A recent story in the USA Today magazine reported that 72% of “Generation Y” Americans are “really more spiritual than religious”. The Australian figure would be even higher than than that – perhaps even 95%. In the USA, this means that the proportion of young adults identifying with mainline churches is about half the size it was a generation ago. In many Australian churches there is hardly a young adult in sight!
While there are certainly wider societal and cultural forces behind this sharp and challenging reality, it should also give the church pause to rethink how it ‘does what it does’. Thom Rainer says: “We have dumbed down what it means to be part of the church so much that it means almost nothing, even to people who already say they are part of the church.” Ed Stetzer says: “It seems the teen years are like a free trial on a product. By 18, when it’s their choice whether to buy in to church life, many don’t feel engaged and welcome. … Too many youth groups are holding tanks with pizza. There is no life transformation taking place. People are looking for a faith that can change them and to be part of changing the world.” Mark Driscoll observes that “young people are committed to churches not built for them but built by them.”
What if the church’s approach to young people was different?
What if the church began to take young people seriously as disciples of Jesus Christ?
What if the church began to expect something of its youth, and gave them authority to match the responsibilities it placed upon them?
What if the church began to place a ministry of welcome to young people at the very centre of its life, rather than just another activity left to the few?
What if the church began to give youth ‘worthy adventures’ that captured their imaginations, engaged their hearts and unleashed their gifts?
And what if it doesn’t?
Einstein once said something along the lines of ‘its the definition of insanity to keep doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.’ And Jesus said something about new wine and old wineskins …