Where Collegiate Ministry Begins, Part 2
Segregation of Youth Groups
Our churches have ensured their own demise by segregating their youth into "youth groups", entertaining these same youth for 6 years (instead of challenging them in daily discipleship), and then, as if to put the nail in the coffin, giving them sweet little graduation presents (like "Wisdom for the Graduate") as they bid them well on the eve of their collegiate experience.
Such is a guaranteed recipe for mush. There is little or no thought about how to produce a disciple that will stay the course in many mainstream churches. One dismal statistic began alarming leaders a few years back: 89% of churched youth leave the church when they go to college. Those who leave may return, if at all, after they're married and have their first children.
While some dispute this alarming statistic, a more significant, subjective tool can also be used. If your church is located in a community where there is a college, how many college students attend your church? Are the high school students that graduated from your church last year actively involved in a church right now? Ask them. You may be surprised at their answers.
The "black hole" of the church is soundless; it's a great void that sucks life from every denomination. Where are the grown-up children? Where is the generation aged 18-25 in the church? Or even 30-somethings? Are they all flocking to the new megachurch in the suburbs, or are they staying at home, making Sunday the new Saturday?
One reason we may not be seeing these ages in the church is because they don’t feel like church “belongs” to them. Our churched youth have no sense of ownership of their church. As soon as they began thinking for themselves, they were ushered off into a segregated church-world. Most have no voice, no vote, and no influence whatsoever on their church. Add to that problem the issue of the occasional youth minister that perpetuates that “us vs. them” mindset in his youth group, and well, why should we wonder where youth are going? They don’t get a fair shake in the only place in the world they should expect one.
Another reason that youth may not be in the church is that the church just isn't into youth. Too many churches think they're doing "collegiate ministry" by providing Sunday School classes for them. Yet these students, who are old enough to defend our country, drive, and even drink alchohol are not deemed mature enough to serve on most church leadership teams or committees.We treat young people as lower class citizens in the church. They're great for numbers, but we don't want them having voices of influence.
Articles on the Christian collegiate dropout problem:
The remarkable trend of the last 40 years of a separate, high-octane "youth ministry" may have produced a lot of noise and created the church van industry, but have youth ministries effectively prepared and discipled students? Are they reaching the college campus able to not only defend their faith but thrive in it?
To be continued...