Last week I spent the week in Montreat, NC at a Youth Ministry event, Oasis. Oasis is put on by the Cooperative Baptist Youth Ministry Network, of which I am an active member and on the leadership team. I gathered with 70 other mostly CBF Youth Ministers as we spent the week learning, talking, laughing, worshipping, and supporting one another. Our keynote speaker was Brad Griffin, who is the director of the Fuller Youth Institute and has co-authored a new book, Growing Young. He led us in several sessions focusing on what the church can do better to attract and keep young people involved in the church. He was quick to say it’s not just about the youth group, or the youth minister, but it’s about the whole church. How can the entire church be more welcoming to keep young people involved within the life of the church?
This is an important question to ponder as our society is changing. The way most of us grew up is not the way teenagers and children are growing up. They are connected to each other via technology in ways we are still learning. Brad gave us some facts:
- 1 in 2 teenagers drift from God after age 18.
- No major Christian tradition is growing today.
- 18-29-year olds make up 17% of the US population, but only 10% of the church population.
I don’t know about you, but these figures stop me in my tracks. As I am just beginning my ministry among the good people of River Road, I have already begun asking myself how do we create an environment that is warm, full of Jesus, is authentic, and offers leadership opportunities for our children and youth. Brad said, “Christianity can be awkward, but Jesus is still compelling.” I will hold on to the good hope of this as I move forward in my ministry here as I believe this to be a church that teaches who Jesus is in authentic ways.
Written by Marnie Fisher-Ingram