A common question often arises, “Why do so many youth leave their local assembly?”
There is an intrinsic flaw with this perspective since our aim should not be merely to “keep youth in the local meeting,” but to see unconditional disciples of Jesus Christ formed in this generation. As Paul put it, until “Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19).
The reality is that the majority of our kids are not ultimately leaving the local gathering due to music style, size of the congregation, or the traditional elements of the service. They leave when we are in a maintenance mode rather than a missional mindset. The church was never intended to be a holy huddle seeking to survive in a wicked world. We were created to intimately know our God and to intentionally make Him known “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
Are we preparing our kids for marriage but not for martyrdom? Do our Sunday School classes aim to entertain them on the weekend or equip them for the work? Are we seeking to pattern them after a mold or prepare them for a mission? Are we trying to preserve our role or pass the reins? Are we more fearful of our children contracting COVID or compromising the command to “Go into all the world!”? Would we rather have our kids in our physical proximity than to see them persistently proclaiming the message of hope in this world’s darkest places?
Allow me to suggest three strengths I see in many local assemblies of believers, and if emphasized, I prayerfully believe there would be a difference in the involvement of youth.
Strength #1: An Uncompromised Gospel
Salvation is absolutely through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ, but when Jesus walked among men, He never communicated the idea that believing in His name would cost anything less than everything. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). When we water down the message to fit our current way of life, we suggest the Gospel is powerful enough to change a soul, but not a life.
Strength #2: An Unconditional Call
Isaiah responded, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). At this point of the story, God had said nothing about the details of the call to Isaiah. He only knew the One calling. We don’t follow God because of the “What” He asks us to do, but because of “Who” is doing the asking. Are we encouraging (in passion and intentionality) youth to go all in, in this battle at school, home, society, and work—even at the expense of losing their job, earthly dreams, financial stability, and even their own life for the sake of the Gospel? This message will ultimately be taught through example.
Strength #3: An Unrelenting Commitment
This commitment is to God’s global mission—starting by making disciples in our local gathering who will “do the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). This generation seeks purpose and the Gospel gives exactly that! Are we intentionally identifying and equipping the lives of those in our congregation? Are we actively looking for giftings in the body of Christ into which we might pour our resources, time, and energy, that they might be prepared to step up, not at our death, but in our decision to relinquish control?
When the local church becomes a training ground, when our prayer meetings become war rooms for local and global advances, when our communion services become passionate expressions of His worth, all of us, including our youth will not be attending because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the very purpose for which we exist.