2 Christian Youth-Leadership Imperatives
Flourish or Flounder. Neither is Easy
By Brace E. Barber May 10, 2018 Christian Apologetics Speaker
There is one major content change and one major process change that will separate failing youth groups from flourishing youth groups over the next five years. The differences between the two will not even be close. Failing groups will lose members and atrophy while the others will grow in members and confidence. Those that grow will be lead by bold men and women who are confident in what they know and prepared to take on the world. Strong Christian Youth-Leadership is critical and it’s called for.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV) 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
The biggest battle you will have as a youth leader is in the next five minutes reading this article. The suggestions I’m making are not easy to accept. However, if you can come to grips with the scope of the changes that I’m suggesting, then you can take the first steps towards that flourishing. I’ll make it easier for you to stomach. Don’t agree with anything I’m saying, but for the next few minutes, just treat this as an intellectual exercise with no obligations.
The Two Current Measurements
Attendance: In most youth groups there is one concrete measurement – attendance. We make a number of assumptions based on attendance.
- More kids means that we are doing something right, fewer means that we are doing something wrong.
- The kids who are there
- are internalizing the teaching
- are strengthening their faith
- will be able to evangelize effectively
- have a better chance of remaining a Christian throughout their lives
Attrition: Approximately 75% of Kids raised in Christian homes leave the faith after high school.
See: T.C Pickney Remarks: Southern Baptist Convention
See: Josh McDowell and David H. Bellis book The Last Christian Generation
There Exists a Disconnect
The only way can we miss that three-quarters of our kids will leave the Church after high school is if we are not looking for the signs. You might think that the majority of those kids are the kids who do not attend youth group regularly. Take a look at the 2009 book, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. “90% of youth active in high school church programs drop out of church by the time they are sophomores on college.”
Lack of Information
The disconnect is the lack of information we have about our youth and their progress as Christians. We aren’t looking at the right signs. We should not have attendance as our ultimate goal, but rather salvation. Measuring attendance and even baptisms don’t give us what we need to stop the loss of our kids from Christianity.
Attendance may tell us how many kids are creating strong relationships with Christ, but it may also be telling us about how many kids want to hang out with their friends, how many are forced to go, how many have a boyfriend or girlfriend that they get to see, and how many want to impress an adult. We do not know how close their relationship with Christ is and what they are retaining from what is being taught. To make things more irritating, presuming that the things being taught are spot on biblically and that the teaching is clear and meaningful we know that 75% of them are rejecting it. I covered the main reasons why kids are rejecting the message here: Will Your Child Leave Christianity?
Here’s what we know so far. Kids are rejecting the teaching of the Church and leaving in droves. These kids would not leave the Church if they truly believed what was being taught. If the kids believe that the Church is teaching the truth then they will stay.
Finally the Suggestions
We must ensure that youth understand why the Gospel is the truth. In order to do that, we must support the claims of Christianity with evidence that they find credible. That sounds a lot like defending the faith, or Apologetics. You may have seen that one coming. In my opinion, apologetics has the most empirical evidence backing it as the solution to the problem, but it isn’t the only solution.
We have credibility issues with our kids because they don’t see their parents and church members living out their faith. However, if the best we can do is buttress the claims of Christianity with massive amounts of rock-solid evidence, WHICH WE CAN, then we will reverse the statistic. 75% of kids will remain in the faith after high school. The youth group will demonstrate strength and vitality as a result of the confidence in Christ and it is that environment that will begin to grow the Church again.
We must measure the knowledge of our kids. If we do not test them, then we cannot know if they have the intellectual foundation to understand that Christianity is the truth. We can’t even know if they understand what it means to be saved. As it is now we have no expectations from the kids. We spend 18 years with them expecting them to pick up Christianity through association rather than academics. Sure, we do bible studies and speak to them a lot, but what do they take away? No one can tell me because we don’t measure it. We don’t test it.
When you look at the “What We Believe” sections on church websites, we see their core beliefs and the goals that they have for their different ministries including youth. Unfortunately, the most depth we see is typically that the church wants to prepare kids with a strong foundation in Christ. There is never any depth to what that really means. We don’t see any deliverables. Those goals should be spelled out in detail, by age and subject. “The Church will teach and test your child so that they know…” It may seem like parents are off the hook. Not at all. Everything I’m saying about youth groups is really the responsibility of the parent first.
Testing doesn’t just have to be academic in nature. The specific questioning of our youth with regard to relationships, perceptions, challenges etc. can give us a great deal of information that will give us a warning when a child is at risk of leaving the Christian Church. Get the kids used to testing, and you can measure anything you want.
There are a lot of practical objections to engaging in the suggestions I’ve presented. Where do the expertise and materials come from? What about theological intricacies that apologetics might confuse? How do I get the rest of the youth staff on board? We are already doing a great study and we have materials for the next year. I’m sure that I’m missing a bunch of reasons why not to begin the process, but if you agree with the premises and potential returns, I strongly suggest you begin to take steps toward implementing the suggestions.
Leaders are by definition, leading. They are out front. They have an objective, they plan the most strategic path to achieve their objective, and then they move. The best leaders don’t move without knowing where they are going and why. I am working on apologetic solutions intended to allow youth leaders to implement the suggestions above with a full understanding of how to accomplish their goals. My purpose is to save souls and in the process we will fill youth groups, evangelize among young adults and begin revival in the Church.
TESTED: A New Strategy for Keeping Kids in the Faith has published!
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Brace E. Barber is a Christian Apologetics Speaker focusing on teaching Churches how to immediately stop the loss of Christian kids from the Faith. See more at Christian Apologetics Speaker