Editor’s Note: This interview was provided by our content partner, ChristianNewsNow.com.
Greg Stier is the founder and CEO of Dare 2 Share Ministries which is located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Stier started Dare 2 Share Ministries 29 years ago while serving as a pastor for a church in Arvada, Colorado. After the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, Stier resigned from the pastorate to pursue Dare 2 Share Ministries full time. According to dare2share.org the ministry equips teens to share their faith and youth leaders to build youth ministries that advance the gospel.
Christian News Now (CNN) recently had the opportunity to talk to Greg, who is on the front lines of youth ministry throughout the United States. In the past year he has spoken to thousands of teenagers, parents, and youth ministers during the popular Christian concert tour WinterJam. A few days ago Barna Group researchers revealed that they believe that the 2020 Pandemic will accelerate a loss of faith among the next generation. It seems that we are in a season where youth need to be pursued more than ever by today’s church, CNN asked Stier some questions that reflect that urgency.
CNN: What do you see as the number one thing impacting youth in the church today?
Greg: Teenagers today are being saturated in a worldly world view. Their views of God are more impacted by Netflix, Social Media and their peers than by the church, their youth leaders, and their parents. Teenagers in the church have almost the same amounts of anxiety, sexual addiction and suicide rates as their non-Christian peers. Youth ministry and parenting strategies need a massive overhaul to turn the statistics around. According to the report, Great Opportunity, we are slated to lose a million teenagers from the church every year for the next 35 years at the current rate of faith/church abandonment.
CNN: Have you seen the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 disconnect youth from the church because of church gatherings not meeting in person?
Greg: As I talk to youth leaders across the nation, I am sensing far more frustration when it comes to teen attendance at both their virtual and in-person meetings, with a handful of exceptions. For those only meeting online, youth leaders tell me that many of their teenagers are “Zoomed out,” in other words, they’re tired of the Zoom meetings and long for face-to-face interaction. Less and less teenagers are showing up for their virtual meetings and those who do often leave early. As for those gathering in groups, many youth leaders have faced the struggle of parents not being willing to allow their teenagers to engage in youth group meetings because of COVID-19. But the dangers of teenagers contracting COVID must be weighed against the dangers of keeping them isolated. Recently, the Director of the CDC stated that we are losing far more teenagers to suicide and overdosing at this time than we are to the pandemic. For many teenagers, isolation has led to frustration which has led to an increase of drug use and suicide attempts. Christian teenagers aren’t exempt from these struggles.
CNN: Does that make you fearful for the next generation of the church or hopeful?
Greg: In spite of all the terrifying statistics, I am very hopeful. God does his best work when things seem darkest. Teenagers are looking for hope. Jesus offers it. Teenagers are looking for purpose. Jesus offers it. Teenagers are looking for community. The church offers it.
CNN: What advice would you give to the church to reach and keep youth today?
Greg: We must reframe Christianity as a relationship with God versus a religion. The true message of Jesus is a love story (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”) When teenagers really get this, they are far more excited to share the gospel with their friends.This may sound like heresy, but I think we must rename the Great Commission. To a typical teenager, the term “The Great Commission” sounds like a bunch of money a real estate agent made on a deal. At Dare 2 Share we have renamed “The Great Commission” as “The Cause.”
CNN: Why “The Cause”?
Greg: It is The Cause of Christ that Jesus gave His disciples when He told them to “go and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:19). It should be our ultimate mission and primary cause as believers. Generation Z (what sociologists have nicknamed the current and coming generation of teenagers) is passionate about causes. From stopping human trafficking to feeding the hungry to providing water wells for thirsty populations to addressing racial inequities, teenagers today are being mobilized for all sorts of causes.