What's it going to take?
You are not the future of your church. But, your children are! This isn't a new concept. Maybe Jesus was trying to demonstrate this to us when he selected twelve young men to be his disciples. Remember the “coin in the fishes mouth” Bible story? This was a temple tax that was used for the upkeep of the temple. It was paid by Jews over the age of twenty. Jesus only paid this tax for He and Peter. This could suggest that the rest of the disciples were under the age of twenty. Many modern scholars are beginning to catch on to the idea that the original twelve weren't bearded middle aged men. Most of them were still years away from growing that traditional Jewish beard.
Who is going to carry the torch when the Boomer Generation is gone? Eric Geiger, Vice President LifeWay Christian Resources, says that “Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining or growing slower than the community in which they are located. Stated simply, 90% of American churches are losing ground in their communities. Change is not an option; it is an urgent need”.
A simple internet search on the topic will produce more data and details that one can consume in an afternoon. There is a Barna study that shows that 43% of all Americans who accept Jesus as their savior do so before they turn 13 years old, 64% made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday, 13% made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old, and 23% embraced Christ after their 21st birthday. This means that the overwhelming majority of evangelicals sitting in churches right now accepted Christ as a “youth”. In other words, by the age of 18 almost all members of evangelical churches have already been saved.
The Millennial Generation, at 80 million members strong, is the largest generation in American history. It includes those people born between 1980 and 2000. The oldest member of this generation is 36 and the youngest 16. Not only is this the largest generation in history but we also have a large number of parents and children in the same generation! Some statistics put this generation somewhere around 60-80 percent unchurched and/or lost. 60-80 percent! Let that soak in a minute…the largest generation in history could be lost and/or unchurched. Obviously there are some barriers between them and us.
One such barrier is CHANGE. It is a dirty word, I agree. I don't much like it, either. I like a routine. I like to expect the expected. Every few years there seems to be a fresh take on change; change in the secular life and change in the church. In 1998 Dr Spencer Johnson wrote a book about change called “Who moved my cheese”. In it he states “if you do not change you become extinct”. Coming this summer Thom Rainer is releasing a book about change in the church titled “Who moved my pulpit”.
President John F Kennedy said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”. Ben Franklin said “When you're finished changing, you're finished.”
Is it possible that one generation is willing to risk the next simply over refusing to change the way we do things? Are “traditions” really that important? Are we really so petty? We say not but our actions show differently. Change must happen. Spiritually mature people will recognize that we must do everything possible to reach the next generation.
I’ve heard it said that a church without youth is a church without a future.