I’ve quite frankly grown tired of the question, “Why are kids leaving the church?” It’s not a simple question, with a single answer. But if the opposite is what we’re aiming for, we need to examine those kids. What’s different about them? Why do they stay when so many others leave? Jon Nielson answers this question in his article entitled “Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up.” I’ll start out by summarizing the top three reasons he believes the twentysomethings who were raised in church as kids are still in the picture.
1. They are truly new creations.
To quote from Nielson, “The Bible doesn’t seem to mess around with platitudes like: ‘Yeah, it’s a shame he did that, but he’s got a good heart.’” What does it say instead? A passage pretty near and dear to our hearts here is 2 Corinthians 5:17 — “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Are your kids being given the knowledge and opportunities to trust Christ as Savior and realize how His Spirit can truly transform their lives? Note that I’m not asking if you “go to church,” “do your devotions,” or “live moral lives”: None of that equates salvation.
2. They are not just served, they have been trained to serve.
So often, our churches and youth groups stoop to simply doing whatever it takes to appeal to teens. That isn’t always a bad thing, but it is, whenever that’s all church ends up meaning to them. The world can always do it better, anyway. Even more problematic, though, is the fact that when church becomes a cheap imitation of something else, it fails to fill the roles it was designed to fill — revealing the transcendent truths of Scripture and equipping believers for ministry.
3. Their parents have given them a Gospel-drenched home life.
When kids grow up with the realization of their own sinfulness and inability to meet God’s standards, they can see their need for mercy and appreciate grace. This isn’t something that’s mentioned now and then: We’re talking true Deuteronomy 6 living, here. We’re talking Bible reading at dinner and discussing the sermon on the way home from church. We’re talking about a home filled with forgiveness and peace. They serve in their church and their community, not because they want to look good but because they really care.
Nielsen is clear, though, that even this solid tri-pod does not ensure a positive result, but at the same time, he notes that “it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.”
If your kids follow the general pattern, will they be the ones who are still in church in their 20s ?