If you’re interested in feeling terrible just sit and think for a minute about all the kids who’ve graduated from your church and partied their faith and values away on some distant college campus. Or what about the kids who didn’t drink away someone else’s money but just sat around at home, maybe working, maybe at community college, maybe doing nothing… but still seemed to be uninterested in your church? Sorry to do that to you. Feel free to take a moment and compose yourself.
Yeah it sucks and to some degree it may be inevitable for many young people. Much is being said on this topic and there is a lot of debate as to who or what is to blame. This may actually be settled quite easily: we are all to blame and almost every contributing factor that you’ve read in a book or blog is probably relevent in greater or lessers degrees in various contexts.
So what do we do? Accept it and move on? Maybe. Get pissed and point the finger? Definately. After all, that strategy works brilliantly in every other context (marriage, politics, etc…).
My personal perspective of how to deal with this is evolving regularly. I’ve already stated in a previous post (“Why You’re There”, http://wp.me/p2fzDL-q) that I can’t imagine doing youth ministry anymore without doing College Ministry (or some form of post high school ministry). Because of the given cultural climate and the developmental factors involved with this life stage, CYA ministry is to me the logical and neccessary extension of youth ministries in the Western Church. For various reasons this may be hard to swallow for some people, but I’m to the place now where I’m willing to fight for this. I’ve actually invested a significant amount of my professional life maintaining and building this ministry in my context.
Here’s a few thoughts:
We need to disciple students better so that when they graduate from high school they’re better prepared for whatever life they find themselves in. As you may realize, due to developmental and cultural dynamics, this is a very complicated issue. In my opinion the “Church” could do a lot better job of discipling people of all ages. Some balance has to be drawn (or does it?) between entertaining them so that they’ll show up and actually teaching them to follow Jesus.
Sanctification is the process of the Holy Spirit shaping our identity into someone that looks like Jesus Christ and being daily transformed back into the true image of God (Garden of Eden style, except with more clothing). So much of scripture speaks to this journey and yet with all the work that psycologists have done on identity formation, we seem to still miss the obvious connections. That is to say, at least I have. As scary and unsettling as this life stage is for parents, church leaders and other adults, it can still be made holy by God. I want to be a part of that process.
There needs to be CREATIVE and RELEVANT assimilation of young people into the life of the greater church and a similar effort to assimilate older people into the lives of young people (by young people I mean both youth and young adults). This actually is a serious burden for me. Young poeple can contribute to your church’s overall mission, values, culture and leadeship. That doesn’t mean they take over; I would not advocate for that any more than I would advocate for you taking over. Create opportunities for people to be and work together. Feel free to make mistakes.
Personally, I’m not yet willing to give up on these people. I still see too much untapped potential in them and I’ve felt for a long time that God has shared his heart with me for their futures.