Sunday 15 August 2010

Are Church Youth Groups dying? Kevin Bussey

Are Church Youth Groups dying?
First appeared on Kevin Bussey's blog Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee

[HTR News]
“Bye-bye church. We’re busy.” That’s the message teens are giving churches today.

Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.

“Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook,” says Barna president David Kinnaman.

“Sweet 16 is not a sweet spot for churches. It’s the age teens typically drop out,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, which found the turning point in a study of church dropouts. “A decade ago, teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ ”

“I blame the parents,” who didn’t grow up in a church culture, says Jeremy Johnston, executive pastor at First Family Church in Overland Park, Kan.

Read more here.

[From me]

I’m sure there is a lot of blame to go around. But blaming parents only is stretching it. Having grown up in Youth Ministry and being a Youth Minister myself, I think it has more to do with hypocrisy that students see. When they see adults fighting in church over_____________ then they don’t want to have anything to do with that. Having edgy music or cool games doesn’t cut it. They can find that anywhere.

I’m still working with students now and what they want are authentic relationships. Age doesn’t matter if you treat them with respect and you are honest and authentic. Just my humble opinion.

What do you think?

Chris Welch's reply in the comments section
Something huge happened in the 60s.
Opinion is still divided about the whole matter.
Bob Dylan and John Lennon legitimised free thinking.
And particularly among youth.

Psychology worked out (M. Scott Peck- Different Drum for example) that there were probably at least 4 stages people pass through as healthy individuals, and the 60s legitimised this.

Now here's the thing. We either pass through these stages within the House of God, or outside.(I explain this down the page) Law, the knowledge of good and evil, frameworks,scaffolding, are the schoolmaster to lead us to the real thing:

which is knowing Christ within us , operating as us, doing the Plan that we, and only we, were made for. The Ascendant "out there" Christ, we learn to believe in or not early on. But whether or not secular people believe in that, one thing they share with Christians is the desire to make thir lives work. or rather until cynicism, and their own failings completely get the better of some: alcoholism,drugs.

Church has a poor record in identifying the change that occurs between level three and four, as people become self operating mature people. who know how they function and the sort of things they were put on the Earth for. Church commonly takes as rejection, what is actually only a reassessment. A move away from living prescriptively from an outer guiding system, to an inner one.

The Bible calls the full functioning version of us ,in 1 John 2:12, the Father level where we are joined/familiar with/ in union with Him who is from the beginning, and operating at that level in our surroundings with colleagues , family and friends.

This Father level is the third Christian level and the subject of my blog, and dovetails in with the psychologists' fourth stage of growth.

I said earlier, we either pass through these things within God's House or outside. Well ofcourse this is endlessly complicated by the fact that God's Church as it is, is not really the same thing as God's House. Or rather that God's House at the moment has separate compartments and formats as "bolt-ons" to make up for the fact that few there are who understand the Father level.

In the original church, on its first day in Jerusalem it had 12 Fathers, trained by Jesus Himself. The Father of the Gentile Church was Paul in particular...and God did not even allow him to spend much time learning from the original fathers. Because he was effectively an ex-murderer of Christians, Paul found it very difficult in his early Christian life to have much access to believers who were scared stiff of him. So Paul received a huge part of his training direct from the original source, Jesus.

So in both the early Jewish Church and the Gentlile Church, they had Father level teaching....whether people understood it all....and people didn't all understand Paul in particular...since His updated information came from a Jesus that had proceeded to another level entirely, which was now in heaven at the right hand of God as Intercessor. An earthly precursor to this would have been Moses, who just had to stand on a hillside overlooking the army of God with his arms raised, and this brought the victory.

People looking on at these third/fourth level growth, or in Christian terms "young men to fatherlevel" growth from the outside naturally take the emphasis on the "inner Christ" to mean a change of religion. Maybe even a move to New Age.
But in real terms, during the whole process the understanding of an "outer Christ", this One who holds the Universe by the Word of His Power is never lost sight of. But in this level, I want to make this Jesus particular to me....

So I can REALLY worship this outer Christ as I was originally meant Spirit and in Truth.
That, as it says in the teachings given in the Upper Room from John chapter 13-17 (indeed the most Father level of all Jesus teachings just prior to leaving thedisciples), I may be happy living in the Father, with Jesus having made His home in Me.

Teenagers and young 20s in particular go off in search of role models, if there are none at home. So the answer is not just to CATER for the needs of this age group structurally, oh no , that would be much easier. It is the self-admission by all charismatic or evangelical groups everywhere that the hunt is still on for an authentic version of the Christianity found in the New Testament,
not only in the Power found in a church like Bethel , California under Bill Johnson, but also having true Father level people who "know Him who is from the beginning".

Why am I able to be quite bold in saying these things?
Because I am describing me. As a teenager. Baptised in the Spirit during the time of a school revival at 13. Pastor Wurmbrand visited our town in the UK. So too did Graham Pulkingham and the Fisherfolk. I actively searched out these third level guys. At 16 I spent my summer with Mother Basilea Schlink and her community. I was ofcourse, I realise now, making up for the fact that Third levellers as a Christian recognizable entity did not exist in a 1970s church that was still clawing itself out of Bishop John Robinson's "The Death of God" in the 1960s.

And because hunting these guys down, did in fact lead me on a path to towards third level Christianity, I can confidently say to the Church this is what Youth need. This is the hunger of the human heart to quote Juan Carlos Ortiz.

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