Recently there has been a discussion on the Warfield list about the necessity of youth ministry in churches. One of the contributers, Pastor James MacDonald, said this:
…youth ministry does not produce disciples. Every study, from Barna to the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention], tells the same story – few youth discipled through youth ministries stay the course – few embrace the faith of the youth minister, let alone their parents.
Where the SBC reports that 85% of their youth walk from the faith by their second year at university, Brian Ray with the National Home Education Research Institute reports 92% of homeschool graduates claim a faith similar to their parents.
This is not a call for home education – but it is a call for home discipleship.
The statistics are pretty shocking, and I wonder what the equivalent would be in the UK.
Now, I am not one who would want to ban all youth work, but I have to admit that over recent years I have increasingly become skeptical of the emphasis that churches often place upon it. It seems to become something of a sacred cow which cannot be questioned, and certainly not killed. But my own experience, where Susan and I led a youth work for a number of years, and that of some others leads me to believe that it is over-rated. Only one person out of the many 10s of kids that we worked with can I say for sure is a Christian. At best, it is a handmaiden to home discipleship. But if there is nothing in the home, then there is little hope for the youth group.
At Derwent we get some kids coming from the housing estate to our evening service. Recently we also had some visitors who were in the area for the weekend. When the visitors saw the children they were pleased and encouraged, as we all are. But then the fateful words came out which I have heard many times before,
“After all, they are the future of the church!”
I hate disagree with someone who is encouraged and wants to express it with these words. But they are wrong. Under God, the future of the church lies with adults, especially the parents. Evangelism (of Christians and non-Christians) needs to be directed to them. “Get” the parents, train them to be godly parents along the lines of Deuteronomy 6, and the children will follow.
Don’t you think?