A friend of mine posted a link today titled "3 common traits of youth who don't leave the church"
The title grabbed my attention as I have seen too many people that were raised in the church turn from it.
Before I get to typing here, I hope you'll read the ENTIRE article and make your own decisions and opinions about it. Especially if you are a parent as the last part has to do with YOU.
>> http://www.churchleaders.com/youth/yout ... hurch.html <<
So if you don't plan on reading all of my thoughts, I hope you'll at least read the article.
Now back to my own thoughts. Yes, it definitely grabbed my attention. My wife has a few cousins that were raised in the church that are now VERY bitter about Christianity. One of them posts almost daily poking fun at religion and God. I have a brother that has gone in a similar direction. He is quite bitter towards Christians. Now the reasons for that sort of change in life are never simple. The people that end up bitter usually do grow up in a halfway decent Christian home. Something happens that, in their mind, ruins their life and they blame all Christians for it somehow. It's complicated and confusing and I couldn't begin to explain it. That sort of issue cannot always be seen ahead of time or prevented.
This article is about a different kind of departure from the church. One that is not out of bitterness but out of a lack of interest maybe. I have also seen a lot of people that would fit into this category. They went to church every week but, never got much out of it.
For a kid, church can even be fun. There's games, events, snacks, etc. When I was a child, there were many, many years where those fun things were very much the highlight for me.
Those fun events DO help draw kids in and keep them there but, if you want to have those kids going to church years later when fun and games are no longer used to entice, you need to dig a lot deeper with them. You need to REALLY REALLY reach them. You need to reach their hearts, their minds, their souls.
This is a BIG task and when you're a youth leader and you have a hundred kids in your youth group, it sure can't be an easy thing to even think about each individual and whether or not they're "getting it".
I can't speak about the youth group at the church I'm at now as I don't attend it, I haven't observed it for very long. I have a daughter that has JUST started in it. I can say that I see kids there every week that try their hardest to go to the bathroom and goof off in the hallways... kids that are there but aren't really there. I can say that I am concerned that years from now, they may not continue going to church. I also cannot say what the leadership is like in our youth group because again, I have not watched them. I've heard lots of great things about our youth ministry... and I KNOW they've pulled in a LOT of non-believers. I can say that much for them. They ARE reaching a lot of kids. I think they're doing a good job, from what I've seen.
I will be posting a link to this on the church's facebook page and I want to say right now, if you're a youth leader and happen to read this, I want you to know I am not writing this, sharing that article, because I think you need it. I'm not saying you need to change anything or that you're not doing enough. I am sharing this for one reason... As I mentioned, I have seen far too many Christians walk away from church after they leave home... and, whether a youth leader or a parent actually needs to hear this or not, it never hurts to bring this sort of subject up, just in case. It's something that we ALL need to be thinking about.
I have friends that I went to church with that no longer go to church. And that saddens me. I can't say it was the youth leaders' fault... or the parent's fault... I can't say because I don't know what happened... only they and God know. But what I do know is that ALL youth leaders need to keep in mind that their goal isn't bringing people to the church, it isn't numbers, it isn't about baptisms, it's not about popularity... it is ALL about saving the souls of young people and developing a love of God that will last for years. It doesn't matter if 200 new students attend each year or if 90% of them get baptized IF 5 years later only 5% of them are still attending church.
I got baptized while I was in my youth group years... and I can tell you, I was still lost for some years after. I've ALWAYS believed in God, the bible, and that Jesus died to save me... and, that IS the big picture. But, I still had a LOT of growing up to do... and for several years I went to church but didn't actually want to.
I have two younger brothers that BOTH turned from the church... one of them turned BECAUSE of something that happened with the youth group. He didn't stay bitter with the church for long and he not only goes to church but has his own family now that attends church regularly. It's one of the good stories but I brought it up because things can happen in a youth group that can actually hurt those young people. I went to another youth group with a friend sometimes and I can say that it WAS all about fun. We went on trips and watched movies that I can't believe we watched. There was NO growth within that particular group. Eh, I'm rambling... my youngest brother today is still bitter towards Christians. Again, I can't say what led to that... but again, I am mentioning it because it is something that we all need to continue to think about. Especially in the world we live in today.
Anyway... Youth leaders, please don't take this as a lecture. Please receive these thoughts with an open heart and mind. All I can ask is that you pray about this and be mindful of it. I would like to think that MOST youth leaders don't need to be reminded of this sort of thing but I DO see enough people in youth groups that are still lost(that's a very lost age) and I see enough people leaving the church that I think it doesn't hurt for such a message to be shared.
I hope you also read that article. (in case anyone is still reading this far in)
Parents, you have the BIGGEST responsibility in this. It is your job to see your children out the door with their feet both going in the right direction. The article mentions that verse about training up a child and when they're older, they wont turn to the right or left.
When I was a kid, my mom MADE us go to church. We rebelled of course, but she kept us going. There was a time when she would not let me listen to any music that was not christian, because I started listening to music she didn't approve of. I snuck some music in behind her back... and I also rebelled in what Christian music I listened to. I found the most hardcore Christian music I could listen to.
I was MAD at her when I was younger. I hated rules like most kids do.
Only a few years later, I made my OWN decision regarding music. I am probably the only member of my family that listens to Christian music exclusively. My mom never even lived by that standard. But I made my own decision later on that, Christian music was what I NEEDED to listen to. It was edifying, uplifting... character building. It was music that had REAL meaning. I believe that the bible teaches us to put in front of ourselves ONLY things that are GOOD. There's that "be careful little ears what you hear..." song. The lesson in that song is HUGELY important for ALL of us, not just kids. But that's another story.
I mention this to show just how my mother influenced me for the good. I came from a messed up home and even though she did her best, she still failed us like most parents do. Our home was broken and flawed... but, some of those things that my mother tried so hard to instill in me actually stuck.
All this to say, parents, this is YOUR responsibility in life as a parent. Do NOT trust your child's salvation to a youth leader. Do not entrust it to anyone. It is YOUR purpose in life. Raising that child. That's what you were put here for... You are the most qualified and most capable of leading that child in the way they should go.
Youth groups are great... student ministries are great... kids can get a lot out of them... learn a lot, and have fun. But nothing is going to have a bigger impact on their life than YOU.
And I'll add the same message I did to the youth leaders. Sharing the article and my own person thoughts with you isn't to lecture you. It's not to tell you how to raise your kids. It's a gentle reminder. Dragging children to church every week, while a good thing, doesn't cut it. It's not enough. You should be raising them in such a way that they would CHOOSE to go to church even if you never brought them.
It's pretty easy to teach your kids the basics. You want them to have good jobs when they're older and you know they need to do their school work and learn, so you push them in that way. It's easy to remember that stuff because it's a normal part of MOST people's lives, Christian and not. The end game, the goal, the prize, also needs to be kept in mind when it comes to a child's faith. As a Christian, I want my kids to be able to make good decisions when they are grown... when I'm not around to help them. I want them to continue going to church and to raise a Godly family of their own. So it is MY responsibility NOW to be shaping them and guiding them in that direction.
As much as this article was written to youth directors, I hope a LOT of parents will read it as well.
I feel like there's a lot I could continue to say here but I'm going to leave it at that for now.
Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
A new subject or passage each week for all to discuss.
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