An Essay by Steven Lee Douglas
March 13, 2012
I admit it. I have a Facebook page. I recently started paying more attention to what others post on their Facebook Walls and have noticed something that brings me to the point of my essay. I did not intend for it to happen, but it appears that there are quite a few older teens connected on my Facebook Friends list. They all have something in common which was the impetus for them coming together on my page. They all went to the same church I do. Many of their parents, or their pastors, are also connected to me, which is how my Facebook page grew. The other thing a lot of them have in common is that they seem to have fallen out with God since leaving the youth program at Church. After reading more of their posts and comments to each other, it appears that they do not believe. I am referring to Him, of course, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
I do not doubt that somewhere along the way they “accepted Him”, “asked Him to forgive their sins”, told their teachers they “want to go to Heaven versus spending eternity in hell.” From what I have heard, all of these kids, at one time or more since the age of 3, were baptized and claimed to have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. What I would ask all of them is. “Has He accepted you?” I am guessing that if He has, they never got His message.
When I first started attending our church, I remember listening to the pastor-teacher in the early morning Sunday sermons saying to the congregation that if there was anyone present who wanted a relationship with Jesus, all they had to do was raise their hand while everyone else was closing their eyes and if they wanted they could walk down to the front and stand next to him in prayer. There was a time when I really wanted to raise my hand, to stand up and walk to the front, to become a part of the rest of these believers. Problem is that every time I prayed and asked Him to accept me, either He was not listening to me, chose not to answer me, or spoke a language I could not understand. Then one night as I slept, I had a dream that the Spirit came to me and confirmed He wanted a relationship with me. When I woke up that morning I knew what had happened and I believed it to be real. Ever since that time my life has been different because I believe.
So, what about the kids from church? What about these kids who are now talking about sin that they should have learned is not something you talk about if you have accepted Christ as your savior? I can only come to the conclusion that they were never visited by the Spirit, or they did not answer when He called.
Wade Carey • A difficult subject, indeed. I recommend three things … (1) Pray for each kid, individually. Prayer is the sword we must use against Satan’s attacks, and there is no question that young people sit squarely in Satan’s bulls-eye; (2) Remind yourself (I often have to) that the power of saving is like you said – it’s in the Holy Spirit, not ourselves; (3) see # 1, above.
Robert Dallmann • A few years back, the ministries of Answers in Genesis produced a book entitled “Already Gone” which addresses this subject. There basic premise is that the church has not presented the truths of the origins of the world in substantive ways. Also, that the church has embraced secular ideas in these areas, which then calls into question, the integrity of the rest of the Bible. In any case, here is a link to some of the information on this book for anyone who is interested.
Lisa A. Nofzinger • I would suggest praying for those kids too.
Jeff Mortimer • Prayer is definitely a good answer! As is remembering that God’s the one doing the saving, not us. But I often wonder if we don’t get too “cute” with our youth ministry — that we try too hard to preach the gospel in a way that relates to them, instead of just giving it to them straight. The scripture that points me in this direction: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV)
Thank God we don’t need words of eloquent wisdom — something I’m often lacking!
Jackie Bell • I think part of it Steven is that some of the relationships were on Sunday mornings only..I also see that parents can do more..some parents drop the teens off to youth group activities and that’s the end of it…there are quite a few factors contributing I’m sure…I think praying for them, maybe even dropping them a note in their “inbox”…Jesus loves you might encourage them…many of the youth are not integrated with the church on many levels…ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that must touch them. I too get disappointed in what I see on FB…that’s partly why I’m not on there very much. Some of these kids after they have left the church do not see or hear from church members again…trying to reach them is another challenge…I think churches are trying to both preach the gospel and also trying to make it real for teens… and yes, even fun. God bless…I hear you!
Lisa A. Nofzinger • I think we could also put more resources into college and young adult ministry. I got into some unChristian things in college after being involved in youth ministry as a teenager, and I found a great college ministry which helped bring me back.
John Wilson • This is a sad commentary on our youth “programs” in church. So often children who accept Christ at an early age are accepting or agreeing with their parents and at some point must make their faith their own and develop their own saving relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, I think in many cases we are making literate youth about Bible stories and even tenets of the Christian faith but have not helped them prepare for the onslaught of freedom and temptation that will come when the get their freedom (often the first year of college). If they haven’t experienced the indwelling of the holy spirit and have not observed true followers of Christ where Christ has made a difference in their lives they will look to other things to fill the hole in their lives. This unfortunately leads to experimentation of worldly things and ways. What can we do:
1. Focus on helping our youth develop their own walk with Christ. 2. Pair them with a mature mentor who can be their confidante and spiritual guide 3. Teach them to use the Bible as a guide for their decisions. 4. Teach them why there are God’s best ways in the Bible (i.e. consequences, potential life time impact, the concept of commitment, the marriage relationship and dating, the differences in other world religions; etc) 5. Create disciples not just Biblically literate youth. 6. Pray with them and for them. 7. Encourage them. 8. When they fall pick them up and brush them off to start again. 9. Love them as they are; don’t judge them – guide them 10. Pray some more
Once they get to college as parents and teachers we lose much of our direct daily influence so we have to pray for them, encourage them, and model our own genuine faith in their presence
For those still at home we should follow much of the above but have more focus on true discipleship and make sure our own faith journey is relevant and alive.
Prayers for all!
James Chitakunye • The key lies in sustained prayers and leading exemplary lives. The story of the prodigal son teaches about 2 types of sons (children), and a committed dad who never let go on both of them. Even after the prodigal (rebellious) child, goes astray, the Father kept his eyes up, his hope focused and was relentless and unwavered in his belief “One day, I will see my child back”. He persisted in this attitude, everyday and He did see his prodigal son (our stray children) back. Like the dad in this story, the church will experience “strayers” and “stayers”. But it remains the church’s responsibility to pray the “strayers” back and to pray for the “stayers” to remain with the right motive (remember the attitude of the elder son; his loyalty to the household was quite misplaced)!
Steve Pryor • This topic came up by someone on my facebook. The OP suggested that the young adults are half hearted b/c they knew all along that mom and/or dad were half hearted.
In other words, mom/dad drug them to Church b/c it was the thing to do. But, had no real fruit, no real connection/devotion/prayer time etc… at home.
I will say that I think there is some validity to that thought, in some cases. Let me reiterate…some cases….. I do know of couples who had sincere, real relationships w Jesus, and did all the “right” things. Yet, their kids fell away.
CH (CPT) Steven G Rindahl • I think we keep kids segregated, in their own children’s programs and then youth group so that once they are ready for “big church” they have no interest in what the “adults” are doing. Kids should be fully integrated in the church from birth. My kids were in the morning worship service on Sunday within 3 days of being born. They have remained active in church by their own choice.
Robert Dallmann • Amen CH (CPT) Steven G Rindahl!
I completely agree. We feed them spiritual “pablum” for about 9 years (approximately 4 – 13 years of age) and then we put them in the “fun and games” youth group. Then they go into high school where “highly educated” and “respected” teachers tell them emphatically that the pablum they were taught is all wrong. They have no “substance” upon which to build and they succumb to the “educational leaders” that we as parents teach them to respect.
How healthy would our children be physically if all they ate were pablum for 9 years.
I realize that children are not adults and there are some different needs. However, as parents, we are supposed to be raising adults not children… (think about it, the end result of our parenting should be well-adjusted, godly adults… not children.)
James Chitakunye • Helpful Scriptures to guide (supersede) our “intellect”: Ps.127:1, 3-5 Allow God to be God in your child’s situation (nothing is too hard, but God needs His rightful place); Ultimately, the children are Gods (we’re trustees/ custodians), therefore they will be a success (IFF we commit them back to God) Case Study: Samuel’s Dedication: ISam.1:26-27; ISam.2:1-10 Hannah’s Magnificate – parents, when was the last time we took out time just to THANK & PRAISE God for the children? Case Study 2: Mary’s Magnificate Luke1:46-55 Praise God for the children, and He will honour his word concerning them FURTHER STUDY Prov.22:6 – Train (disciple) the child, he will not abandon the gain Ps.11:3 Parent, are you confident in your own trust & security in the FOUNDATION that never fails? Do our children see JESUS in us? Like my pastor says, the only church some people will ever see, is the BELIEVER’S day to day lifestyle. Matth.7:24 Jesus likens wisdom, to HEARING & DOING what His Word says. Children need the opportunity to practice what they are taught by taking part in active ministry, not just in peripheral & mundane activity. Afterall the Jesus boy, at about 11-13, He was zealous about the Word of God, and once spent 3 days giving the Pharisees and Scribes “Hard Talk”, a good run for their “scholarliness” Luke2:46, 47 Matth.7:24-27 In conclusion, The Titanic sank, despite the arguably engenious design and scientific engineering that went into it. Why, because it depended on man’s limited (but undisputed) imagination, intellect and ability. In contrast, Noah’s Ark, took hundreds of years to construct, but it was based on Revelation and a Response to God’s Instruction/ Word. What are we imbibing our children with today? Psychometrics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, emotional intelligence disciplines? What place does the Word of God take in our & their lives? Can the 2 systems coexist & in what form? Unless we trust in Godly Revelation, we will go by our instincts and feel good factors in teaching our children, with catastrophic consequences (Jer.10:23). The STORM, FLOOD & WIND test, according to JESUS is the yardstick by which Parents can measure the effectiveness of their methods in discipling children and bringing up. Capitulation to CRISES is an indicator that the METHODS need amends! Unless we have the assurance of the prodigal son’s dad (Luke15:11-24), that we have done all possible, but still the outcome is negative. And yet the dad kept his hope high! Why because He knew, with all the good work he had invested in teaching the correct way to his children, the prodigal would turn out right in the end.
Alan Boyce • I have to agree we aren’t doing children any favors by giving them a “kid-friendly” message any more than we are doing adults any favors with “seeker friendly” messages.
Working with prison inmates, we see the problem listed in this thread, but once removed. Many of these men are disillusioned kids with a patchwork faith. They are like kids who find out Santa Claus is a fairy tale and say, “What about Jesus then?”
They have heard all the words. Some know scripture by heart. But most have never seen faith make a real difference in someone’s life. And most have never seen or felt unconditional love.
The best kids program I’ve ever been part of hinged on outreach. Every summer, kids 14 and up went to West Virginia to sleep in non-air-conditioned gyms and help people in the Applachia Service Project. We had 12 years olds trying to lie about their age so they could go. Most kids went every year until they left for college and some became ASP staffers after that. They were blown away not just to see that THEY could make a difference, but to see GOD do things through them that they could never accomplish on their own.
Crystal Miller, MA,Certified Christian Counselor • Just an opinion regarding, why kids are leaving the flock when they graduate from youth group… I have noticed a similar kind of thing as well in families, churches, and other Christian venues where youth have been trained up in Christ and get involved as they grow in maturity, yet seem to leave the church or where they were in grown and understanding. My thinking is that many of our youth see (often better than we do) that some of the tradition, church business, legalism, protocal, and maybe even some of the modern messages they have been receiving are not where God is. I look at that as a “God move” and work that He himself might be doing in order to gain our attention to something! Also, our youth may move away and flounder naturally as it is because they are young! I think we should all try to remember three very important things here! (1) The One God we serve, is the same God who drew us out of whereever we were and whatever we were doing as youth, changed us, matured us, and can now use us, is the same God who will do the same for our youth! (2) God promises us that if we train them up in the Way, that they will not depart. We have to stand strong in our faith and belief that He will do exactly what he promises no matter what it may look like today. (3) History repeats itself for a reason – it’s supposed to – with our youth each one has to go through and learn and get “truth” on his/her own before they can really “know” truth. Therefore they will appear to stray away – doing and saying various things, experimenting, etc., etc., However, we can still believe in God’s promise – they aren’t going anywhere! We just have to trust and believe and allow God to do a “work in them” as he has done in us mature Christians!
Robert Dallmann • Hi Crystal,
Your logic would a possibility, if they were leaving in order to find a “better” church or teaching. Statistically though, they are leaving church period. ____________________
As for “training a child in the way they should go”… this is a Proverb, not a Promise. There is a difference.
Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Proverb definition: “A short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.”
Promise definition: “A declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that guarantees that a particular thing will happen.”
As you can see, a proverb is something that is generally true, but not always. A promise is a guarantee.
Lisa A. Nofzinger • A lot of them are leaving church period, but a lot of them are turning to Wicca and other religions. I met a lot of young people in Wicca.
Fount Freeman • Youth leaving the church after they finish “youth group” is indeed a sad happening all over the United States (at least). I believe it is primarily because we make “god” too small when they are younger. We also don’t tell them that most everyone else they will meet in life will NOT really believe in the God of the Bible – the One who is a BIG God!
Up until the last couple of years – I was very involved in youth ministry for over a decade. Great to see the young ones (1st grade to 5th grade) be so excited and open about accepting what we told them about God. Nice, fun and age appropriate activities are well received.
The 6th grade to 12th grade group is much different. They get lied to so much in the “rest of their life” – they begin to internally doubt what we church folks are telling them. Their friends are generally NOT involved in a church – and the activities those “friends” are involved in (such as drinking alcohol and having sex) look to be a whole lot more fun than our little Church weekend retreat sing alongs.
By their Junior – Senior year they have already generally left our reservation – although it may not look like it because they are still be dragged off to church on a fairly routine basis.
I can also see this difference through sidewalk scripture distributions – the 6-8th graders are much more open to accepting a free NT than the 9-12th graders are. Many of the older ones will more actively curse you and/or praise Wicca or Satan. As a side note – the US Air Force Academy just built a second worship center on campus – for the fastest growing religion among our U.S. Military – the Wiccans!
By 18 – or college – nationally speaking 98% of them are GONE from regular worship attendance!
So what can we do? Tell them the full truth by their 5th grade – 6th grade transition. (I am with the Gideons and over 100 years of experience shows down to 5th grade they can do well with their own copy of God’s word). Tell them God is a MIGHTY God – He is not just confined to Sunday morning. That there is also a VERY POWERFUL Devil – who will come at them nine ways from Hell to destroy their most precious gift – their eternal soul. He will use sex, alchohol, drugs, “friends” and every other lie he can tell (he is the Father of Lies remember). They must “flee” these things – if not – they will be putting their eternal soul at risk.
Guess that means my bottom line is that we emphasize the grace (soft) side of God too much – and don’t emphasize the righteous judgment (hard) side of God enough. We also generally leave out the fact that there is another force opposed to God and if they don’t stay connected with God EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIFE FROM NOW ON – they will probably never be able to be with Him and their loved ones in the New Jerusalem forever and ever.
By the way – this approach worked with a good number of the youth with which I worked – not a majority by any means – but a LOT more than 2%…
Robert Dallmann • Amen Fount!
Especially about the soft and hard sides of God!
Romans 11:22 – “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
Do we really want our children to know God… or just the “goodness of God”?
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