The Reason Youth are Abandoning the Church (Principles #3 and #4)

One of the reasons I believe we are losing so many young people in the church today is because they don’t feel entrusted, engaged, or encouraged. There are no peers set up as leaders. Instead they are discredited, scolded, and criticized by people old enough to be there grandparents.

Many churches and Christian organizations today are suffering with what I call the FUBU* paradigm. Whoever is in charge of the church calls the shots for how the church looks, feels, and functions. If you have old leaders, old financiers, and old members, the organization or church will cater to an older audience or consumer. If you have young leaders, young financiers, and young members, the organization or church will cater to a younger audience or consumer. I wish there was a way to break this cycle, but in my limited experience, I haven’t found a solution.

As a result, what we are seeing today is a lot of older churches dying because they cannot maintain their own FUBU paradigm while their own consumers/audiences are dying off. This may be one of the biggest factors why there are so many statistics to why the church is dying.

When you have this paradigm working in the church, you are going to have fallout. An older audience is looking for a particular experience from church, while a younger audience is looking for something completely different. We can spit and argue as much as we want about who is right or who is wrong, but in the mean time we’re just losing the next generation.

If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a hundred times; We can’t pass down values without passion. If we want the next generation to stay in church and really stay close to God, then we have to find what their passion is. We have to be willing to focus on the basic essentials and forget about the preferential things we’ve given too much weight to.

If the church is going to survive over the next generation, it it going to look completely different than it does today. Are we willing to invest in the future knowing it won’t be what we would prefer or like?

This brings me to my third principle from Judges on reasons why generations get away from God.

Each generation needs leaders raised up from their generation. 

Now, I’m not talking about youth pastors who can play drums, lead worship, and rock at video games. I’m talking about the youth themselves. Let’s face it, parents don’t have much of an audience when it comes to talking to their kids. Teens are more likely to listen to another peer than an adult.

This leads me to another principle.

God uses colorful people to get the job done.  

Did you know that Gideon had multiple wives and a mistress to which he had 70 sons, one of which (born to the mistress) killed the other 69 to gain control over the people? Or that Gideon crafted a monument out of gold which inevitably was worshiped as an idol by his own household? Most of these judges wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of doing anything for God in this day and age. There is sort of a blind leading the blind scenario taking place here.

I love this quote from John Wesley.

“Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.”

From A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God

As long as ‘right opinion’ matters more than expanding the Kingdom, we will continue to see a church struggling and dying. 

*FUBU is a clothing company for the African-American community. FUBU is an acronynm for “For Us By Us.” The analogy simply refers to an instance where the church is designed to cater to a particular genre or age group. 

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6 Responses to The Reason Youth are Abandoning the Church (Principles #3 and #4)

  1. Nathan says:

    I agree with your points, Adam, and the need to raise up leaders from each “demographic” in the church is important.

    However, don’t you think that maybe the important point is that church, the church “experience”, and worshiping, has little to do with me or what I want, but simply to glorify God? I think that when you purposely try to cater to a certain demographic, compromise, or negotiate on those little things, there is still division because you are allowing those little things to take charge.

    When [the church leadership] teaches and instructs the young and the old that church is not about what we get out of it, but that it is about God, I believe you can truly transform your church and see growth, from both young and old. All those little things are not blown out of proportion, but fall by the wayside because they do not matter.

    • Adam Miller says:

      That is an astute point Nathan. Church isn’t about about us, it is about God. However, there are a lot of things in the church that are simply preference based. And when the founders fight tooth and nail to keep those preferences a part of the ‘worship experience’ they are effectively (falsely) teaching the next generation that the superficial does matter. I’m simply calling every group to order.

      When Paul wrote epistles he directed his comments mostly to the mature because they should know better. If my comments show any favor to the younger generations it is for that reason. I feel both parties are wrong to look at church with the FUBU paradigm. I just expect better behavior from the elders.

      Either way, a church is going to cater to one genre or another. I’ve heard people say, “This is the church that they founded and established. They should be allowed to die in a church with a pipe organ.” That is not only wrong, it’s the pride of life. They will die in a church with a pipe organ and the church will die too. Here’s my opinion: If the older generation is really concerned with the church of the future, they will be more tolerant to the methods used to communicate the same truth to them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a guitar. By saying, “You don’t need a guitar to worship,” you are by proxy saying, “You can’t worship with a guitar.” That’s not a logical fallacy, that’s an oxy moron.

      • Nathan says:

        I see what you’re saying and think that too many pastors ignore these points…

        But I think that the real issue is that the pastor’s need to adjust their thinking: those little issues are about US, not God. Like you said, they are preferential. If the leadership of the church is taking “ownership” like what you are suggesting, their heart is not in the right place; any local church belongs to none other than Christ!

        The point is to address the attitude of the young, the old, and the leadership. Church is not about what you get out of it, and that flies in the face of what most in our culture think about church!

        • Adam Miller says:

          I think we are saying the same thing Nathan. Ideally a church should worry about the things that matter and forget about that which doesn’t.

          However, it is impossible for a church to be devoid of contextualization. That is the point I’m making. As soon as you include music, illustrations, decorations, and anything abstract you contextualize the congregation. The balance is not to completely ignore this fact but to find the appropriate portions for both context and content. Tim Keller points out, “To over contextualize is to make a god of this culture, but to under contextualize is to make a god of another culture.” You can’t have a church devoid of culture any more than you can have a song devoid of melody.

          An interesting fact I found in my studies of generational differences is that the longer a church has been in a community, the less of an impact they have by way of connection. I believe that the only solution we have in America to prevent churches from dying off is to resurrect new churches to take their place. That’s why I am so passionate about church planting. Older existing churches should have a plan to replace themselves in the instance they become a 60 and older crowd that can’t reproduce anymore. A church plant is a viable solution.

          Yes, pastors need to direct their flock to focus on the heavenly over the earthly matters, but not to the point of becoming gnostic.

          • Nathan says:

            Good points and good research to back them up.

            I occasionally read your blog. I don’t know if you get much feedback, but your writing is relevant and challenging — keep up the work!

  2. Pingback: The Youth of the Church; The Future of the Nation « Jon's Deep Thoughts

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