Over the past few months of working in youth ministry at Grace, I have noticed some things. As I sit in front of the congregation Sunday after Sunday and look out on all the faces, I’ve noticed that there are not a huge amount of high school students in worship. I am pleased and encouraged by the students I do see, but I have to wonder where the others have gone.
The second thing I notice is that there is a huge fallout of students between the Confirmation event and involvement in youth group in 10th grade. Our students attend catechism faithfully for three years during middle school, they work with a mentor during the Own Your Faith year, get Confirmed, and then…they disappear.
I don’t think Grace is unique in this phenomenon. Across the country young people are increasingly disengaging with the institutional church. As the Pastor of Youth Ministries I have to ask myself, “Why?”
Why do students not feel a strong desire to attend regular worship and/or youth group meetings? Is it because they are just too busy? Do they not care? Is it not modeled at home? Or, does the church just not meet the real needs of the student?
If we are all honest, the answer is all of the above. Between excessive homework, two or three extracurricular activities, a job, and friends from school, students barely have time to breath. Church becomes one more menu item on an already crowded schedule. Let’s face it. If the church doesn’t meet a felt need, then what’s the motivation to come?
I recently read a blog post titled “Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church…You won’t believe this!” The article states
“Millennials are in a different social situation. They don’t need physical locations for social affiliation. They can make dinner plans via text, cell phone call or Facebook. In short, the thing that kept young people going to church, despite their irritations, has been effectively replaced. You don’t need to go to church to stay connected or in touch. You have an iPhone.”
I would love to have some honest dialogue around this topic with both students and parents. I invite you to engage in the comment thread to see if we can gain insight into how best serve our youth at Grace.