I’m starting to notice a trend between youth ministries and their churches. I saw it first in my own youth group when evaluating our areas of strengths and weaknesses. Where we are strong are also the areas of strength for our church and likewise for areas of weakness. It’s almost as if the students become carbon copies of their parents. The spiritual attitudes they see exemplified around them in the church and at home become the ones they bring to youth group and their own spiritual lives. For example, if there’s no strong sense of urgency among adults in the church to reach lost people, it’s hard to spark that passion in the youth group.
So I’m wondering if it’s accurate to say that the state of the youth group sometimes reflects the state of the church. People may complain about what’s wrong with their youth ministry, but a short discussion about what’s happening in the church as a whole usually reveals that the same thing is happening among the adults. Common issues like disconnected students and spiritual apathy may be an issue among the youth, but maybe these themes also run true among the whole church body and are just covered up by more experienced actors. Whether we realize it or not, kids watch what our hearts model and often reflect it in their own attitudes toward God and spirituality. The difference is that students are less apt to “fake it” at church. If teenagers are bored senseless, their actions show it. If adults are bored senseless of church, they still act “polite” and pretend to be connected to the Truth.
When members of the youth group aren’t connecting real life with spiritual matters then maybe the first step is to build a healthy church where parents and adults serve as a model for teenagers to follow. If students see this kind of connection taking place at home, at church and in the lives on their youth leaders then maybe it has a higher chance to take place in their lives. Instead of witnessing the superficial spiritual fluff all around them that leaves little impact on daily living, they should witness first-hand in our lives that scripture is not just theoretical trivia but, as Hebrews 4:12 says, is “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.”
We’ve all heard the statistic of high school graduates leaving the church in masses. I can’t help but wonder if the first step in finding the solution is not to figure out what’s wrong with youth ministry, but figure out what’s wrong with the church. Adults and parents need to live a true example of following Christ and applying scripture to daily concerns. If students don’t see this, then why would they want to adopt our impractical “spirituality?” I think the solution to this mass exodus starts with a spiritual revival among church parents and adults to live spiritually contagious lives.
Posted on September 25, 2006