Monday, May 18, 2009
Why Do Our Kids Leave the Church - Part II - A Possible Solution, Step 1
(Pictured at the right- "The Church Board")
The problem, which is well stated in Michael Bell’s article on Imonk, is that about 85% of the youth raised, who leave the church, do so by age 23 . . . never to return. I will add another statistic that one survey showed that 88% of kids raised in Evangelical churches, eventually leave. I want to move on and talk about some of the solutions, in my humble opinion.
As I mentioned under my personal caveats posting, I have tried and failed in the past. I am confident that others, who are far better gifted than me, could (and do) have a far more significant impact that I have had. I keep hearing rumors of these wonderful church situations that seem very healthy. I’ve been involve with seven churches since I’ve been married. I hand selected them as the best ones in each community. Yet, they were all typical of the churches that continue to hemorrhage the youth and in each one I ran up against the wall of traditional evangelical culture.
I will also mention Hope T.’s comments (three posts ago) that she hopes that her kids DO leave the Church. To expound her point, I agree, the 80% figure also captures youth who still consider themselves Christian, but have found that they can not function within the traditional Church. They may become what I call, The Donald-Miller Freelance Christians (DMFC). Most pastors, including my own, are extremely opposed to this concept. Of course they are opposed because they are deeply invested in the traditional church model. I would add that in my perspective, I don’t think the DMFC is the ideal . . . in the perfect world . . . however it may be the lessor of evils in many circumstances.
I know for one, my son Caleb (if he ever settles that he is a Christian) would have to find an extremely unique church before he would be involved in it. However, I do see him as this DMFC. The typical evangelical Church would drive him nuts . . . to the point of leaving the faith again. He can not stand the farce factor that he sees in most churches.
With that said, I want to launch out on how I would approach this problem, within the traditional church. I want the make the point that I think there are some legitimate and more radical approaches to the problem that would mean completely disassembly of the traditional church and starting over fresh. But the approach that I will describe will mean working within the traditional church.
A second point is that even with the best approach for our youth, still a substantial number will leave Christianity and there is nothing we can do about that. But that number could be more like 30-50% rather than 80%.
I will conclude this post with my step 1 and I will keep it brief. I will set the scenario that I am a full time youth pastor and I’ve been hired to help a large evangelical church (Grace Community Church) to reach their own youth because 80% + have left the church in previous years. Since this is fiction, I will make my character far more gifted in these areas that yours-truly really is.
Step 1: I would have a long, 2-3 hour informal meeting with the pastor. Then I would meet with the church board. I would drive home a few main points.
A. A huge issue at stake here. It is time to take radical steps to make a real difference.
B. You HAVE TO TRUST ME!!!!! I am theologically orthodox. I believe virtually the same things that Luther believed. Please don’t assume I am a heretic, a liberal or a new-age Christian with every choice that I make.
C. The American Evangelical Culture is an idol. Most churches worship this idol more than they do the true God of the old and New Testament. The whole church needs a deep repentance from worshiping this idol. I will not hesitate to violate principles of this idol but you must trust me . . . I will try very hard never to violate true teachings of scripture.
D. The boundaries of what we are allow to do can not be set by the most legalistic, anal-retentive, American Evangelical Subcultural worshiping 5% of the parents. They have the freedom to pull their kids out and find a new church that matches their unfortunate positions . . . and those churches would not be hard to find. There is virtually one on each corner.
Posted by MJ at 9:53 AM