It’s no secret that the Church has a hard time holding onto her youth! David Kinnaman of the Barna Group says that of Christians in the 18-25 age category 38% have significantly doubted their faith and 59% have dropped out!
Recently I was part of a discussion where the questions was asked
“How can we prevent our young people from losing the faith?”
Here was my response:
I would propose that the question asked makes an assumption that is not correct and that assumption is also one of the main reasons parents and churches struggle with this issue.
Asking “How can we prevent our young people from losing the faith?” assumes that our young people had faith from the beginning. This is a very dangerous assumption to make however, it is also very common among Christian parents. In my experience many churches have built their children’s programs around this false assumption. I believe we need to change the paradigm and instead ask “How can we reach our children effectively with the Gospel?”
The answer to this question may not be as easy as we think. Children who grow up in a Christian home and have always gone to church tend to know all the right phrases to say and behaviors to show, however, they may have completely missed the Gospel. We need to think deeply about how we are communicating the Gospel to them. The Gospel must be repeated on every level and in varied ways.
We should also not assume that a raised hand during VBS is always indicative of a true conversion. Further more I would advocate far more caution in the practice of baptizing young children, especially if those children have believing parents. Waiting until at least the teen years can help ensure that the child is acting on their own will and has a complete understanding of the Gospel.
It is also important that the church realize that most youth do not have believing parents and even if they do have believing parents it does not mean that they are receiving solid Biblical instruction at home. The church must assume that in most cases the only Biblical instruction a child will receive is when they are in Sunday school, Awana or other church ministries. This should in no way lessen the importance of the parents role but simply understand that most parents are not capable of effectively teaching God’s Word to their children.
Finally if the church wants to reach the children with the Gospel she must focus her attention on the parents and make sure there are effective ministries in place that teach parents how to raise their children in a Biblical way and how to communicate the Gospel to them.