogy of what the church is called to be.

Passing on the torch is akin to passing on responsibilities of the church to the next generation and to abdicate from their lives. I don't think abdication is what God had in mind when he's talking about passing on the faith to the next generation.

Another way that churches have been "passing" the torch is for the older generation to hang on to power and responsibility as long as possible and then pass on the leadership torch at the last minute possible to whoever is left.

But by then two to three generations of people have been skipped over because those who would have taken on the mantle of leadership for those generations have left the church.

By the time the torch is passed on, those who passed on the leadership torch are too old to continue leading, and those holding the mantle of leadership are too young to know what to do with it.

Perhaps a better way to think about leadership in the church is to think of the church as an organic body.

Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which the church can develop flourishing faith in both the young and the old.

But in too many churches, we have intentionally isolated the generations from one another through our own programing and thereby robbed from our youth and young adults the richness of spiritual and life wisdom of older adults.

Instead of serving and equipping our youth to become mature Christians in the faith, we have robbed the youth of the wisdom that they desperately need to navigate the uncertain waters of life with spiritual wisdom and guidance.

What the church ought to be doing is encouraging and developing opportunities for meaningful intergenerational relationships.

It's not that everyone has to do everything together. It's that the church ought to be intentional about creating and fostering opportunities for meaningful relationships to develop amongst the generations so that the wisdom of faith and spirituality can be passed on from one generation to the next.


L. Lee said...

Thank you Rev. Kim - yes we are failing to lead our youth and children. However, I do not think that intergenerational relationships are the main means to do the job. We need to get back to teaching Scripture and teaching what it means to have a
"relationsip" with Jesus....get back to the basics of the Gospel.
Looking back at what churches have become in the past 20 years there has been a trend toward making church "acceptable" as an organization that is just another social gathering - through making music, activities, theology that is acceptable to our culture. It hsn't worked. Instead, the church needs to
get back to evangelism and studying the Bible with kids, parents, and the elderly. There is hunger for God's word and for relationship with God.

Pastor Bill said...

I could not agree more with Rev. Kim.
To the L. Lee I would add that the way to teach Scripture is through these inter-generational relationships. That which we received needs to be handed on to the next generation. I think you and the Rev. Kim agree on these points.

James Kim said...

L. Lee and Pastor Bill, thank you both for leaving your comments. I think one of the best ways we can pass on the truth of scripture is by living out the scriptures. It's as we live out the truths of scripture together that the truths of the Bible come alive. I still contend the best teachers of the truths of Jesus is the more mature Christians who can model and walk along side the younger generation as they live into their faith.

Blessings to you both!

James <><

teacher_deb said...

In this day and age there are not so many grandparents that live near their grandchildren( Oh I am Very Blessed! Thank you God!) So Why are we as a church not stepping up to be those "older and wiser" people for the younger generations in out churches( and even our neighborhoods) who live away from thier families..or better yet why are we not inviting them to some of the "family" events that are happening at our church communities and letting them be loved on and cared for by the body of Christ? The kids and the parents need us...Just thinking about it and verbalizing!