DNow 2015

This past March we had our annual DNow weekend. Here are some photos in a slideshow put to music, (Jason Gray’s, I Am New).

We are so please to have the best youth pastor ever, Beth Anderson, investing so much into the lives of our young people.

The visiting worship team was from Christopher Newport University, and seven of the nine Bible study leaders were former students of the King’s Grant Baptist Church student ministry, who are currently making a difference on their own college campuses as well.

Related Images:

Dropouts and Essential Church

I was reading through the Rainer/Geiger book called Essential Church. He writes about a study of 18 to 30 year-old adults in America where these young adults attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year while they were in high school. Here is the incredible but sad finding of this study:


Why Did They Leave?

While he explores this topic in the first section of this book, he briefly let’s us hear from the dropouts. Look at the 10 most common reasons the dechurched said they left the church between the ages of 18 and 22.

Top 10 Reasons Church Dropouts Stopped Attending Church

  1. Simply wanted a break from church.
  2. Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.
  3. Moved to college and stopped attending church.
  4. Work responsibilities prevented me from attending.
  5. Moved too far away from the church to continue attending.
  6. Became too busy though still wanted to attend.
  7. Didn’t feel connected to the people in my church.
  8. Disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues.
  9. Chose to spend more time with friends outside the church.
  10. Was only going to church to please others.

This list helps us see a common theme among most of the dropouts: to put it simply, they just did not see that church was essential to their lives. For example, the first reason, cited by 27 percent of the church dropouts, clearly depicts the nonessential attitude of the dropouts toward church: “I simply wanted a break from church.”

But even reason number eight, a disagreement with the church on political or social issues, indicates a noncommittal posture. In this case the dropouts easily could have found another church that was a better fit with their social or political views. Instead, they decided to drop out from church totally.

Essentially This:

Churchgoing students drop out of the church because it is not essential to their lives.

Rainer, T., Geiger, E., & Rainer, S. S., III. (2010). Essential church. Nashville: B&H.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Is it Right or Wrong?

In all my years as a youth pastor, I’ve learned a few things. When a student comes to you and asks if something is right or wrong, he’s probably already done the deed, but not necessarily. There are those students who actually recognize the temptation and refuse to allow the enemy to have power over him.

In our individual life journeys, we all come to that “Valley of Decision” (Joel 3:14). This is the place where we are called to make a decision to go one way or another. The enemy is always standing at the intersection seeking to draw you away into another poor decision and making a wrong turn. Below are three verses that reveal three important questions we should ask ourselves as we anticipate which way to turn at one of these inevitable intersections of life.

Can I Thank God for It?
“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We must ask ourselves, “If I go this way, say this thing, or do this deed: when all is said and done, can I thank God for it?” If we can’t give God thanks, then it should be avoided at all costs. Interestingly, we are not called upon to thank Him FOR everything but IN everything.

Can I Do It in Jesus’ Name?
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). We are not only to GIVE THANKS in all things, we are to DO all things in the name of the Lord Jesus. If we gave serious thought to this temptation, it would make a huge difference to follow through with our words, our hands or watched with our eyes.

Can I Do It for God’s Glory?
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The true believer is motivated by the desire to bring glory to God in every part of life. There are many things that we do or say could have been avoided had we asked this simple question ahead of time.

Students often think that staff members or leaders are super saints, but we all struggle with doing the right thing. None of us are immune to temptation; and all of us are tempted every day in one way or another. As Bob Newhart used to say in his old sitcom, “Stop it!” Don’t just rush through that temptation intersection or make a hasty wrong turn. Ask yourself these three important questions.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

College Ministry Consumerism

I’ve been reading up on ministry to college students (College Ministry from Scratch: Equipping Kids for Life after Youth Group, by Chuck Bomar) and want to share a little about what I have learned:

A consumer mentality is an unhealthy focus on self. And if there’s one thing that will hinder people who are different (especially from different generations) from having a relationship and serving each other, it’s a consumer mentality. Unfortunately small groups can feed this unhealthy focus. We don’t usually think about this, but it’s true. People go to small groups for what they can get out of it—for their lives. They go to get something. The motivation for going is self-focused. In our culture this is acceptable and applauded.

People talk about needing to be fed, and if they don’t feel like they’re getting what they need, they leave. This consumer mentality can be a huge hindrance to developing mature believers who remain a part of our churches. In reality, the gospel message at its very core is anti-consumer. Christ is extremely clear about the fact that those who follow him have to deny themselves. This is anything but a consumer mentality. Now, I’m fully aware that there are lots of other things that feed a consumer mentality—just about everything in our culture does, but we have to recognize and battle this in our small groups. We can do this by watching two very simple things.

  1. First, make sure your leaders genuinely serve others and provide great models for people to follow. Remember, college-age people don’t necessarily need another study as much as they need to watch and follow the example of others. This is what assists them in turning information into wisdom. Having leaders who live out what they know is much more effective than having arrogant and self-centered brainiacs. Harsh, but true.
  2. Second, focus on service in your small groups. Walk through passages that emphasize serving the needy and helpless and then serve in a variety of ways together. Plug into what other groups in your church are already doing and join them in their service work. This not only helps fight the consumer mentality with service, but it also encourages connections with others in the church. Let college-age people come up with ideas for how to serve people in your church and city. And then actually do them.

Related Images:

Why Teens Leave the Church

There is a new Barna study on teens leaving the church (click here for the full study).

There is an accompanying book worth looking into, much like the book unChristian a couple years ago. The findings of this research are included in a new book titled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church.

Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.

Reason #1 – Churches Seem Overprotective.
One of the defining characteristics of teens and young adults today is their unprecedented access to ideas, worldviews and their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in.

  1. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse.
  2. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church.”
  3. Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%)
  4. And “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).

Reason #2 – Their Experience of Christianity is Shallow.
A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church.

  1. One-third said “church is boring.”
  2. One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough.”
  3. Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church.”

Reason #3 – Churches Come Across as Antagonistic to Science.
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science.

  1. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%).
  2. Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%).
  3. Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%).
  4. And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.”
  5. Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.

Reason #4 – Church Experiences Related to Sexuality are Often Simplistic and Judgmental.
With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality. One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church’s expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties.

  1. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality.
  2. One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.”
  3. The issue of sexuality is particularly salient among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, among whom two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”

Reason #5 – They Wrestle with the Exclusive Nature of Christianity.
Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences.

  1. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.”
  2. One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).

Reason #6 – The Church Feels Unfriendly to Those Who Doubt.
Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial.

  1. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%).
  2. In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).

Turning Toward Connection
David Kinnaman, who is the coauthor of the book unChristian, explained that “the problem of young adults dropping out of church life is particularly urgent because most churches work best for ‘traditional’ young adults – those whose life journeys and life questions are normal and conventional. But most young adults no longer follow the typical path of leaving home, getting an education, finding a job, getting married and having kids—all before the age of 30. These life events are being delayed, reordered, and sometimes pushed completely off the radar among today’s young adults.

“Consequently, churches are not prepared to handle the ‘new normal.’ Instead, church leaders are most comfortable working with young, married adults, especially those with children. However, the world for young adults is changing in significant ways, such as their remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, their alienation from various institutions, and their skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible.”

The research points to two opposite, but equally dangerous responses by faith leaders and parents:

  1. Either catering to or minimizing the concerns of the next generation. The study suggests some leaders ignore the concerns and issues of teens and twentysomethings because they feel that the disconnection will end when young adults are older and have their own children. Yet, this response misses the dramatic technological, social and spiritual changes that have occurred over the last 25 years and ignores the significant present-day challenges these young adults are facing.
  2. Other churches seem to be taking the opposite corrective action by using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults. However, putting the focus squarely on youth and young adults causes the church to exclude older believers and “builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God,” Kinnaman said.

Between these extremes, the book You Lost Me points to ways in which the various concerns being raised by young Christians (including church dropouts) could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families. Kinnaman observed that many churches approach generations in a hierarchical, top-down manner, rather than deploying a true team of believers of all ages. “Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.”

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images: