“Most young adults today, don’t pray, don’t worship and don’t read the Bible.” This was the lead sentence of a front page article in Tuesday’s USA Today. Cathy Lynn Grossman says this is true based on a “major survey by a Christian research firm.” LifeWay Christian Resources surveyed 1200, 18-29 year olds and found the following results: 65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves. Nearly 70% don’t read the Bible. Even among those who “believe they will go to heaven...”: 68% did not mention faith, religion, or spirituality when asked what was “really important in life.” Half of those surveyed do not attend church at least weekly, and 36% rarely or never read the Bible. According to Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, “Roughly 15% appear to be “deeply committed” Christians in study, prayer, worship, and action. Rainer says, “Many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only. Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.” He says if trends continue, “The Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships.”
So, what is the church to make of this survey? Is there anything we can learn? How should we respond? It seems to me we have a few choices. We can ignore surveys like this and claim they don’t affect the church. This attitude is one that many choose to adopt. If we ignore things like this, it will just go away.
We can respond with statements like, “Well, that’s just the younger generation, you know how kids are these days.” Growing up in the church I don’t know how many times we heard preachers, teachers, and leaders discuss how important it is for us to teach/train young people because “they are the church of tomorrow.” If the church is going to survive and thrive in the coming years we must do our part to train future generations (Deuteronomy 6; 2 Timothy 2:2, etc.).
We can tell the younger generation how wrong they are, and how they must conform to everything that we say and they must do everything today in exactly the same we have always done. Through the decades the church has adapted methods to help involve young people. Think of the many programs/ministries that have been developed to reach younger generations. The truth is many Millennial’s will not be reached with the same methods we have always used. If we are not willing to sing new songs, develop new programs, move the times of our Sunday worship services, as well as our midweek Bible study times there are many that we will not reach. Please allow me to be clear here. I am not talking about changing God’s Word in matters of faith and doctrine. I am talking about being flexible in some of our methods, etc. Surely, this is what Paul meant when he said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)
However, the news is not all bad. There is much good being accomplished. There are churches who are hosting dynamic Bible school programs, using advanced technology to teach the same Gospel we have always taught. There are many churches involved in programs such as Lads to Leaders where young people are developing their skills to be used for many years. We continue to learn of new leadership camps for boys and girls that will further their ability to teach others. Preacher Training Camps are being conducted by congregations around the country that teach young men how to develop and deliver sermons from the Word of God.
Our young people are reading books and being influenced in ways that previous generations have not known. We must not develop a defeatist, “the sky is falling,” mentality. God’s Word is as powerful as it has ever been. Hearts and lives can still be and are being changed. God is still Sovereign and He is still in charge of our universe. His Church will never crumble and fall (Daniel 2, Matthew 16:18, etc.) We need men and women of God who will rise to challenges presented by a new generation of Christians and non-Christians. We need to help our young people in every way we possibly can to ensure future growth in the Kingdom. We must focus more on the teaching of the Gospel. We need to be willing to show this generation that we really care about people by reaching out to the poor, hurting, and lonely. We need to communicate with your young people and not close them out of the dialogue taking place in the church. Our young people are not just the church of tomorrow, they should and can be a vital part of the life of the church today!
Dear Father, we thank You for Your infinite wisdom and for the plan You put into action long before we were born. Father, help us to love one another more, and help us to work together in all generations to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Dear God, may we never forget that You are in charge and that Your Sovereign Will can always be accomplished. Father help us to love your church, to love one another, and to love everyone around us who does not know Christ.