Recently, I was looking up some data on church attendance. I was specifically searching for numbers regarding high school and college aged individuals.
Not surprisingly, the stats I found were abysmal. I’d seen blog after blog, and article after article about the dropout rate of high school and college kids from the church. While I’m fairly confident that the overall number of young people in churches across the country is dwindling, I’m skeptical of some of the sources I found. For example, certain denominations reported upwards of 50% of their young adults temporarily or permanently “quitting” church. My skepticism regarding these numbers stems from the assumption that this research was referring to a particular type of church. So, if a student left the denomination he grew up in to attend a different church during his college years (as I did), the numbers may show he has left the church, when in reality, the statisticians collecting this data have failed to recognize that “The Church” is not just limited to their specific denomination.
My purpose in writing on this topic is not to argue the reliability of church attendance data.
This weekend I was listening to the complaints of a dedicated church member who claimed that there was no one in their congregation to manage the social media outlets for the church.
Had it not occurred to anyone in this particular church that 98% of their teens and young adults are on Facebook, Twitter, and Blog sites daily? Let the young people handle the church website and Facebook page! Let the young people send text message reminders and updates. Let the young people develop online calendars, upload church sermons, make slideshows, and take pictures.
Maybe if we trusted young people do to these important jobs that they are completely capable of, they would be more inclined to continue coming to church. Does your church value young people? Give them jobs that make them feel valued! Does your church want to assist young people in growing into hard working, responsible, contributing members? Give them jobs that challenge them and incorporate them into the leadership team. If high school and college kids feel like they are important and have a purpose in their congregation, chances are, they will stick around! If they feel like they are making a contribution to the overall functionality of the church, not only will it help their self esteem and develop a good work ethic, but these students will also have reasons to spend extra time around older Christian people who can serve as role models and accountability buddies.
Maybe the reason that church attendance is declining has nothing to do kids being “bored.” If a person feels like the church doesn’t need him, then he has no reason to stay. All the loud sound systems, flashing lights, charismatic preachers, and pizza parties won’t change the fact that EVERYONE likes to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
Brandon and I visited a new church today and were impressed with what we saw. Elementary school students collected visitor cards from the pews at the beginning of the service. Middle school and high school kids assisted with communion and offering. High school students served as Bible class teachers for the very small children. We did not see a single young person in the congregation sleeping, texting, doodling, or playing a Gameboy during the service. Could it be because they are being taught to see the big picture? That they are being raised with the understanding that their participation in worship is important? That each of them is a brick in the Church of Christ?
Will increased involvement of young people in the congregation solve the dropout problem? No way. But I do think it is a step in the right direction.
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27