I have read George Barna’s Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, Larry Fowler’s Rock Solid Kids, Post Modern Children’s Ministry by Ivy Beckwith, Raising Kids to Love Jesus by H Norman Wright, Mark Holmen’s Building Faith at Home, The Last Christian Generation by Josh McDowell and a bunch of other related books. More significantly I have been a children’s and family pastor since 1992 and have watched a whole lot of kids turn into teens and then young adults.
I am fully aware that we in North America are losing another generation of kids. As a pastor, father, uncle and as a Christian this is alarming and very sad to me. I have spent lots of time talking, praying, strategizing, agonizing and thinking on this one issue. It has gripped my heart. It is my holy discontent that we turn this tide. Through the last few months I have really thought why is that the North American church is losing this battle when the Christian faith is so dramatically growing in the Asian, African, Hispanic, Eastern European and even Muslim countries.
I think the problem is of course a spiritual one but also a practical one. Issues stemming from the church, the family and the culture are all playing a part. So I want to express my thoughts on some of the major causes that somewhere between 60-90 percent of young adults have rejected Jesus (not wanting to mince words here).
1. Abdication of spiritual development – the church and parents have teamed up on this one, buying into the lie that the spiritual development of children and teens is best left to the experts at church. Completely unbiblical.
2. Spectator churches – too many pew sitters. Not only are there not enough people in the church not willing to invest time love and energy into young people, but the whole concept of church as a social hour or a stadium event isnt appealing to young adults
3. Lack of spiritual warfare – simply put we are not praying and fasting enough for this generation.
4. Disconnected generations – Grandparents in too many cases are either not involved due to location or family disposition. In many other situations grandparents have become the new parents, who are MIA.
5. Media saturated kids + uninvolved parents = an undiscerning generation. Do you know what your kids are watching, playing and listening too?
6. Parents still in high school. I’m not talking age here but mindset. Children are not fashion accessories, church is not a place to show off your new outfit and sometimes your kids need you to sacrifice your social time for them.
7. Death of the family meal – people have their kids in way too many things and when they do eat together it is too often in front of the TV. As the series Parental Guidance puts it, we are making our kids experience rich and relationally poor, primarily with us. And another little sidebar here drop and run activities for kids should really end. If you are going to get your kids involved in an activity, you get involved too.
8. Not enough plain talk – our kids need us as parents to be honest, open, un-embarassable and nosey.
9. Church leaders unaware – the senior leadership in churches too often see this issue as one of many issues facing the church or fail to even see the problem at all. This is the defining issue of the next 10-15 years for the North American Church. We win this battle or loose the war.
10. Denominational garbage – nothing turns off a young person (or me for that matter) than silly denom. superiority complexes. No one is totally right anyway. It has hampered effective ministry for too long.
11. Tradition is more important to us than effective ministry. Enough said.
12. Our kids are not being taught a Biblical world view or what sets Christianity apart from other world religions. If it is not the one and only way then who cares if they walk away? But if it is more than a religion but God’s hand of forgiveness and salvation stretched out to mankind than nothing matters more.
13. The Magic prayer – We have at times reduced the conversion process to raising a hand or “saying a prayer after me”. Becoming a Christian is about humbling yourself, realizing you can’t save yourself and then submitting to the lordship of Christ. A hand raised in a crusade or children’s church many times gives a child a blurred vision of what it means to become a Christian, reduces the process to a one time act and often a person grows up in the church and has said the prayer (multiple times even!) but has never had a genuine surrender to Christ.
Of course these are entirely my thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the views of any church I am or ever have been affiliated with. Nor am I saying that these churches have huge problems, but rather this is a North American problem.