For the last couple of months, churches and youth ministers have told me their kids are less committed to church activities and functions than they used to be.
Some of this might simply be due to a change in what it means to be “committed” to a local church today, which might look different than what it did 10 years ago. In the past, going to church three out of four weeks a month would have defined a committed church member, but today I would suggest that someone considers themselves committed to their local church if they attend two out of four weeks a month. Additionally, church commitment today is seen as connection to the church once a week. When many of us were growing up, church commitment would have included multiple touch points over the week. So like a climate change, we are seeing a commitment change that obviously affects multiple areas of the church.
The ebb and flow of church popularity aside, this change in church commitment likely shows up with lower Wednesday night numbers, fewer students in Bible study, fewer people going to camps that seem like they have a high price on them and fewer students willing to give up some of their time to serve on a mission trip.
Some churches that have been with us for years and always brought 30 people on a mission trip are now coming in with numbers more like 12-15. New youth leaders we engage in conversation and love the idea of getting their group involved in mission/service, come back to us with only having five or six kids committed (and) not sure it’s worth the effort to pull a trip together.Jeff Thompson, Executive Director of Group Mission Trips
I hear this often as well from churches that we serve with Student Life. One thing I hate to hear from a church is when they are canceling their space for a camp or conference because they registered for, let’s say, 40 and we hear “we can only get 23 to sign up so we are going to pull it off our calendar.” Or at Servant Life, we may have a group of 15-20 registered for a international mission trip and hear back that the group is struggling to get kids to commit the time and resources, and they can only get seven willing to go so they are going to cancel and try again next year. I take the approach that it is awesome that seven students are willing to go and make disciples in a foreign context. Don’t cancel; embrace those willing to serve and go for it.
We need not allow their lack of commitment to create student ministers who are less committed to what matters, such as growing in the Word with strong Bible studies, serving other people with multiple mission opportunities locally, domestically and globally, and finding ways to go on retreat from the busy world we all find ourselves in.Roger Davis
Moments like those don’t help grow the kids who are willing to commit their time to something of value and, in fact, signal to the group as a whole that those things are not really that important. So we have students who are less committed. That is often a reality. But we need not allow their lack of commitment to create student ministers who are less committed to what matters, such as growing in the Word with strong Bible studies, serving other people with multiple mission opportunities locally, domestically and globally, and finding ways to go on retreat from the busy world we all find ourselves in.
Regardless of the commitment level of your students, pray and ask the Lord to guide you on what you need to offer for their spiritual growth and development. If you believe the Lord calls you to do something, stick to it and go for it even if the numbers are less than you desired. I love talking to the student ministers at camp that said only three kids would come this week, but I came anyway and it has been life-changing and I am confident this time with them will change our church when we return. Love those heroes that are committed to students, every one of them.
Header image provided through creative commons. Adaptation from a photograph by Jonathon Reed.