Read a troubling article this afternoon about youth and the church. The fact that struck me was that in 2007 a study showed that 70% of 18-22 year olds are abandoning the church.
I have been struggling with this with my kids. My oldest is 21 and in her 4th year at college, with an 18 year old not too far behind. I work at a church and have grown up in the church, so this next statement, that I have made to my older kids, has tormented me a bit: "You don't have to go to church, you just need to have a spiritual input into your life".
What I started to realize is that, as a parent, I was "going to church" as a euphemism for "spiritual vitality and growth". By continually pushing going to church, I was missing the real point - you have to connect with God.
This is a fine line to walk as my kids have been developing in their relationship with God. There are things that they must learn - there are facts and knowledge from the scriptures that they have to have. I see no problem with making my 7th (soon to be 8th) grader go to church, go to the Jr High class and attend LifeLine (our church's version of student ministry). However, as my older kids begin to move "out of the nest", I found that I needed to challenge them to begin to make their own spiritual decisions.
After my daughter's first year at college, I recounted how many times I asked her "did you go to church?" I realized that I was nagging her about an activity, not challenging her about where she was getting spiritual input. (I hoped this would be at a church, but it turns out that Campus Crusade for Christ was instrumental in her growth.)
I am thinking that if we want to reach the next generation, we have to be more concerned about guiding them through their spiritual journey PERSONALLY, not relying on an organization called the church to do this. I hope that the church can be a tool in that journey (in fact I am staking a good chunk of my life on it), but what this article tells me that the journey is going to have to start at a different point and take a different path than I and previous generations did. It is going to be a harder path because it is going to take more work, but I think that it will be worth it.
See this link for the article.