I have been doing lots of reading over the past week because things have started to slow down. This summer was non-stop and now being able to sit down and pick up a book has been a great pleasure. Much of the focus of my reading over the past week has focused around why many young people are leaving the church when they get to college and why faith doesn’t seem to be sticking. As one author put it, faith for many as they grow up seems to be more like “scotch tape” than “duct tape.” It just isn’t sticking. Why is that?
One thing that seems to be a common theme throughout my reading (although there are many reasons that this problem exists) is that young people are lacking relationships with others who are older than them. Think about that for a moment. If you are a Sr. Higher or Jr. Higher, do you have important relationships with adults other than your parents or your youth pastors? For many students, I just don’t see this happening. In our communities and often our churches, the youth are more or less segregated from the rest of the church. They have separate worship services, separate mission opportunities, and separate classes. Of course I am not saying that spending time with people of our own age is a bad thing. Students need time to spend with other students. Married couples benefit from spending time with other married couples. We can gain lots from spending time with those who are going through similar life experiences as us, but young people need someone older than them to learn from.
One moment from my childhood that I still remember strongly is when someone older than myself (and even older than my parents) decided to include me in his life. A man named Russ from a church that I grew up in, in California, invited me along to go backpacking in Yosemite. It was just us two, with all of our equipment on our backs, trekking off the paths, drinking from the streams, fishing, and encountering wildlife. It was an amazing experience. But why do I remember that trip so fondly? I think it is because an adult in my life showed an interest in me and showed me that I was valued by bringing me along with him.
In order for young people to be growing up and developing a faith that is going to make a difference in their life, they need to see faith in action. That is discipleship. The disciples followed Jesus for three years watching how he did ministry and learning from him and how he lived. Have you ever taken a young person and showed them their value to the body of Christ by taking them out to lunch and asking them if you can be praying for them? Have you ever taken a young person and allowed them to serve the community with you at a food pantry or homeless shelter? Many of us haven’t, but my encouragement to you would be to try this out. Young people today are dying for a relationship with someone who can be a mentor and who loves them. For most of their childhood they have been segregated from the adults in their lives. Consider breaking that cycle and reaching out to a young person around you. Even if you don’t think so, they NEED YOU! If you aren’t sure how to make this happen, I’d love to chat with you and share some ideas of how you can pour into a young person.