Been doing quite a bit of research this week on students leaving the church after high school. I’ve read more research and statistics than I can bear, and I’m certain I’ve at least tightened my grip on the subject. Above all else, it’s caused me to reflect on what I’m doing (and more importantly, what I’m not doing) to help students prevent bailout.
A couple observations:
1. Every research is different with different results and reasons for students leaving
2. Some research is clearly skewed to reflect the researchers particular area of expertise
3. Students are leaving
4. It’s not as bad as some make it out to be
5. Nearly 50% return to the church
Through quite a bit of research and reading, I’ve narrowed my thoughts to 3 principles for helping students maintain their faith after high school. I’m sure there are more. These are mine.
1. Practice Biblical Parenting
Research says less than 1 in 20 church going families have some sort of spiritual connection with each other outside of church. I see this and live within it every single week.
Think About It: Lack of biblical parenting is the #1 reason for the exodus. Parents must be equipped. Parents: how are you doing in the home? Youth Pastors: what are you doing to train parents?
2. Youth Ministry Must Grow Up
MTV has a dynamic and cutting edge four-fold strategy for staying abreast and relevant. In contrast however, most youth pastors never contemplate what they are teaching, why they are teaching, and how they are teaching students. We must consciously embrace the thought of not just giving students answers but rather appetites. We must teach doctrine, apologetics, worldview, how to share and defend the faith, and cults and world religions.
Think About It: Can your students articulate the faith? Research says they can’t. Survey yours in the near future…but be prepared to be shocked. You and your students can take a free worldview test here.
3. Mentors and Messages
Sermons and bible studies will rarely be remembered (yes, they’re still vitally important). Relationships, however, will have enduring impact. Research overwhelmingly is confident in the fact that those who last beyond the pomp and circumstance have had significant spiritual relationships through high school.
Think About It: Parents: the youth pastor cannot be the answer to every student’s needs. Youth volunteers: the youth pastor cannot be the answer to every student’s needs. Youth Pastor: do you have a plan to equip your people to mentor students?
A simple formula combining biblical parenting, significant spiritual relationships, and a well thought out teaching emphasis may not slam the doors shut, but it will absolutely make a dent in preventing the exodus.
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