Thursday, September 24, 2009
Probably through the 1990s, this was an accepted and largely successful model for outreach to teens and young adults. But the past decade has not been kind to the church in the developed world. Although the decline of institutionalized religion hasn't been as precipitous in the U.S. as it has been in Europe, the trend is clear, and not encouraging.
In a recent interview with Kara Powell for Christianity Today's Leadership Journal, the writer cites a Rainer Research study that shows that 70 percent of young people leave the church by age 22, and the figure grows to 80 percent by age 30.
Certainly, the church did not have to compete with Facebook, instant messaging, text messaging, and the World Wide Web largely until the beginning of this decade. But technological distractions are far too easy a target and scapegoat for the disenfranchisement of youth in the church.
Powell, the executive director of Fuller Seminary's Youth Institute, says she believes the church can do a better job of involving youth in the substantive worship of the church, rather than just token "youth programs" that segregate them out from the main body of the church.
Another buzzword that's been popping up in church leadership conversations is "discipleship." Discipleship by its definition involves the spiritual mentoring of a more mature believer or group of believers with those that are new to the faith or still growing in their faith. The current age-segregated model of ministry being used by many churches on its face doesn't seem to be conducive to meaningful discipleship.
Powell believes teens are up for the challenge of taking on more responsibility, and yearning for more meaningful inter-generational relationships in the church.
Although I could see the transitional period between an age-segregated ministry model to more of a collaborative, inter-generational as being a little awkward at first, I also believe it could prove to be much more meaningful and enriching in the long-term for everyone. What are your thoughts?