The statistics are daunting. Depending on which poll you follow, anywhere from 70%-80% of our young people walk away from the church as they graduate high school. This means that of those twenty teens you have in your youth group, only three will keep coming when they reach adulthood. As we dig further, an even more disturbing trend comes to light. Our young people are not just staying home from church, they are turning from important truths in God’s Word (e.g., inerrancy of the Scriptures: creation, virgin birth, deity of Christ, Jesus is the only way to God).
I want to end the exodus of our young people from the faith. I will arrive at Bible Doctrines To Live By with a (long) list of ideas for resources. Bible Doctrines already offers Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) and Cowboy Camps that affect our young people for the Lord. Initially, I will concentrate on correspondence lessons for those who have attended VBS, compile a list of teaching materials for recommendation, and put together a teacher training seminar. My potential ideas for the future include youth rallies, family conferences, a daily devotional for teens, and Scriptural books geared toward children and more.
The more I have prayed for guidance, reflected on those statistics, and tried to temper my ideas, the more convinced I am that the greatest need our young people have is for YOU to be involved in actively and purposely training them in Christ. Please, understand, Bible Doctrines cannot train your young people for you. Although we plan to prepare resources and services for you to utilize, my plan to stop the departure is to remind you that training can only happen at the ground level.
1) Nurturing in the Home – Ephesians 5:22-6:4
In the book of Ephesians, Paul’s great expository on the Body of Christ, God inspired just as much content on relationships within the home as He did our Spiritual riches. There are just as many verses on the family as there are verses that reference the revealing of the Mystery. Of the verses in Ephesians directly speaking of the family, twelve of the sixteen deal with the relationship between the husband and wife. It should not be a surprise that children thrive in healthy homes. This is true of society in general, and it is important for young people remaining faithful to Lord. Husband, do your children observe you loving and cherishing your wife? Wife, do your children witness you respecting and appreciating your husband? Do they witness reconciliation between imperfect people? The environment for training is set by the husband-wife relationship.*
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
The adult your little one grows up to be will be influenced by what happens in the home. The home is not just to be a place to eat, sleep, relax, and co-exist. Training happens in the home. Dad and Mom set priorities. When you say that church is important but give an option for anything else, priorities are established for adulthood. Dad and Mom form habits. If you say that the Bible is important, but it sits on the shelf until the next time you attend church services, habits are being formed. Dad and Mom shape character. How we display our personality is what determines character. Parents discipline their children in the proper responses. Dad and Mom indoctrinate truth. A child’s Bible learning cannot consist solely of Sunday morning services. There should be formal family times around God’s Word, which do not need to be an hour-long seminary-level theology class, and informal times when situations arise and questions come up. The home is where they see that God’s Word is relevant and applicable. Dad and Mom instill responsibility. Allow your child to learn consequences for not taking care of our things. If they are part of the family, teach them that everyone is responsible for keeping it tidy. Teach them things have value. Dad and Mom model godliness. They see our reactions to others, hear how we talk about our neighbors, and learn forgiveness.
Parents instill values in their children that will last a lifetime. If we want our children to continue in the things of the Lord, parents, especially fathers, need to take the lead in bringing them up in the nurture (“tutoring”) and admonition (“calling attention to”) of the Lord. Responsibility for training children resides in the home.
2) Discipleship in Local Churches – Titus 2:1-8
Studies show pizza and games do not keep our young people in church. The church is not the cheaper version of Chuck E. Cheese’s. Fun is not a sin, and pizza is good. The warning is against displacing the centrality of the Bible. Young people need Bible lessons. Yet, training doesn’t end with a lecture. True training goes beyond words on a page. Training is an investment in someone’s life. We teach them what is true, show them what is true, model what is true, allow them to experience what is true, and supervise as they put it all into practice.
One such place Paul refers to this life investment is in Titus 2:4. It reads,
“That they [aged women] may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,” (parenthesis added).
You may read the word “teach” and picture these older women lecturing the younger women on loving their husbands and children. Actually, Titus is to do the sermonizing (Titus 2:1). The older women were to take the sermon and do the training (Titus 2:4). The older women were to come alongside the younger women to disciple them in how to live the life of a God-honoring lady. The older men are to do the same with the younger men.
Our responsibility as a church extends beyond Sunday services. A sermon in what is true and right is essential, but it is not the end. The church needs to pass along the relevancy of God’s Word. It is an investment of time in someone’s life.
As I look over my potential resource list once again, I am reminded that any resources that Bible Doctrines will offer one day will only be effective if there are willing participants in the family and local churches that are willing to invest in the lives of our young people. Training will take time. It will take effort. It may be difficult. It may get messy. It will be frustrating at times. You might not see the results right away. Yet, the Scriptures are clear – each of us is responsible for training the young people the Lord has brought into our circle of influence.
* With limited space, I can’t deal with every possible relationship scenario, but what about those who find themselves raising children alone? My cousin’s father abandoned the family when my cousin was a baby. He speaks of a godly mother and male mentors as he was growing up. He is currently a pastor and has a ministry to help children growing up in fatherless/motherless homes. So, don’t forget God’s grace is sufficient.