In the past two decades the Church has experienced many trends, fads and prophetic revelations such as The Charismatic Movement, The Prosperity Gospel and The Seven Mountains Theology. Many of these teachings have birthed churches, televangelists, media outlets and organizations that promulgated the worldviews associated with these deep seated passions and beliefs. Millions of dollars have been raised as faithful Christians have sown into these ideologies seeking a harvest of spiritual, financial and political affluence.
As the clout of these movements fade a void has been left in Christendom while the Church seeks out the next campaign to rally behind. With the social challenges that the world is currently facing there is a sense that the faithful are no longer interested in the shifting winds of man-centered doctrine. Instead, believers in the Post-Christian era are looking to commit to a version of Christianity that is relevant, meaningful and authentic. Sometimes the answer to life’s biggest problems are staring us right in the face. Even a cursory glance at the outbreak of news stories related to young people such as Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Sandy Hook should give pause for Christian concern.
Young people are exiting stage left of the Church at an alarming rate. The body of Christ is hemorrhaging its youngest disciples and future leaders so quickly that the very survival of the Church in America is threatened. According to the American Bible Society only 35% of young people ages 18 to 29 believe “the Bible contains everything that a person needs to know to live a meaningful life,” showing a growing shift towards skepticism among this age group. Barna states that 59% of young people leave church permanently after the age of 15. While we are dancing in the aisles over our season, destiny, harvest or next level, we’ve been blinded to the exodus of our children from the Church of Jesus Christ.
The days are returning when the Church is the social innovator bringing young people of all backgrounds into an encounter with the Gospel. With a desire to rescue youth from the moral decline, committed Christians in days gone by invented Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and the YMCA.
There is a direct relationship between the resources the church invests in youth discipleship and its ability to develop the next generation of Christians. The Evangelical Christian Credit Union reported the Church has an average budget of only 3% dedicated to youth discipleship. The priorities of an individual or community can easily be identified by where the money is spent and the current investment level of many local churches in young people suggests that young people do not count.
However, there is an outcry from those who have become disillusioned with the millionaire playboy lifestyles of the clergy while little to none of the collective resources of the Church are invested in ensuring the children know the God of the Bible. A collaborative Spirit empowered Christian community is well able to compete with the millions of dollars spent by the government, criminal enterprise, sports, fashion, technology, music and entertainment industries for the hearts and minds of this generation. The World understands that whoever shapes the values of the young people wins the battle for society. American Christians of all ethnic groups are refusing to hide our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich rather than fully engage the pains and perspectives of teenagers, pre-teens and young children.
Just as they mattered to the King of Kings, the Church is ready to march under the banner that Our Youth Matter! At first even the early disciples pushed young people away believing they weren’t worth our Lord’s time and energy. Jesus immediately corrected them and said “allow the children to come to me for the Kingdom is given to them.” The next wave of Christianity realizes young people have a purpose in the Kingdom of Heaven. The prophet Joel spoke of a day when young people would be included rather than excluded from experiences with God the Holy Spirit saying, “In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters will prophesy.” No one else is better positioned to effectively represent Jesus Christ in our churches, communities, schools, colleges and universities than the children of the Kingdom. The Christian community cannot rest until young people are taught to contend for the faith and equipped to passionately serve humanity. The success of the Church in days to come hinges on manifesting the reality that Our Youth Matter!