Last weekend I attended a two day event about young people and their engagement in the church. It specifically looked at the Hemorrhaging Faith report which looks for the reason behind the mass exodus we the church in Canada are experiencing. I say mass exodus and I’m not joking. According to the report, 70% of children who grow up in the church will leave the church. It’s scary to look at these numbers and wonder what will become of us. I believe there is hope if we start to address this issue and get to the heart of why people are not engaged with the Gospel, which I think we can agree as a message is pretty engaging.
One of the things that was discussed at this event was the need to include young people in the life and activity of the congregation beyond collecting offering and handing out bulletins. We heard stories of engagement and experience. We discussed opportunity and purpose. Ultimately at the heart of everything I heard was a cry from the youth for a relational church. A church where people engage with one another not just politely but intimately. There was a sense that the faith was not being passed down but instead being hoarded. I think if you’ve seen an episode of Hoarders you know how devastating hoarding can be. It isolates you from your family and friends. It builds up walls and prevents contact with others. This is completely opposite to what we see in Jesus’ life and hear in his teachings. When we keep our faith to ourselves and fail to build up the next generation we are prohibiting any kind of connection that could be made.
Connecting with one another across the generational divide is essential. The youth are our future and we are charged with the responsibility of caring for them, teaching them and encouraging them on their walk of faith. We aren’t doing this as well as we should and this conference couldn’t have come at a better time. Coincidentally I was also recently sent a book entitled Connecting Church & Home by Dr. Tim Kimmel to read and review. It is all about family and connection. It speaks to the heart of our problem. The book places a strong emphasis on the investment of family not just in bringing their children to church but also teaching them at home. When you think about it, the church gets one hour a week to impact the lives of these children. The parents also have a responsibility to pass on the faith at home and encourage spiritual discipline and growth. It is a holistic way of looking at church. If one part suffers, the whole body suffers so all must be engaged and connected.
Statistically we see this represented in the Hemorrhaging Faith report. Parents with low personal spiritual discipline only had 10% of the children who remained within the church whereas those who had high personal spiritual disciple brought up 75% of the children who remained. The more engaged in their faith the parents are, the more likely the child will be as well. This goes back to to the relational component that youth are craving. If we value something we are more willing to talk about it and share what we know. Do we as Christians value what we have? Are we willing to build relationships and share our experience with those around us?
Dr. Kimmel really addresses how important grace is in the process of life and the necessity of engagement on all sides in order for it to be a success. I really found the book to be an interesting read. It encouraged something we often forget in the Church, the notion that we must be bold enough to try even though it opens us up for failure. If we never try we will not know what we could have become. I encourage you to take a look at both of these resources if you are able to get your hands on one. If we are to truly look towards the future we must look at what our young people need and require. They deserve the opportunity to engage with the Gospel in a real, relational way. We need to start looking for ways to make that possible and open ourselves up to new possibilities.
I was provided a copy of Connecting Church & Home by Dr. Tim Kimmel and asked for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and have not in any way been influenced.