“What do we do about keeping kids in church?” The group of parents sat in my office, wiping their eyes. I’m a high school pastor, but for once, they weren’t talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying. They were talking about youth church attendance.
Each had a story about a “good Christian” child, raised in their home and our church, who had walked away from the faith during college. These kids had come through our youth program, gone on mission trips, and served in different ministries.
Now they didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. And somehow, these parents’ ideas about sending college freshmen “care packages” to help them feel connected to the church didn’t strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.
The daunting statistics about churchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches and youth ministries? Why aren’t we keeping kids in church?
Keeping Kids in Church: Understanding Attendance
It’s hard to uncover the real story. And no one easy solution exists for bringing all those “lost” kids back into the church, other than continuing to pray for them and speaking the gospel into their lives.
However, we can look at the 20-somethings who are engaged and involved in ministry. What sets apart the kids who stay in the church?
Consider these observations and applications about keeping kids in church:
1. Kids who stay are converts.
The Apostle Paul, interestingly enough, doesn’t use phrases like “nominal Christian” or “pretty good kid.” The Bible doesn’t mess around with platitudes like “Yeah, it’s a shame he did that, but he’s got a good heart.” When we listen to the witness of Scripture, particularly on the topic of conversion, we find little wiggle room.
Listen to these words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is. It’s a miracle that comes from God’s glorious power through the working of the Holy Spirit.
We need to stop talking about “good kids.” We need to stop being pleased with youth church attendance. And we need to get on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in students’ hearts. In short, we need to focus on conversion.
How many of us are preaching to “unconverted evangelicals”? Youth pastors, we need to preach, teach and talk—while praying fervently for the miraculous work of regeneration! When that happens—when the “old goes” and the “new comes”—it will not be iffy.