The decline of youth group

My first reponse:  Good.  The typical youth group has degenerated into lame touchy-feely, content-free, condescending, feel-good “activities.”  It is an encouraging sign when teenagers stop going to those.  Of course, the issue is bigger and more serious.  Teenagers are dropping out of church.  It may be that churches are contributing to that, via obviously shallow youth ministries.  But what should churches be doing?

Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.

“Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook,” says Barna president David Kinnaman.

“Sweet 16 is not a sweet spot for churches. It’s the age teens typically drop out,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, which found the turning point in a study of church dropouts. “A decade ago teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ ” . . .

Chris Palmer, youth pastor at Ironbridge Baptist Church in Chester, Va., says its youth group enrollment slid from 125 teens in 2008 to 35 last winter.

He pulled participation back up to 70 this year by letting teens know “real church, centered on Jesus Christ, is hard work,” Palmer says. “This involves the Marine Corps of Christianity. Once we communicate that, we see kids say, ‘Hey, I want to be involved in something that’s a little radical and exciting.’ ”

Rainer agrees. He says teens today want Scripture, they “don’t want superficiality. We need to tell them that if you are part of church life, you are part of something bigger. The church needs you, too.”

via ‘Forget the pizza parties,’ Teens tell churches – USATODAY.com.

Here is a successful youth ministry that does just that, giving unwatered down Scripture, depth, and the whole Church:Higher Things.

Do you have other ideas for keeping young people in church? Does anyone else have any success stories?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    I am glad you mentioned Higher Things in this post.

    If you want teenagers to be engaged in the church, you can’t wait till they are teenagers to address the issue. On going catechises is the key. The article contains the oft repeated “We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today” line. Well, if the kid is properly catechized he will know exactly why church is relevant. He will know exactly what needs of his it meets. The problem isn’t the church, its that the kids haven’t been taught what they need or why they need it.

  • Joe

    I am glad you mentioned Higher Things in this post.

    If you want teenagers to be engaged in the church, you can’t wait till they are teenagers to address the issue. On going catechises is the key. The article contains the oft repeated “We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today” line. Well, if the kid is properly catechized he will know exactly why church is relevant. He will know exactly what needs of his it meets. The problem isn’t the church, its that the kids haven’t been taught what they need or why they need it.

  • Anne

    My daughters as teenagers didn’t stay with conventional churches, but became involved in ministries which were reaching out to the poor regularly (at least weekly) and had regular Bible studies. All three took missions trips to developing countries. Depth of study was important and talks about serious issues. L’Abri was very helpful to one.

  • Anne

    My daughters as teenagers didn’t stay with conventional churches, but became involved in ministries which were reaching out to the poor regularly (at least weekly) and had regular Bible studies. All three took missions trips to developing countries. Depth of study was important and talks about serious issues. L’Abri was very helpful to one.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Very true, and yet I have found that teens aren’t have as shallow and dumb as some lame youth “pastors” think. We have seen huge success in youth groups that are set up to disciple teens in the faith. BTW, has anyone seen the “Ignatius” video on YouTube?

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Very true, and yet I have found that teens aren’t have as shallow and dumb as some lame youth “pastors” think. We have seen huge success in youth groups that are set up to disciple teens in the faith. BTW, has anyone seen the “Ignatius” video on YouTube?

  • http://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics/dp/1606088203/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281381732&sr=8-1 Matt C.

    I’d like to second Joe’s emphasis on on-going Catechesis; A large part of my own wandering off from Church was because instruction more-or-less stopped for me at confirmation. There were adult Bible studies, but no attempts to connect the recent “church graduates” to them.

    On that same note, we really need to stop sequestering the youth in groups of other youth. Surely we can find ways to help them contribute to and along with the rest of the church (as Anne demonstrates). If they had a real connection to the other people in the church, they might be less inclined to leave them.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics/dp/1606088203/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281381732&sr=8-1 Matt C.

    I’d like to second Joe’s emphasis on on-going Catechesis; A large part of my own wandering off from Church was because instruction more-or-less stopped for me at confirmation. There were adult Bible studies, but no attempts to connect the recent “church graduates” to them.

    On that same note, we really need to stop sequestering the youth in groups of other youth. Surely we can find ways to help them contribute to and along with the rest of the church (as Anne demonstrates). If they had a real connection to the other people in the church, they might be less inclined to leave them.

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    It’s anecdotal and a very short term experience, but when I was the vacancy pastor at my first church in Southern California, we had a fall and a spring session of weekly Bible Studies on Wednesday nights. In the spring, I decided I needed to focus on the teenagers, who had been previously ignored for the most part. In that six weeks, we went through “The Lutheran Difference” series on worship…nothing earth-shattering (besides the emphasis on word and sacrament). But what surprised me was that in the weeks I was there, attendance doubled (from 6 to 12). By the end of the study, the students would be texting each other (“y rnt u hre yet?”). It let me know that there was still a passion for community and an openness to learning Lutheran doctrine, even when it wasn’t the latest, greatest, most exciting thing ever. All it took was someone to say, “I care about you, I’m here for you.”

  • Jedidiah Maschke

    It’s anecdotal and a very short term experience, but when I was the vacancy pastor at my first church in Southern California, we had a fall and a spring session of weekly Bible Studies on Wednesday nights. In the spring, I decided I needed to focus on the teenagers, who had been previously ignored for the most part. In that six weeks, we went through “The Lutheran Difference” series on worship…nothing earth-shattering (besides the emphasis on word and sacrament). But what surprised me was that in the weeks I was there, attendance doubled (from 6 to 12). By the end of the study, the students would be texting each other (“y rnt u hre yet?”). It let me know that there was still a passion for community and an openness to learning Lutheran doctrine, even when it wasn’t the latest, greatest, most exciting thing ever. All it took was someone to say, “I care about you, I’m here for you.”

  • WebMonk

    What is the comparison of the population of children in church in general compared to the population of children in youth groups? Is the YG population dropping by about the same amount as the population in churches, or is there a disparity between the two groups?

    Just saying that the YG population is dropping is of minimal value unless it is put in context.

    For example: the article says YG populations are flat since 1999. Oh no!!!!

    Except if you consider that the total population of kids in church since 1999 has been dropping. When you consider that little detail, the number of kids going to youth group compared to kids going to church has actually risen. Youth groups are staying about the same size while the population of kids in church-proper has dropped!

    Does that mean that youth groups are doing a better job of getting kids into a church’s environment than the main church? Of course, just getting kids into a church’s environment isn’t necessarily teaching them anything about Christ.

    But my main point is that this study about youth groups doesn’t say what everyone here seems to be assuming it says. In fact, it seems to be saying the opposite.

    (disclaimer: I haven’t been able to track down the study which the article uses to say YG population has been flat since 1999, so there might be more information in that study which changes the picture. I don’t trust that a reporter actually writes correctly about statistics or science or or or….)

  • WebMonk

    What is the comparison of the population of children in church in general compared to the population of children in youth groups? Is the YG population dropping by about the same amount as the population in churches, or is there a disparity between the two groups?

    Just saying that the YG population is dropping is of minimal value unless it is put in context.

    For example: the article says YG populations are flat since 1999. Oh no!!!!

    Except if you consider that the total population of kids in church since 1999 has been dropping. When you consider that little detail, the number of kids going to youth group compared to kids going to church has actually risen. Youth groups are staying about the same size while the population of kids in church-proper has dropped!

    Does that mean that youth groups are doing a better job of getting kids into a church’s environment than the main church? Of course, just getting kids into a church’s environment isn’t necessarily teaching them anything about Christ.

    But my main point is that this study about youth groups doesn’t say what everyone here seems to be assuming it says. In fact, it seems to be saying the opposite.

    (disclaimer: I haven’t been able to track down the study which the article uses to say YG population has been flat since 1999, so there might be more information in that study which changes the picture. I don’t trust that a reporter actually writes correctly about statistics or science or or or….)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’m not going to claim any success. I’m in a small congregation with few youth. We don’t have a “youth group.” But for the most part the youth I do have do come to church, especially if their parents come to church.
    But it seems to me that we spend an inordinate amount of time with different Vbs programs and church camps, silly ditties and so forth teaching out kids in their formative years that the Christian faith is childish. We should then not be surprised when our children no longer are children that they put away childish things. Just a thought.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’m not going to claim any success. I’m in a small congregation with few youth. We don’t have a “youth group.” But for the most part the youth I do have do come to church, especially if their parents come to church.
    But it seems to me that we spend an inordinate amount of time with different Vbs programs and church camps, silly ditties and so forth teaching out kids in their formative years that the Christian faith is childish. We should then not be surprised when our children no longer are children that they put away childish things. Just a thought.

  • WebMonk

    Dr. Veith,
    A quick question about the Higher Things organization. Have there been any studies or research to see how it has impacted Lutheran churches and their youth?

    Has it increased the retention of kids? Brought kids from outside the church?

    You mentioned the HT group as a positive comparison and I wondered if there had been any studies to show how much of an impact it had.

  • WebMonk

    Dr. Veith,
    A quick question about the Higher Things organization. Have there been any studies or research to see how it has impacted Lutheran churches and their youth?

    Has it increased the retention of kids? Brought kids from outside the church?

    You mentioned the HT group as a positive comparison and I wondered if there had been any studies to show how much of an impact it had.

  • Kimberly

    I see first hand the effects of parents and youth alike not thinking “church” is truly important, especially to some families who live farther from the physical location. If parents don’t get up and drive to church, you won’t see them. You can do all you want to try to retain youth, but without parents encouraging–and after confirmation–driving them to church, how can we expect the youth to continue to learn when their parents won’t bring them?
    BTW, I am SO thankful for Higher Things because it actually helps kids [who make the commitment to go] see that Lutherans are cool, can have fun, and that God’s Word is fundamental to their lives.

  • Kimberly

    I see first hand the effects of parents and youth alike not thinking “church” is truly important, especially to some families who live farther from the physical location. If parents don’t get up and drive to church, you won’t see them. You can do all you want to try to retain youth, but without parents encouraging–and after confirmation–driving them to church, how can we expect the youth to continue to learn when their parents won’t bring them?
    BTW, I am SO thankful for Higher Things because it actually helps kids [who make the commitment to go] see that Lutherans are cool, can have fun, and that God’s Word is fundamental to their lives.

  • Rob

    Dr. Veith,

    Through your writings I have developed a great respect for you, so I am sorry to say that I believe your introductory comments to this post reflect poor thinking, poor theology, and poor charity.

    Because your statements are public (to your readers at least) and my critique is of them, not of you, I feel this is the proper forum to reply.

    Let’s take a look at your statement: “My first reponse: Good. The typical youth group has degenerated into lame touchy-feely, content-free, condescending, feel-good “activities.” It is an encouraging sign when teenagers stop going to those.” Inherent is the following logic:

    1. Most youth groups are lame and shallow.
    2.Youth should not attend sub-par youth groups
    3.Youth group attendance is down
    4.This drop is a positive sign

    I will respond to each:
    1. Most youth groups are lame and shallow – This sort of unnuanced, unsubstantiated statement is incredibly judgmental. I have worked as a youth leader for ten years, in two churches and in a juvenile detention center. I participate in local and regional youth leader meetings and the youth ministry programs of my local seminary and Christian college. I would never make such a blanket statement. In my observation (the extent of which you can now evaluate), most programs are run with a genuine desire to reach young people with the Gospel truth. Most are run by people who genuinely desire to do so in a faithful and effective way. Your broad statement disparages thousands of workers with no effort at contextualizing or backing your claim. Poor scholarship and poor charity.

    2. Youth should not attend sub-par youth groups – I once read an author on the topic of Vocation. That author said, “Essentially, your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present…Vocation is to be found not simply in future career decisions, but in the here and now.” That author would seem to imply that a youth faced with a sub-par youth offering should, instead of abandoning it, seek how they can serve others by helping to improve it. That author wrote The Spirituality of the Cross. The author was you.

    3. Youth group attendance is down – a previous commenter has pointed out that this is a spurious conclusion. If there are fewer youth in church, but an equal number in youth programs, then attendance is up, percentage-wise. This may even indicate that there is more, not less “meat” being offered, as regular church attenders make up a larger percentage of overall youth group attendance.

    4. This drop is a positive sign – As a youth leader, I believe that both the content of the offering and the Christ-centered contact with the youth are essential. The opportunities for prayer, for confession and absolution, and for Biblical/theological instruction happen within the framework of a personal relationship. A personal relationship that may not have existed were it not for that pizza party or game of laser tag. Any time that youth are less connected with adults who profess the same faith and exhibit a desire to nurture their younger brothers and sisters, it is a cause for lament, not rejoicing. Regardless of whether we believe those adults to be utilizing the best catechetical techniques.

    I have responded at length to just a few sentences because I believe those few sentences were carelessly stated and disparaging to (because they were not contextualized or quantified) an innumerable group of people seeking to live out their God-given vocation in spreading the Gospel to a particularly difficult-to-reach segment of our population. I would lovingly exhort you to speak more graciously and considerately on the topic in the future. I welcome any dialogue and apologize if my statements have been personally hurtful in any way.

  • Rob

    Dr. Veith,

    Through your writings I have developed a great respect for you, so I am sorry to say that I believe your introductory comments to this post reflect poor thinking, poor theology, and poor charity.

    Because your statements are public (to your readers at least) and my critique is of them, not of you, I feel this is the proper forum to reply.

    Let’s take a look at your statement: “My first reponse: Good. The typical youth group has degenerated into lame touchy-feely, content-free, condescending, feel-good “activities.” It is an encouraging sign when teenagers stop going to those.” Inherent is the following logic:

    1. Most youth groups are lame and shallow.
    2.Youth should not attend sub-par youth groups
    3.Youth group attendance is down
    4.This drop is a positive sign

    I will respond to each:
    1. Most youth groups are lame and shallow – This sort of unnuanced, unsubstantiated statement is incredibly judgmental. I have worked as a youth leader for ten years, in two churches and in a juvenile detention center. I participate in local and regional youth leader meetings and the youth ministry programs of my local seminary and Christian college. I would never make such a blanket statement. In my observation (the extent of which you can now evaluate), most programs are run with a genuine desire to reach young people with the Gospel truth. Most are run by people who genuinely desire to do so in a faithful and effective way. Your broad statement disparages thousands of workers with no effort at contextualizing or backing your claim. Poor scholarship and poor charity.

    2. Youth should not attend sub-par youth groups – I once read an author on the topic of Vocation. That author said, “Essentially, your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present…Vocation is to be found not simply in future career decisions, but in the here and now.” That author would seem to imply that a youth faced with a sub-par youth offering should, instead of abandoning it, seek how they can serve others by helping to improve it. That author wrote The Spirituality of the Cross. The author was you.

    3. Youth group attendance is down – a previous commenter has pointed out that this is a spurious conclusion. If there are fewer youth in church, but an equal number in youth programs, then attendance is up, percentage-wise. This may even indicate that there is more, not less “meat” being offered, as regular church attenders make up a larger percentage of overall youth group attendance.

    4. This drop is a positive sign – As a youth leader, I believe that both the content of the offering and the Christ-centered contact with the youth are essential. The opportunities for prayer, for confession and absolution, and for Biblical/theological instruction happen within the framework of a personal relationship. A personal relationship that may not have existed were it not for that pizza party or game of laser tag. Any time that youth are less connected with adults who profess the same faith and exhibit a desire to nurture their younger brothers and sisters, it is a cause for lament, not rejoicing. Regardless of whether we believe those adults to be utilizing the best catechetical techniques.

    I have responded at length to just a few sentences because I believe those few sentences were carelessly stated and disparaging to (because they were not contextualized or quantified) an innumerable group of people seeking to live out their God-given vocation in spreading the Gospel to a particularly difficult-to-reach segment of our population. I would lovingly exhort you to speak more graciously and considerately on the topic in the future. I welcome any dialogue and apologize if my statements have been personally hurtful in any way.

  • WebMonk

    Kimberly, somehow I don’t think your description of Higher Things is quite what Dr. Veith had in mind when he described HT as something better than “touchy-feely, content-free, condescending, feel-good “activities.””

    Having an HT youth group that helps kids see that “Lutherans are cool”, that Lutherans “can have fun”, and that God’s Word is fundamental to Lutherans’ lives sounds like it’s exactly the same as how Dr. Veith described all those other youth groups.

    I am quite sure there is more to that youth group than that, but I don’t think your youth group (at least the way you described it) would make Dr. Veith’s cut of youth groups of which it is a good thing that kids attend.

  • WebMonk

    Kimberly, somehow I don’t think your description of Higher Things is quite what Dr. Veith had in mind when he described HT as something better than “touchy-feely, content-free, condescending, feel-good “activities.””

    Having an HT youth group that helps kids see that “Lutherans are cool”, that Lutherans “can have fun”, and that God’s Word is fundamental to Lutherans’ lives sounds like it’s exactly the same as how Dr. Veith described all those other youth groups.

    I am quite sure there is more to that youth group than that, but I don’t think your youth group (at least the way you described it) would make Dr. Veith’s cut of youth groups of which it is a good thing that kids attend.

  • kerner

    The following is just an anecdote, not a recommendation, because if I could do it over my parenting (my adult life generally) would be very different from what it actually was.

    My wife and I had five children in eight years. We almost always took them to church on Sundays, but much less often to Sunday School. They all went to Lutheran Schools K-8. 3 graduated from Lutheran High. One went 2yrs Lutheran High, 2yrs public. One went 4yrs public. I encouraged the kids in public schools to attend Bible studies, but the 3 in Lutheran High relied pretty much on their religion classes.

    I never encouraged them to go to our church youth group activities, which they (and, I have to admit, I) regarded as kind of lame.

    They ended up following paths I did not follow myself and that I did not expect.

    My oldest daughter joined the Marine Corps, served in Iraq, got married, and now has 2 baptized children and one on the way. She says that after the new one is born that she will enter the CUW adult education program and study theology. Her family attends an LCMS church regularly, and her only school age child attends the her church’s grade school.

    My youngest daughter married her boyfriend when she was 20 in 2007 and they now have an 8 week old (baptized) son. She attends the same church as my oldest daughter, and her husband recently joined it by adult confirmation.

    My three single children travel a lot pursuing either their educations and/or military duties. Their church attendance is therefore somewhat spotty. But they all, in varying degrees, demonstrate an interest in, and a commitment to, Christianity. When they go to church in Milwaukee, they tend to go to the church my daughters attend, which is not the one my wife and I attend, nor is it either of the churches they grew up in. Their church is urban, traditionally German (there is a stained glass window in an alcove depicting C.F.W. Walther), but is now ethnicly diverse. It is liturgical in practice. The youngest, and most active, pastor is about 60. He is a doctrinally solid preacher, but not a great orator. Their church has a good choir, but no praise band I am aware of. Probably due to changing demographics in the neighborhood, membership is not what it once was, but (this is only my observation) I think it is stabilizing. Being in the city, the school could be a “choice” school, but they have decided against that. They do have a program of financial aid.

    I doubt very seriously that any of my children are particularly aware of recent controversies within the LCMS.

    I’m not sure what all this means, except that, in my case, “youth group” and other touchy feely aspects of Christianity seem to have been non-factors in my children’s spiritual journeys. And yet they appear to be going in what I believe is the right direction; growing in Christ in various ways and stages of development.

    Again, this is only an anecdote, but take it for what it may be worth.

  • kerner

    The following is just an anecdote, not a recommendation, because if I could do it over my parenting (my adult life generally) would be very different from what it actually was.

    My wife and I had five children in eight years. We almost always took them to church on Sundays, but much less often to Sunday School. They all went to Lutheran Schools K-8. 3 graduated from Lutheran High. One went 2yrs Lutheran High, 2yrs public. One went 4yrs public. I encouraged the kids in public schools to attend Bible studies, but the 3 in Lutheran High relied pretty much on their religion classes.

    I never encouraged them to go to our church youth group activities, which they (and, I have to admit, I) regarded as kind of lame.

    They ended up following paths I did not follow myself and that I did not expect.

    My oldest daughter joined the Marine Corps, served in Iraq, got married, and now has 2 baptized children and one on the way. She says that after the new one is born that she will enter the CUW adult education program and study theology. Her family attends an LCMS church regularly, and her only school age child attends the her church’s grade school.

    My youngest daughter married her boyfriend when she was 20 in 2007 and they now have an 8 week old (baptized) son. She attends the same church as my oldest daughter, and her husband recently joined it by adult confirmation.

    My three single children travel a lot pursuing either their educations and/or military duties. Their church attendance is therefore somewhat spotty. But they all, in varying degrees, demonstrate an interest in, and a commitment to, Christianity. When they go to church in Milwaukee, they tend to go to the church my daughters attend, which is not the one my wife and I attend, nor is it either of the churches they grew up in. Their church is urban, traditionally German (there is a stained glass window in an alcove depicting C.F.W. Walther), but is now ethnicly diverse. It is liturgical in practice. The youngest, and most active, pastor is about 60. He is a doctrinally solid preacher, but not a great orator. Their church has a good choir, but no praise band I am aware of. Probably due to changing demographics in the neighborhood, membership is not what it once was, but (this is only my observation) I think it is stabilizing. Being in the city, the school could be a “choice” school, but they have decided against that. They do have a program of financial aid.

    I doubt very seriously that any of my children are particularly aware of recent controversies within the LCMS.

    I’m not sure what all this means, except that, in my case, “youth group” and other touchy feely aspects of Christianity seem to have been non-factors in my children’s spiritual journeys. And yet they appear to be going in what I believe is the right direction; growing in Christ in various ways and stages of development.

    Again, this is only an anecdote, but take it for what it may be worth.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Many of the youth groups I’ve seen have been pretty shallow; as head usher in my former church, I’d see them down in the gym playing basketball or whatever while the adults were listening to a sermon. And hence I wonder what the good is; we teach children that they’re welcome in Sunday School, youth group, kids’ outreaches, children’s church, VBS, retreats…..really anything BUT the Sunday morning service, and then when they grow up, we wonder why they take the hint and never show up Sunday morning.

    There is a place for reaching out to young people at their level and with things they like to do, but there is an even greater need to make sure they are integrated into the life of a church.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Many of the youth groups I’ve seen have been pretty shallow; as head usher in my former church, I’d see them down in the gym playing basketball or whatever while the adults were listening to a sermon. And hence I wonder what the good is; we teach children that they’re welcome in Sunday School, youth group, kids’ outreaches, children’s church, VBS, retreats…..really anything BUT the Sunday morning service, and then when they grow up, we wonder why they take the hint and never show up Sunday morning.

    There is a place for reaching out to young people at their level and with things they like to do, but there is an even greater need to make sure they are integrated into the life of a church.

  • Matt

    I do this highlights the need for Christian education at the grade school and high school level. Catechism class has the value of teaching Christians proper theology and church gives them the opportunity to come in contact with God’s Word. However, I’m sure it’s fairly easy for these kids who might only be in a Christian setting for an hour or two every week (or much less if they skip a few weeks) to come to the conclusion that God isn’t a big part of their life.

    Contrast that with the type of teaching that I recieved when I was at my Lutheran high school. A theology class was mandatory and we had 15 minute daily chapel services after our first class. I’m sure that some students had no appreciation for chapel or class, but even for them, hearing about Jesus everyday does have an impact.

    Although it was a great experience for me, it would be an incredible challenge to grow Christian education to where young people have the opportunity to go to a Christian school for all levels of education and where Jesus is praised daily. That’s an ideal that we’re far from.

    I think youth groups are okay if they are making a serious attempt at helping young people hear the gospel. And for a teen who wouldn’t have had that opportunity otherwise that’s a good thing. It may help that he’s comfortable and is in the company of his pears. For every teen who is more excitable with friends, that setting might let another teen be more comfortable asking his youth pastor theogical questions. Personally I don’t have any problem with them, and in the hands of good leadership I’m sure they have a lot of benefits. I just don’t think those benefits come close to approaching those of, for instance, a Christian high school that takes seriously teaching about Christ.

  • Matt

    I do this highlights the need for Christian education at the grade school and high school level. Catechism class has the value of teaching Christians proper theology and church gives them the opportunity to come in contact with God’s Word. However, I’m sure it’s fairly easy for these kids who might only be in a Christian setting for an hour or two every week (or much less if they skip a few weeks) to come to the conclusion that God isn’t a big part of their life.

    Contrast that with the type of teaching that I recieved when I was at my Lutheran high school. A theology class was mandatory and we had 15 minute daily chapel services after our first class. I’m sure that some students had no appreciation for chapel or class, but even for them, hearing about Jesus everyday does have an impact.

    Although it was a great experience for me, it would be an incredible challenge to grow Christian education to where young people have the opportunity to go to a Christian school for all levels of education and where Jesus is praised daily. That’s an ideal that we’re far from.

    I think youth groups are okay if they are making a serious attempt at helping young people hear the gospel. And for a teen who wouldn’t have had that opportunity otherwise that’s a good thing. It may help that he’s comfortable and is in the company of his pears. For every teen who is more excitable with friends, that setting might let another teen be more comfortable asking his youth pastor theogical questions. Personally I don’t have any problem with them, and in the hands of good leadership I’m sure they have a lot of benefits. I just don’t think those benefits come close to approaching those of, for instance, a Christian high school that takes seriously teaching about Christ.

  • jim_claybourn

    Pr Tim Pauls (of HT fame) had a great interview on issues,etc in May dealing with this topic:

    http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/485050710H1S2.mp3

    He says that churches in many ways are too much like the secular culture – kids are treated like they are invinceable, we stress “your best life now”, the importance of being, looking and acting young, instead of appreciating age and wisdom. Churches (and youth group) need to stress to all ages that we are mortal and we need to prepare to die! If the church doesn’t do that, where else can the kids hear it? Why go to youth group for pizza and games, when I can hang out with the really “cool” (or whatever the current term is) kids and eat pizza and play games?

  • jim_claybourn

    Pr Tim Pauls (of HT fame) had a great interview on issues,etc in May dealing with this topic:

    http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/485050710H1S2.mp3

    He says that churches in many ways are too much like the secular culture – kids are treated like they are invinceable, we stress “your best life now”, the importance of being, looking and acting young, instead of appreciating age and wisdom. Churches (and youth group) need to stress to all ages that we are mortal and we need to prepare to die! If the church doesn’t do that, where else can the kids hear it? Why go to youth group for pizza and games, when I can hang out with the really “cool” (or whatever the current term is) kids and eat pizza and play games?

  • Bethany Kilcrease

    I would guess that the best way to keep teens in church is for them to see adults in their 20s and early to mid-30s in church. Too often there are almost no young adults in church. There are teens whose parents force them to attend and then a long gap until adults have children and decide they should maybe get them baptized and go back to church. So it looks like becoming an adult involves dropping out of church or at least a while. I really think that having young adults model Christian habits by just attending church would make a bit of difference. Of course, that just shifts the question to how to keep young adults attending church…

    Bethany Kilcrease

  • Bethany Kilcrease

    I would guess that the best way to keep teens in church is for them to see adults in their 20s and early to mid-30s in church. Too often there are almost no young adults in church. There are teens whose parents force them to attend and then a long gap until adults have children and decide they should maybe get them baptized and go back to church. So it looks like becoming an adult involves dropping out of church or at least a while. I really think that having young adults model Christian habits by just attending church would make a bit of difference. Of course, that just shifts the question to how to keep young adults attending church…

    Bethany Kilcrease

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    I suppose my major concern is the suggestion that a youth group having a pizza supper (or even, heaven forfend a laser-tag night) would inevitably be evidence of a dearth of deep spiritual instruction. That seems to me like suggesting just because a congregation has a potluck, it’s evidence that the church is vapid in its teachings from the pulpit. Might I humbly suggest instead that such events are meant to build community among Lutherans, be they youth group age, or fifty-years-in-the-pew age? And surely developing deeper relationships with fellow believers is not exactly a bad thing. As a young Lutheran myself, one of my greatest frustrations is the fact that there are so few young Lutherans around (at least in my area). I’ll agree that a group that focuses entirely on community without taking doctrine and faith seriously is a bad thing; but a focus on catechesis without recognition of the importance of Christian community is a similarly poor idea. That’s how we end up with churches full of individuals rather than brothers and sisters.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    I suppose my major concern is the suggestion that a youth group having a pizza supper (or even, heaven forfend a laser-tag night) would inevitably be evidence of a dearth of deep spiritual instruction. That seems to me like suggesting just because a congregation has a potluck, it’s evidence that the church is vapid in its teachings from the pulpit. Might I humbly suggest instead that such events are meant to build community among Lutherans, be they youth group age, or fifty-years-in-the-pew age? And surely developing deeper relationships with fellow believers is not exactly a bad thing. As a young Lutheran myself, one of my greatest frustrations is the fact that there are so few young Lutherans around (at least in my area). I’ll agree that a group that focuses entirely on community without taking doctrine and faith seriously is a bad thing; but a focus on catechesis without recognition of the importance of Christian community is a similarly poor idea. That’s how we end up with churches full of individuals rather than brothers and sisters.

  • DonS

    The linked article is severely lacking in hard comparative data. The teen population fluctuates a lot because of birth boom and bust cycles, for example. I’m pretty sure that the Baby Boomlet which generationally followed the Baby Boom peaked in the mid 1980′s, when our oldest son was born, and those kids are in their twenties now. So, there may be fewer teens now, in absolute terms, than there were five or ten years ago. Other factors may be at work as well, including the severe proportional decline of the white population, which is overrepresented in most Protestant churches.

    Regardless, the issue isn’t really about numbers in youth groups. It’s about Christian families raising and discipling their children in the faith. Catechizing your children is a must. Preparing them for a life of dedication to Christ is a must. Christ prepared His disciples for Christian service by modeling Christianity to them for three continuous years. Parents would do well to adopt that same approach. We have our children for a season, and we should endeavor to spend as much time just being with them and modeling Christ for them as we possibly can. One way our family did that was by choosing a church with a pastoral staff that we admired for its dedication to Christian service, and which preached the Gospel using biblical, contextual exposition. Our children sit with us in service, not in youth group, listen, and take sermon notes. They have all enjoyed this — they look forward to worshiping together as a family.

  • DonS

    The linked article is severely lacking in hard comparative data. The teen population fluctuates a lot because of birth boom and bust cycles, for example. I’m pretty sure that the Baby Boomlet which generationally followed the Baby Boom peaked in the mid 1980′s, when our oldest son was born, and those kids are in their twenties now. So, there may be fewer teens now, in absolute terms, than there were five or ten years ago. Other factors may be at work as well, including the severe proportional decline of the white population, which is overrepresented in most Protestant churches.

    Regardless, the issue isn’t really about numbers in youth groups. It’s about Christian families raising and discipling their children in the faith. Catechizing your children is a must. Preparing them for a life of dedication to Christ is a must. Christ prepared His disciples for Christian service by modeling Christianity to them for three continuous years. Parents would do well to adopt that same approach. We have our children for a season, and we should endeavor to spend as much time just being with them and modeling Christ for them as we possibly can. One way our family did that was by choosing a church with a pastoral staff that we admired for its dedication to Christian service, and which preached the Gospel using biblical, contextual exposition. Our children sit with us in service, not in youth group, listen, and take sermon notes. They have all enjoyed this — they look forward to worshiping together as a family.

  • WebMonk

    Thin, what do you think you’re doing here?!?! How dare you make a reasonable suggestion that pizza party doesn’t automatically indicate poor Biblical instruction and training!?! Shame on you for using common sense around here.
    :-)

    Joking aside, that’s a good point to remember. I attended a church from 10 years of age through 20-something. It shifted in style over time, from a somewhat light on Biblical training and heavy on fun to a pure Bible study. The guy who led the pure Bible study time was very much of the persuasion that Bible study ought not be mixed with any spurious activities. He was passionate and a good instructor, and had a heart to reach the kids with training and the gospel of Christ.

    The youth group dropped to four kids (two of which were his) from over a dozen within a year. The kids still came to church with their parents, but managed to skip youth group somehow or other.

    There is a happy medium between building relationship and a community and going the all-games or all-study route.

    (and yes, this is just an example, and the plural of example is not data, but I think it’s an example that matches the larger data studies)

  • WebMonk

    Thin, what do you think you’re doing here?!?! How dare you make a reasonable suggestion that pizza party doesn’t automatically indicate poor Biblical instruction and training!?! Shame on you for using common sense around here.
    :-)

    Joking aside, that’s a good point to remember. I attended a church from 10 years of age through 20-something. It shifted in style over time, from a somewhat light on Biblical training and heavy on fun to a pure Bible study. The guy who led the pure Bible study time was very much of the persuasion that Bible study ought not be mixed with any spurious activities. He was passionate and a good instructor, and had a heart to reach the kids with training and the gospel of Christ.

    The youth group dropped to four kids (two of which were his) from over a dozen within a year. The kids still came to church with their parents, but managed to skip youth group somehow or other.

    There is a happy medium between building relationship and a community and going the all-games or all-study route.

    (and yes, this is just an example, and the plural of example is not data, but I think it’s an example that matches the larger data studies)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Rob at 10.
    just thinking about your critique a little, and I think I disagree with it on a few levels. Perhaps not all youthgroup programs are shallow. However, my experiences both as a youth and as an adult have left me with that impression. Mostly I found them to be parents trying to find constructive or fun things for their kids to do, that were healthy or wholesome. Yet it was forced fun that wasn’t much fun. I have not had the pleasure of going to a higher things conference so I;; withold judgment positive or negative. Though from what I see it does not trivialize the faith trying to make it hip or whatever, and that is helpful.

    However my biggest problem with your critiue is this. “2. Youth should not attend sub-par youth groups – I once read an author on the topic of Vocation. That author said, “Essentially, your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present…Vocation is to be found not simply in future career decisions, but in the here and now.” That author would seem to imply that a youth faced with a sub-par youth offering should, instead of abandoning it, seek how they can serve others by helping to improve it. That author wrote The Spirituality of the Cross. The author was you.”
    Christ says something about the blind leading the blind. It is not the vocation of a teenager to be the teacher of other teenagers. It is not his/her vocation to lead a youth group. In fact it is probably beyond their ability all together to make the youth group any more substancial than it already is. I imagine the best they could do is offer a few ideas for fun things to do. But you tell me, how is one to teach what they do not know? That the leader of the group is doing a poor job is not a call for the teenager to usurp the role of youth group leader. He has no call, read vocation, in this arena.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Rob at 10.
    just thinking about your critique a little, and I think I disagree with it on a few levels. Perhaps not all youthgroup programs are shallow. However, my experiences both as a youth and as an adult have left me with that impression. Mostly I found them to be parents trying to find constructive or fun things for their kids to do, that were healthy or wholesome. Yet it was forced fun that wasn’t much fun. I have not had the pleasure of going to a higher things conference so I;; withold judgment positive or negative. Though from what I see it does not trivialize the faith trying to make it hip or whatever, and that is helpful.

    However my biggest problem with your critiue is this. “2. Youth should not attend sub-par youth groups – I once read an author on the topic of Vocation. That author said, “Essentially, your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present…Vocation is to be found not simply in future career decisions, but in the here and now.” That author would seem to imply that a youth faced with a sub-par youth offering should, instead of abandoning it, seek how they can serve others by helping to improve it. That author wrote The Spirituality of the Cross. The author was you.”
    Christ says something about the blind leading the blind. It is not the vocation of a teenager to be the teacher of other teenagers. It is not his/her vocation to lead a youth group. In fact it is probably beyond their ability all together to make the youth group any more substancial than it already is. I imagine the best they could do is offer a few ideas for fun things to do. But you tell me, how is one to teach what they do not know? That the leader of the group is doing a poor job is not a call for the teenager to usurp the role of youth group leader. He has no call, read vocation, in this arena.

  • Stephanie

    I think it depends on what you want youth group to be. Our youth group is purposefully activities-only. We have youth group to give the kids a chance to socialize outside of Sunday School (they do not all attend the same school, or even school district). It’s the “play at play” part of work-play-worship distinction. The activities may be 100% play (movies, game night, laser tag), or some combo of play and service (baking cookies for shut-ins, making a meal for the homeless shelter), but we don’t pretend it is worship or study.

    It also does not take place on Sunday mornings. On Sunday mornings there is church. And Bible study / Sunday school.

    We do, however, round up all of the youth every other year and take them to Higher Things. Which they enjoy.

    And for WebMonk’s question “You mentioned the HT group as a positive comparison and I wondered if there had been any studies to show how much of an impact it had.” —

    I highly doubt it. And I doubt anyone will do such a study in the future since most participants would say that numbers are not the goal and that doing such a study would change the focus from where it should be – on Christ. But when you are there, and you are with a bunch of kids who are eagerly deciding between going to a class on “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Liturgy” and “Classical Antiquity, Christianity, and Hollywood Movies” (answer: both! one of them was offered twice), when they still talk about a breakaway session 2, 3, and 4 years later, it would be hard to argue that the conference had no impact.

  • Stephanie

    I think it depends on what you want youth group to be. Our youth group is purposefully activities-only. We have youth group to give the kids a chance to socialize outside of Sunday School (they do not all attend the same school, or even school district). It’s the “play at play” part of work-play-worship distinction. The activities may be 100% play (movies, game night, laser tag), or some combo of play and service (baking cookies for shut-ins, making a meal for the homeless shelter), but we don’t pretend it is worship or study.

    It also does not take place on Sunday mornings. On Sunday mornings there is church. And Bible study / Sunday school.

    We do, however, round up all of the youth every other year and take them to Higher Things. Which they enjoy.

    And for WebMonk’s question “You mentioned the HT group as a positive comparison and I wondered if there had been any studies to show how much of an impact it had.” —

    I highly doubt it. And I doubt anyone will do such a study in the future since most participants would say that numbers are not the goal and that doing such a study would change the focus from where it should be – on Christ. But when you are there, and you are with a bunch of kids who are eagerly deciding between going to a class on “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Liturgy” and “Classical Antiquity, Christianity, and Hollywood Movies” (answer: both! one of them was offered twice), when they still talk about a breakaway session 2, 3, and 4 years later, it would be hard to argue that the conference had no impact.

  • WebMonk

    Thanks for the insight into HT, Stephanie. Since it was the falling numbers which Dr. Veith was pointing to as evidence of other youth group’s failings and then praised HT as a superior way, I figured numbers would be an important part of how HT was measured.

    There are lots of different purposes for various groups, and you’re absolutely right – if HT isn’t focused on reaching the unchurched, but rather on training the churched children, then counting the numbers isn’t going to be a very good look at HT. Like you mentioned for your youth group – it’s not trying to be an instructional time, so evaluating it by how much kids are instructed in it is pretty useless.

  • WebMonk

    Thanks for the insight into HT, Stephanie. Since it was the falling numbers which Dr. Veith was pointing to as evidence of other youth group’s failings and then praised HT as a superior way, I figured numbers would be an important part of how HT was measured.

    There are lots of different purposes for various groups, and you’re absolutely right – if HT isn’t focused on reaching the unchurched, but rather on training the churched children, then counting the numbers isn’t going to be a very good look at HT. Like you mentioned for your youth group – it’s not trying to be an instructional time, so evaluating it by how much kids are instructed in it is pretty useless.

  • Rob

    BrorErickson at 20 -
    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think we probably share a fair bit of common ground here – neither of us would advocate a full-bore “abandon ship!” approach and neither of us would advocate a youth becoming a youth pastor. Both of us would encourage the youth to provide helpful feedback to their pastor/leader, indicating their desire for more direction, more study. Both of us would encourage the youth seeking that direction and study to truly make the most of the opportunities offered to themselves.

    When I was a Junior in high school, I stopped attending youth group because the Bible Study element was removed entirely and I had better ways to spend an hour-and-a-half on Sunday evenings. I am sympathetic to the concerns.

    I would disagree with you in one way. You state that it is not the vocation of a teenager to teach other teenagers. You imply that this would be an example of the blind leading the blind. There are two implicit problems that I see with this statement. Or, perhaps a better way of putting it, potential weak spots:

    1. It assumes that teenagers cannot teach one another. Inherent in this idea is the assumption that teenagers are some kind of mini-Christians. But if they are well-instructed and insightful enough to confirm their baptism (most of the comments have centered on Sr. High age offerings), are they not equipped enough to offer words of exhortation to one another? I Timothy 4:12 is our youth group’s theme verse: “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

    2. Doesn’t the assumption that no teen should teach another undermine the idea of the priesthood of all believers? They are all capable of prayer, of studying Scripture, of confession and absolution – why shouldn’t they be encouraged to speak the Gospel into one another’s lives?

    I only respond because it is such a pattern within the church (the North American church, at least) to treat youth as being incapable of anything but consuming and then wondering why their teens aren’t getting plugged in.

    I fear that encouraging them to disengage from “shallow” groups might only reinforce this consumerism rather than teach the much more valuable lesson of serving within the human (and therefore sinful and deficient) circumstances where God has placed them. If this becomes impossible, then indeed God may be calling them (vocation, again) to find better leadership and instruction elsewhere.

  • Rob

    BrorErickson at 20 -
    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think we probably share a fair bit of common ground here – neither of us would advocate a full-bore “abandon ship!” approach and neither of us would advocate a youth becoming a youth pastor. Both of us would encourage the youth to provide helpful feedback to their pastor/leader, indicating their desire for more direction, more study. Both of us would encourage the youth seeking that direction and study to truly make the most of the opportunities offered to themselves.

    When I was a Junior in high school, I stopped attending youth group because the Bible Study element was removed entirely and I had better ways to spend an hour-and-a-half on Sunday evenings. I am sympathetic to the concerns.

    I would disagree with you in one way. You state that it is not the vocation of a teenager to teach other teenagers. You imply that this would be an example of the blind leading the blind. There are two implicit problems that I see with this statement. Or, perhaps a better way of putting it, potential weak spots:

    1. It assumes that teenagers cannot teach one another. Inherent in this idea is the assumption that teenagers are some kind of mini-Christians. But if they are well-instructed and insightful enough to confirm their baptism (most of the comments have centered on Sr. High age offerings), are they not equipped enough to offer words of exhortation to one another? I Timothy 4:12 is our youth group’s theme verse: “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

    2. Doesn’t the assumption that no teen should teach another undermine the idea of the priesthood of all believers? They are all capable of prayer, of studying Scripture, of confession and absolution – why shouldn’t they be encouraged to speak the Gospel into one another’s lives?

    I only respond because it is such a pattern within the church (the North American church, at least) to treat youth as being incapable of anything but consuming and then wondering why their teens aren’t getting plugged in.

    I fear that encouraging them to disengage from “shallow” groups might only reinforce this consumerism rather than teach the much more valuable lesson of serving within the human (and therefore sinful and deficient) circumstances where God has placed them. If this becomes impossible, then indeed God may be calling them (vocation, again) to find better leadership and instruction elsewhere.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    a pastor like bror who really trys to improve constantly at being all and only about the life death and resurrection of Jesus is all that is needed here.

    consider that 2-10% of the youth are likely to be young gay men and women in any age range from ages 4 to adulthood. the point i would make is that any pastor who focusses on faith alone, christ alone will retain these youth over the long term. It worked for me. and it has worked for many others….

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    a pastor like bror who really trys to improve constantly at being all and only about the life death and resurrection of Jesus is all that is needed here.

    consider that 2-10% of the youth are likely to be young gay men and women in any age range from ages 4 to adulthood. the point i would make is that any pastor who focusses on faith alone, christ alone will retain these youth over the long term. It worked for me. and it has worked for many others….

  • Booklover

    I agree with the person who said that youth group can be a balance between fun times (which build community) and challenging, disciple-type training. Our youth group has game times, but they also came back from ministering to the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho by scraping and painting houses, building wheelchair ramps, etc., all in 110-degree weather. This after raising funds to go to minister in Puerto Rico, then that trip fell through and they went to Idaho instead.

    The youth made a report on their trip, and it was followed by treats and root beer floats for all age levels. It was great.

    I think our youth, especially those with character, will follow Christ if given a challenge. They have so much energy that it makes me envious.

  • Booklover

    I agree with the person who said that youth group can be a balance between fun times (which build community) and challenging, disciple-type training. Our youth group has game times, but they also came back from ministering to the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho by scraping and painting houses, building wheelchair ramps, etc., all in 110-degree weather. This after raising funds to go to minister in Puerto Rico, then that trip fell through and they went to Idaho instead.

    The youth made a report on their trip, and it was followed by treats and root beer floats for all age levels. It was great.

    I think our youth, especially those with character, will follow Christ if given a challenge. They have so much energy that it makes me envious.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Do you have other ideas for keeping young people in church?

    YES! Unfortunately it would require their parents to do something.

    I asked Pr. Tim Pauls to give this detailed presentation to my congregation: Will Our Children Stay within the Church? I strongly urge everyone with concerns about this issue to listen to the full presentation. Check out the rest of the Hausvater Project while you’re at it. Pretty much all of it is pertinent to this question.

    All “youth programs” will fail the youth.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Do you have other ideas for keeping young people in church?

    YES! Unfortunately it would require their parents to do something.

    I asked Pr. Tim Pauls to give this detailed presentation to my congregation: Will Our Children Stay within the Church? I strongly urge everyone with concerns about this issue to listen to the full presentation. Check out the rest of the Hausvater Project while you’re at it. Pretty much all of it is pertinent to this question.

    All “youth programs” will fail the youth.

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ Carol-Christian Soldier

    bring in speakers like Marshall Foster-David Barton-Peter Marshall-et.al. to teach them the true CHRISTIAN history of this great Republic-
    Husband and I went to our first Homeschool convention -(off spring was 8 months old)- in the early ’80-’s-
    both of us had advanced education-
    while I was taking care of off-spring-husband went to a seminar —he came rushed toward me –
    “You’ve got to come and hear this guy -either we’ve been lied to or he’s a kook.”
    We had been lied to in school…
    The ‘guy’ was Marshal Foster who teaches true history-something our young do NOT get in school!!
    We did an ‘about face’ and have never turned back–
    Our youth need the same —and will respond to it—
    Youth seek strength and truth…
    C-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ Carol-Christian Soldier

    bring in speakers like Marshall Foster-David Barton-Peter Marshall-et.al. to teach them the true CHRISTIAN history of this great Republic-
    Husband and I went to our first Homeschool convention -(off spring was 8 months old)- in the early ’80-’s-
    both of us had advanced education-
    while I was taking care of off-spring-husband went to a seminar —he came rushed toward me –
    “You’ve got to come and hear this guy -either we’ve been lied to or he’s a kook.”
    We had been lied to in school…
    The ‘guy’ was Marshal Foster who teaches true history-something our young do NOT get in school!!
    We did an ‘about face’ and have never turned back–
    Our youth need the same —and will respond to it—
    Youth seek strength and truth…
    C-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ Carol-Christian Soldier

    that would be “… he came rushing toward me…”
    C-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ Carol-Christian Soldier

    that would be “… he came rushing toward me…”
    C-CS

  • WebMonk

    “You’ve got to come and hear this guy -either we’ve been lied to or he’s a kook.”

    Oh history is certainly edited in what is taught in schools, but that doesn’t mean Foster isn’t a kook. He is. His “history” has about as much similarity what what is found in actual period documentation as what is found in typical school curricula. He’s just warped a 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

  • WebMonk

    “You’ve got to come and hear this guy -either we’ve been lied to or he’s a kook.”

    Oh history is certainly edited in what is taught in schools, but that doesn’t mean Foster isn’t a kook. He is. His “history” has about as much similarity what what is found in actual period documentation as what is found in typical school curricula. He’s just warped a 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    History, no matter how accurate, will not keep our children in the church. Look instead to God’s Word, rightly preached, and made part of one’s daily life.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    History, no matter how accurate, will not keep our children in the church. Look instead to God’s Word, rightly preached, and made part of one’s daily life.

  • Ryan

    You know my family was not exceptionally devout, that is we didn’t talk to much about faith and Jesus, it was just always the backdrop of our lives. ‘Portals of Prayer’ was in the bathroom for some reading, there was a Bible and Hymnal around. I never went to any youth group activities… but the men in my family, my Father and Grandfathers and Uncles went to church – even in snowstorms, even on vacation and so forth… They sang, the participated in the Liturgy, when something needed to be done at church they stepped up and did it, one Grandpa was an elder and a trustee (though I did not know this until I was an adult). That had the biggest impact on my faith, more than any fun and games or even Confirmation.

    As I look over the flock God has given to me care – I can almost see the same thing in play. If the men go to church the children will continue in the church. If the men do not, even if mom does, there is less of a chance they will continue.

    So my suggestion is not for this or that in the sense of a youth group (which is great for building relationships among the diverse youth) but families, led by the men, to attend church (yes and sing/participate in the liturgy) and just generally act as if church is actually important in their and their families lives. Yea, it doesn’t always work – but I bet if we could get this going we would have a higher rate of return than any youth program.

  • Ryan

    You know my family was not exceptionally devout, that is we didn’t talk to much about faith and Jesus, it was just always the backdrop of our lives. ‘Portals of Prayer’ was in the bathroom for some reading, there was a Bible and Hymnal around. I never went to any youth group activities… but the men in my family, my Father and Grandfathers and Uncles went to church – even in snowstorms, even on vacation and so forth… They sang, the participated in the Liturgy, when something needed to be done at church they stepped up and did it, one Grandpa was an elder and a trustee (though I did not know this until I was an adult). That had the biggest impact on my faith, more than any fun and games or even Confirmation.

    As I look over the flock God has given to me care – I can almost see the same thing in play. If the men go to church the children will continue in the church. If the men do not, even if mom does, there is less of a chance they will continue.

    So my suggestion is not for this or that in the sense of a youth group (which is great for building relationships among the diverse youth) but families, led by the men, to attend church (yes and sing/participate in the liturgy) and just generally act as if church is actually important in their and their families lives. Yea, it doesn’t always work – but I bet if we could get this going we would have a higher rate of return than any youth program.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    You’ve got it 100% right, Ryan! Amen.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    You’ve got it 100% right, Ryan! Amen.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    A 1994 statistical report from Switzerland (“The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner) shows the crucial impact of church attendance by fathers.

    * If both father and mother attended church regularly then 33 per cent of their children became regular churchgoers, a further 41 per cent irregular attenders and about a quarter not practising at all.

    * If the mother was a regular church attender but the father irregular then only 3 per cent of their children became regular church attenders, 59 per cent irregular attenders and 38 per cent non-attenders.

    * If the father was non-practising and the mother regular only 2 per cent of children were regular and 37 per cent irregular church attenders. 61 per cent did not attend church at all.

    * Surprisingly, if the father is a regular church attender the children’s religious practice varied in an inverse relationship to their mothers’ practice. If the mother was regular 33 per cent of children were regular. If she was an irregular attender then 38 per cent of children were regular. If the mother was non-practising then 44 per cent of children became regular attenders.

    * Even when the father is an irregular attender and the mother non- practising 25 per cent of the children were regular attenders and 23 per cent irregular attenders.

    In summary, if a father does not go to church, no matter how regular the mother is in her religious practice, only one child in 50 becomes a regular church attender. But if a father attends regularly then regardless of the practice of the mother at least one child in three will become a regular church attender.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    A 1994 statistical report from Switzerland (“The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner) shows the crucial impact of church attendance by fathers.

    * If both father and mother attended church regularly then 33 per cent of their children became regular churchgoers, a further 41 per cent irregular attenders and about a quarter not practising at all.

    * If the mother was a regular church attender but the father irregular then only 3 per cent of their children became regular church attenders, 59 per cent irregular attenders and 38 per cent non-attenders.

    * If the father was non-practising and the mother regular only 2 per cent of children were regular and 37 per cent irregular church attenders. 61 per cent did not attend church at all.

    * Surprisingly, if the father is a regular church attender the children’s religious practice varied in an inverse relationship to their mothers’ practice. If the mother was regular 33 per cent of children were regular. If she was an irregular attender then 38 per cent of children were regular. If the mother was non-practising then 44 per cent of children became regular attenders.

    * Even when the father is an irregular attender and the mother non- practising 25 per cent of the children were regular attenders and 23 per cent irregular attenders.

    In summary, if a father does not go to church, no matter how regular the mother is in her religious practice, only one child in 50 becomes a regular church attender. But if a father attends regularly then regardless of the practice of the mother at least one child in three will become a regular church attender.

  • WebMonk

    Eric and Ryan, you guys are quite right that it is far better that an entire family attend church.

    And now I would like to talk about the vast majority of the world instead of that tiny little slice you guys are talking about.

    The group I work with has exactly ZERO biological fathers still living with the kids out of 100+ apartments. (I know this because I have talked with the person in charge of the low-income housing complex and she has to know who is staying in the apartments.) MAYBE 25% have a married man in the household. About half have a male in the household at all outside of children. Almost a quarter don’t live with either parent. In the entire community there are maybe six families that attend church regularly with a parent/guardian. (our church has gone door-to-door and found only three, but there might be a couple more in there because we only talked with about half)

    It’s a moderately low-income area, and when I’ve talked with other people who deal with similar sorts of low-income groups the tale gets worse as the groups get poorer.

    By all means, let’s just make sure the entire family, especially the dads, continue with the churches so their kids are well raised in the gospel and won’t leave the church when the get older. We’ll definitely avoid those youth groups that do so much harm.

    Oh wait, none of the kids went to church in the first place, and oops, most of them don’t have intact families, and darn it, most of the moms are working jobs that work Sunday mornings, and bugger it all, a good-sized bunch of the kids don’t even know who their dads are so it’s going to be a bit tricky to get in touch with their dads to bring them to church.

    But other than that, you guys have a wonderful grasp on how churches should handle kids!

  • WebMonk

    Eric and Ryan, you guys are quite right that it is far better that an entire family attend church.

    And now I would like to talk about the vast majority of the world instead of that tiny little slice you guys are talking about.

    The group I work with has exactly ZERO biological fathers still living with the kids out of 100+ apartments. (I know this because I have talked with the person in charge of the low-income housing complex and she has to know who is staying in the apartments.) MAYBE 25% have a married man in the household. About half have a male in the household at all outside of children. Almost a quarter don’t live with either parent. In the entire community there are maybe six families that attend church regularly with a parent/guardian. (our church has gone door-to-door and found only three, but there might be a couple more in there because we only talked with about half)

    It’s a moderately low-income area, and when I’ve talked with other people who deal with similar sorts of low-income groups the tale gets worse as the groups get poorer.

    By all means, let’s just make sure the entire family, especially the dads, continue with the churches so their kids are well raised in the gospel and won’t leave the church when the get older. We’ll definitely avoid those youth groups that do so much harm.

    Oh wait, none of the kids went to church in the first place, and oops, most of them don’t have intact families, and darn it, most of the moms are working jobs that work Sunday mornings, and bugger it all, a good-sized bunch of the kids don’t even know who their dads are so it’s going to be a bit tricky to get in touch with their dads to bring them to church.

    But other than that, you guys have a wonderful grasp on how churches should handle kids!

  • WebMonk

    I apologize for my comment above. One of the boys who is an off-and-on attender at our youth group just found out the man he always thought of as his dad isn’t. It was a rough day in some ways and I let it carry over to my comment. I’m sorry, Eric and Ryan.

  • WebMonk

    I apologize for my comment above. One of the boys who is an off-and-on attender at our youth group just found out the man he always thought of as his dad isn’t. It was a rough day in some ways and I let it carry over to my comment. I’m sorry, Eric and Ryan.

  • kerner

    Ryan and Erich, DDS:

    I suppose my personal anecdote (@12) supports your theory. But Webmonk has a point: what approach should be used for young people whose fathers are absent? Shouldn’t there be a “plan B”?

  • kerner

    Ryan and Erich, DDS:

    I suppose my personal anecdote (@12) supports your theory. But Webmonk has a point: what approach should be used for young people whose fathers are absent? Shouldn’t there be a “plan B”?

  • kerner

    Webmonk:

    Sheesh, don’t apologize. I repeat, you have a point.

  • kerner

    Webmonk:

    Sheesh, don’t apologize. I repeat, you have a point.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    WebMonk, if that is the limit of your bile expressed here, you have my encouragement to indulge it. Did Jesus miss every time he swung that whip in the Temple?

    No, you have aimed true, and my church also has an issue with kids who, if not fatherless, might as well be. Hence the children’s church coordinator (myself) tries to acquaint these little ones with Biblical models of family they may not see at home.

    (send our gracious host a note, and five will get you ten he might have some further thoughts to share….thanks for the encouragement!)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    WebMonk, if that is the limit of your bile expressed here, you have my encouragement to indulge it. Did Jesus miss every time he swung that whip in the Temple?

    No, you have aimed true, and my church also has an issue with kids who, if not fatherless, might as well be. Hence the children’s church coordinator (myself) tries to acquaint these little ones with Biblical models of family they may not see at home.

    (send our gracious host a note, and five will get you ten he might have some further thoughts to share….thanks for the encouragement!)

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Webmonk, I forgive you for your anger. You have a valid point, but the presentation I linked above addresses both Ryan’s spot-on point about getting dads to go to church and your valid concern about those with non-existent dads. I recommend everyone listen to it: Will Our Children Stay within the Church?

    You also raised another valid concern about kids who have never even attended church. However, the question asked above was about KEEPING kids in church, not getting them there in the first place. There is, perhaps, a place for outreach “programs” for these unchurched youth. This was the original purpose of “Sunday School” and VBS programs. Unfortunately, parents have come to use these programs as a substitute for raising their children in the faith in their own homes, and sometimes even a substitute for church itself – and it is a pitiful substitute. I believe the continued existence of Sunday School now generally causes more harm than good in most congregations.

    A VERY important aspect of this whole issue is addressed in this excellent paper: The Liturgy as Beacon for the Elect. Put briefly with regard to this discussion, there is a “Functional Arminianism” at work in our thinking about the lost youth that causes us all a great deal of misplaced guilt.

  • http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com Erich Heidenreich DDS

    Webmonk, I forgive you for your anger. You have a valid point, but the presentation I linked above addresses both Ryan’s spot-on point about getting dads to go to church and your valid concern about those with non-existent dads. I recommend everyone listen to it: Will Our Children Stay within the Church?

    You also raised another valid concern about kids who have never even attended church. However, the question asked above was about KEEPING kids in church, not getting them there in the first place. There is, perhaps, a place for outreach “programs” for these unchurched youth. This was the original purpose of “Sunday School” and VBS programs. Unfortunately, parents have come to use these programs as a substitute for raising their children in the faith in their own homes, and sometimes even a substitute for church itself – and it is a pitiful substitute. I believe the continued existence of Sunday School now generally causes more harm than good in most congregations.

    A VERY important aspect of this whole issue is addressed in this excellent paper: The Liturgy as Beacon for the Elect. Put briefly with regard to this discussion, there is a “Functional Arminianism” at work in our thinking about the lost youth that causes us all a great deal of misplaced guilt.

  • Ryan

    I’m sorry if I offended, my post was not to be smug – but my own experience and thoughts. I truly have no cut and dried easy answers on how to get Fathers to Church, youth involved, or how to help those without such a family structure (though I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the problem – I work with end results of this issue in a prison ministry).

    Thank you WebMonk for reminding me about the broader view outside my parish. I take no offense from anything posted.

  • Ryan

    I’m sorry if I offended, my post was not to be smug – but my own experience and thoughts. I truly have no cut and dried easy answers on how to get Fathers to Church, youth involved, or how to help those without such a family structure (though I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the problem – I work with end results of this issue in a prison ministry).

    Thank you WebMonk for reminding me about the broader view outside my parish. I take no offense from anything posted.

  • WebMonk

    Thanks guys, I get short tempered I guess when the topic comes up with assumptions of a rural or suburban 1950s population. About half the children in our church are children of adults who attend the church. (and we probably classify as a suburban sort of church taking our immediately surrounding demographics into account) The other half aren’t, and disparaging youth groups and statements about how the REAL way to get kids to stay in church is to have them in the main service all the time and properly instruct their parents in doctrine and practice.

    That is only applicable for a small and specific set of situations. It’s like saying the best way to reduce infant mortality is to ensure kids are always properly strapped into their car seats – only a fraction of the kids in the world ride in cars. Only a fraction of the kids in the US have parents who attend church.

  • WebMonk

    Thanks guys, I get short tempered I guess when the topic comes up with assumptions of a rural or suburban 1950s population. About half the children in our church are children of adults who attend the church. (and we probably classify as a suburban sort of church taking our immediately surrounding demographics into account) The other half aren’t, and disparaging youth groups and statements about how the REAL way to get kids to stay in church is to have them in the main service all the time and properly instruct their parents in doctrine and practice.

    That is only applicable for a small and specific set of situations. It’s like saying the best way to reduce infant mortality is to ensure kids are always properly strapped into their car seats – only a fraction of the kids in the world ride in cars. Only a fraction of the kids in the US have parents who attend church.

  • Kandyce

    The commenters here have demonstrated that the question of how to get/retain youth in church is a multi-faceted one, but it is extremely important to note that children who have parents (especially fathers) who are active in their churches and active spiritual leaders at home are more likely to become active themselves. I think that too many modern parents neglect their duties to lead and nurture their children spiritually, believing that it is something best left to the “professionals”. And then youth leaders have the overwhelming weight of offering spiritual guidance and nurturing to a host of children who prefer to gather in social groups for the purpose of socializing, and only those children who are truly social creatures enjoy these groups. It is no wonder that the career span of a youth director is a statisically very short one.
    Sorry, four years later, and I’m just discovering how burned out and bitter I may truly be.

  • Kandyce

    The commenters here have demonstrated that the question of how to get/retain youth in church is a multi-faceted one, but it is extremely important to note that children who have parents (especially fathers) who are active in their churches and active spiritual leaders at home are more likely to become active themselves. I think that too many modern parents neglect their duties to lead and nurture their children spiritually, believing that it is something best left to the “professionals”. And then youth leaders have the overwhelming weight of offering spiritual guidance and nurturing to a host of children who prefer to gather in social groups for the purpose of socializing, and only those children who are truly social creatures enjoy these groups. It is no wonder that the career span of a youth director is a statisically very short one.
    Sorry, four years later, and I’m just discovering how burned out and bitter I may truly be.

  • Kimberly

    @ Web Monk 11

    I can see that I chose my words unwisely when referring to the benefits of Higher Things. Rather than saying they learn that “God’s Word is fundamental to their lives” I should have said, “Youth get catechesis that strengthens their faith and helps them to articulate that faith when asked or challenged by peers, and they learn in it such away that they are excited at the depth the wisdom and power of God’s Word”.

    And as for Christians being “cool”, that was unwise, too. Too often I think youth get the idea that the Christian life is one of “Thou shalt nots” and don’t understand that there is enjoyment within the boundaries God set. Being around other Christians who do understand this encourages them and sets good precedents for the times peers start pushing bad/harmful behaviors (another benefit of HT) .

    I hope my comments weren’t completely misunderstood so as to throw a pall on or disparage Higher Things. It’s not a shallow, touchy-feely, or lame road trip by any means, and I don’t think anyone familiar with it could say it is. I sincerely apologize if my ill-framed comments gave that impression. My youth (and I) love that HT challenges them to be genuine, to live in their Baptisms daily, and to mine the depths of God’s Word, not settling for platitudes and shallowness. They wouldn’t put up with that for anything.

  • Kimberly

    @ Web Monk 11

    I can see that I chose my words unwisely when referring to the benefits of Higher Things. Rather than saying they learn that “God’s Word is fundamental to their lives” I should have said, “Youth get catechesis that strengthens their faith and helps them to articulate that faith when asked or challenged by peers, and they learn in it such away that they are excited at the depth the wisdom and power of God’s Word”.

    And as for Christians being “cool”, that was unwise, too. Too often I think youth get the idea that the Christian life is one of “Thou shalt nots” and don’t understand that there is enjoyment within the boundaries God set. Being around other Christians who do understand this encourages them and sets good precedents for the times peers start pushing bad/harmful behaviors (another benefit of HT) .

    I hope my comments weren’t completely misunderstood so as to throw a pall on or disparage Higher Things. It’s not a shallow, touchy-feely, or lame road trip by any means, and I don’t think anyone familiar with it could say it is. I sincerely apologize if my ill-framed comments gave that impression. My youth (and I) love that HT challenges them to be genuine, to live in their Baptisms daily, and to mine the depths of God’s Word, not settling for platitudes and shallowness. They wouldn’t put up with that for anything.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ” If the men go to church the children will continue in the church. If the men do not, even if mom does, there is less of a chance they will continue.”

    Men lead everything. It is the natural order. No one naturally follows women. Women are to help, not lead. It is a natural law just like gravity. And like gravity, nature is the enforcer. Sure men have created vast hierarchies such as corporations and some women have “worked” their way up with the help of the long brutal arm of the EEOC. But what vast hierarchies have women created? yeah, none. Okay, what small ones? crickets. Women don’t lead. Mostly because incredibly few would follow. Does the Bible set forth a pattern for female leadership? No. Nor does evolutionary theory, nor does eastern philosophy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ” If the men go to church the children will continue in the church. If the men do not, even if mom does, there is less of a chance they will continue.”

    Men lead everything. It is the natural order. No one naturally follows women. Women are to help, not lead. It is a natural law just like gravity. And like gravity, nature is the enforcer. Sure men have created vast hierarchies such as corporations and some women have “worked” their way up with the help of the long brutal arm of the EEOC. But what vast hierarchies have women created? yeah, none. Okay, what small ones? crickets. Women don’t lead. Mostly because incredibly few would follow. Does the Bible set forth a pattern for female leadership? No. Nor does evolutionary theory, nor does eastern philosophy.

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  • Joe Bigliogo

    In many cases they are not only dropping out of church but are losing their faith and rejecting the Christian belief system itself. Why?—because they don’t enjoy being lied to. There is an explosive growth in the atheist movement for which vast numbers of young people find very refreshing in contrast to the fear based primitive doctrines. I feel Christianity itself is in terminal decline in developed countries. We may see the day when Christianity is thrown on the dung heap of defunct religions—I only wish I’d be still alive to see it.

  • Joe Bigliogo

    In many cases they are not only dropping out of church but are losing their faith and rejecting the Christian belief system itself. Why?—because they don’t enjoy being lied to. There is an explosive growth in the atheist movement for which vast numbers of young people find very refreshing in contrast to the fear based primitive doctrines. I feel Christianity itself is in terminal decline in developed countries. We may see the day when Christianity is thrown on the dung heap of defunct religions—I only wish I’d be still alive to see it.

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