Revitalizing children’s and family ministry in a secular age …
Many young adults brought up in the church leave and never return. They’ve been doing so since the mid-twentieth century in increasing numbers. Lifeway Research indicates that 16 is often a pivotal age for those dropping out of church. But the disconnect precedes the departure. A 2019 Pew Research study in the USA shows that the shift away from the church mainly happens in children aged 14 or younger.
Do these trends concern you? Millions of children and youth raised in the church will continue to leave unless something changes. This is not an aberration – not a temporary problem. Secularization has radically transformed culture. Everything’s contaminated. Public educational systems advance dissociation from spiritual concerns. Social engineering regulates beliefs and behaviour. The LGBTQ agenda muddies the waters. Neo-marxism not only tells lies, it shields people from important truths. And social media offers agnostic substitutes and alternatives.*
A quiet exodus
Generations are being lost – without hope, without salvation, without Christ. If we don’t deal with this tragedy, generations will continue to be lost.** Yet it appears the Church is unwilling or unable to discern the times and respond adequately.
Why don’t we do something about it? Is it because we’re comfortable in our lukewarmness, blind to our condition, or ignoring the fact that we live in critical times? Do we have more knowledge than perspicacity? Are we emasculated? Why, when we should be ringing the alarm bells, do we do nothing more than hope the problem will disappear?
Here’s the reality: In England and Wales, ninety-five percent of children under eighteen don’t attend church. In Canada, ninety-one percent of children under eighteen don’t attend church. In the USA, sixty-nine percent of children under eighteen don’t attend church.
There’s been a quiet exodus for decades. Visit the church congregations in your community, look at the ratio of older to younger people, and it’s apparent. Only a remnant in the Western world will know Christ if nothing changes in the coming years.
Secularism is stealing the souls of our children and robbing them of their God-given purpose. But all is not lost. It doesn’t have to be like this. We have the tools and resources to act now. The big question is, do we have the fortitude to do what needs doing?
Let’s be candid. The scale of revitalizing children’s and family ministry is paralyzing. We look at what’s required, and the changes that need to be made, and it’s overwhelming. It will mean working together in ways we’ve never worked before. And it may involve sacrifice, difficulty or discomfort. Unchartered waters are dangerous. We know it and want to avoid them.
What will you do? My greatest fear is that self-interest will trump the common good. Don’t say this problem isn’t your problem. Your concern should extend beyond your family and church. It’s a cold heart that dismisses the loss of so many from a life with Christ as casualties of a corrupt culture. And it’s callous to write off those who leave the church as never being real Christians.
May it never be that we forget how to love our neighbours as ourselves. In these times of confusion, division, echo chambers and indignant rage, we must pray and fast like never before. Where are the tears for those who are lost and lonely without Christ? Who will reach out to the millions of children and youth disconnected from Jesus, His Word, and His church? They are sheep without a shepherd. Who will bring them to the Great Shepherd?
Raising the faithful
If we remain silent now, help and deliverance will arrive from elsewhere. Who knows? Maybe we exist for such a time as this (cf. Esther 4:14).
We need awareness and vision. God has strategically placed us in every community, town and city. He’s gifted us with the skills, talents, and wisdom to connect and establish this generation in Christ. We must see the future and act in faith now. No, we don’t have all the answers. But we have God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. His grace is sufficient for all our needs (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9).
To create awareness and vision, we must be available and intentional. Our rally cry should be, “Seek God and act decisively!” Acting decisively requires a commitment to incremental transformation. Incremental transformation is a process that leads to an entirely new system. Improving the methodology and procedures within existing systems will not accomplish what’s required. For new systems to emerge, we must exercise sanctified imagination and be willing to change.
Revitalizing children’s and family ministry in a secular age: Will God reverse the chaos of secularization? Will God redeem this generation? Will God reconnect young people with the church? “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” Isaiah 59:1.
* In the Create and Cultivate Report, the Canadian Baptists say, “There are 8.2 million kids and youth in Canada who are … being shaped more and more through subversive strategic algorithms and screens, unaware of how they are the product being created.”
** In The Great Opportunity Report, it’s estimated that over 40 million young Americans raised in Christian homes could walk away from a life with Jesus by 2050.
© Scripture Union, 2024