Questioning the Numbers

Some people love stats and some simply hate them.  When it comes to all the statistics on the retention of youth and young adults in our churches, I certainly have a love / hate relationship.  It seems everywhere I go people want to know the numbers.  Some want to be shocked.  Sometimes it is necessary to bring awareness.  Sometimes the numbers just aren’t true.

In fact, there seems to be a discrepancy between all the statistics and what they really mean.  Some people are arguing we are in a serious crisis, while others are saying we are not.  Even the groups who are saying we are losing too many don’t seem to agree on the percentages and numbers.

I personally have come to a point were I no longer want to quote anyone’s numbers, including my own.  For example, in my own country, I have come across studies which have said some ministries are losing almost all their youth and young adults, and others which say that religious affiliation hasn’t really changed that much.  They can’t both be right?  Or can they?  Some are asking can the Church survive in the midst of this present exodus and others are left wondering what on earth they are talking about.

In the past several years I have had the opportunity to visit a few of the largest youth ministries in the world.  God is certainly doing amazing things around the world in the this age group.  At the same time I have visited places where there are literally no youth left in most of the churches.  The picture at the top of this blog is of one of four churches which recently closed in a community a short distance from where I live.  Some churches are certainly feeling like everyone has left.

There are some things I believe are true but may seem conflicting. Churches are closing.  God is at work.  Too many young people are walking away from their faith.  Churches are being planted.  Many denominations will cease in exist in the future.  Revivals are taking place around the world.  The Church is not dying.  Some churches are dying.

All of these are taking place at once which send mixed signals depending on with vantage point you have.  You may be in a church with no youth and young adults or you may be in one that is thriving.  Depending on your perspective some statistics may seem correct, or totally wrong.

No matter where you are there is a question you need to ask yourself.  How are you going to be involved with passing on what you have to the next generation?  Some groups ask this question too late, once they have lost a generation.  This is a question we need to ask before they are gone.

In the end we can use numbers to say almost anything.  However, none of this is really about numbers.  In the end we don’t really deal with numbers.  We deal with our children and those we lead.  I desire nothing more than to see my children serving God.  This burden makes me strive to do all I can to pass on my experience, thoughts, faith, and every blessing God has ever given to us on to them.  No matter what any statistic says, this is my part.

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