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Our friend Chris Folmsbee, a leader in youth ministry, offers us one more reflection on youth ministry today, and his topic — youth ministry and church — is as timely as it gets. Let’s think together today about the issue of how our youth are mentored into the church.
I’ve been thinking a bunch lately about how we help our students best
understand the Church and its work in the mission of God. I have
received several recent emails in which youth workers have expressed a
deep concern for their students understanding of the church.
students in your youth ministry describe the nature of the Church? Do
your students recognize the role of the Church in the mission of God?
Are your students able to identify with the biblical metaphors of the
Church? All of these questions are born out of the concerns that I
have heard youth workers repeatedly expressing.
As we are all aware there has been a great deal of dialogue surrounding the data concluding that students are ‘leaving the church’ upon the completion of high school with no plans to return. I’ve heard many reasons as to the cause of this great challenge we face ranging from the increased level of apathy of students (which I don’t think is in anyway the primary reason) to the abandonment of today’s youth by both culture and the Church to a myriad of other suggested causes that are in some way connected to the inability and desire for local churches to embrace change and new practices.
I’m not an expert on the issue of what is so often thought of as the most daunting challenge facing the church today — that being the mass exit of emerging adults. For all I know there may be dozens of causes that have led to this challenge. So I don’t proclaim my absolute conclusions. I do, however, have a hunch. My hunch is that many of our students, as a result of not knowing the Bible’s story, haven’t been guided toward an understanding of the work of the church in the mission of God and therefore have no framework for or devotion to the church and its nature and work.
What is your hunch as to the cause of such a challenge? Maybe you have more than a hunch; you have a conclusion? If so, what have you concluded and what might the church do differently to cultivate a passion for the church among emerging adults?
Perhaps a great starting point for our students is to help them see the Church as a people who are about conversion, community and conformity.
> By conversion I mean that the Church is to be a people concerned about evangelism, hospitality, generosity, liberation and formation.
> By community I mean that the Church is to be a people concerned about providing a sense of belonging, responsibility, inspiration, sharing, diversity and inclusivity.
> By conformity I mean that the Church is to be a people concerned about their desire to form spiritually. That is, a community that is consistently seeking to arrange its personal and communal lives around the mission of God, the person and work of Jesus, submission to the gifts and roles of the Holy Spirit in order t become a people full of grace and dedicated to the healing of all people through salvation and justice.
What else might we consider as part of the framework to help students best understand the nature and work of the Church? As far as you are concerned, do you feel like the Church is doing a good job helping emerging adults understand the Church? How might the Church improve in its efforts?