George Barna has come out with another research study that says 61% of students who were involved in church youth ministries as teenagers have disengaged from the church during their 20’s. My question becomes what are we going to do about this? I think that many are beginning to ask this question in relation to high school ministry. Yet, the root of this problem may be found in the junior high ministries. I have seen more and more high school ministries taking the task of discipleship and equipping more seriously. Yet, how are we, in junior high ministry doing? Are we still running “run and gun” offenses? Are we more about fun than discipleship? What does serious discipleship look like in the life of a squirrelly, ADHD, fun-loving 12 year old? One of the final paragraphs in this study states…
“Much of the ministry to teenagers in America needs an overhaul – not because churches fail to attract significant numbers of young people, but because so much of those efforts are not creating a sustainable faith beyond high school. There are certainly effective youth ministries across the country, but the levels of disengagement among twentysomethings suggest that youth ministry fails too often at discipleship and faith formation. A new standard for viable youth ministry should be – not the number of attenders, the sophistication of the events, or the ‘cool’ factor of the youth group – but whether teens have the commitment, passion and resources to pursue Christ intentionally and whole-heartedly after they leave the youth ministry nest.”
Having read Kenda Dean’s “Practicing Passion” I have also wondered what it looks like to stir this kind of passion in a 12 year old. If it can be done, what does it look like? It certainly will look very different from that of a high school student.
May we not settle for the average, same old, easy, game filled, shallow, junior high ministry. May we be in the business of discipleship and transformation.