I still remember the first time I heard the statistics on the number of youth and young adults leaving the church. I was a bit dumbstruck, confused, upset, and of course thought I had all the answers as to why this was happening. Over the years I have heard many people speak about it, read many books, articles, and I still have those feelings but now realize I don’t have all the answers.
I have been asked so many times, ‘Now What?’ by people who have read ‘Goodbye Generation’ or another book on this topic. Everyone wants a simple answer. Many want a program. However, the beginning steps are much simpler, and much more difficult, at the same time.
Here is a few verses that I think are a key –
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.
Before thinking of starting programs and ministries to help we have to examine our own attitudes. What if all we have is be given away and passed on? What if we are not to store up wealth but rather give it away? What if we are not just called to be fruitful but to raise children to become men and women of faith? Perhaps Christianity at it’s core is selflessness.
If we could just take on even a part of the attitude of Christ and think of the interests of those following after us there would be change. If we served those following us there would be a difference. If we were willing to put to death some foolishness and take on humility, then growth would happen.
Our hearts need to turn before programs are started or thought of. There is a difference between putting up with young people, those different than you and loving those people. When we who are the Church begin to desire that those younger than us will surpass us the real change begins. When we start to understand that our true success is not just in what we will accomplish ourselves but it is really seen in the success of those we serve true discipleship can start.
Here is a story out of the Goodbye Generation book.
Rick by Paul Birley
I want to tell you a true story about something that happened to me when I was twelve years old. My folks had separated a year earlier and I had become a Christian through a close friend of mine. Soon after I started attending church with him, he moved to Ottawa with his family.
I started attending the church’s Youth group on Thursday nights and met a youth leader named Rick. Rick was in his late teens/early twenties and he took an immediate interest in me. Rick would pick me up every Thursday night for youth and Sunday morning for church. This was not an easy task. Rick after all, was a normal youth (young adult) and he had a girlfriend. I remember sometimes he would pick me up and I would sit between him and his girlfriend in his large brown pick-up truck. It is funny when I think about that.
What was amazing about this situation was that I was a young lad in a single-parent home and Rick took an interest to make sure I got to church and youth and made lots of friends. Five years later, at seventeen, I received the call into full-time ministry and have spent nineteen years in youth ministry. I think of all the kids and youth I have had a chance to connect with.
If it was not for Rick, I am not sure where I would be today. Thank God for a young man who saw the potential in a twelve year old kid named Paul Birley.
Rev Paul Birley