Around the world, the youth population is growing rapidly, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Trends predict that in the coming years the populations of some of the quickest growing countries will be comprised of nearly 50 percent young people under the age of 24.
As the youth population grows, so does the church. In some areas, about 30 percent of regular church attenders are young people. This is wonderful news for the Christian church! But statistics also show that many of these young people who attend church with their parents will choose to leave the church as older teens and young adults. Many of them will abandon their faith altogether. The church risks losing a generation of disciples who will become tomorrow’s leaders and who have an important role to play in the church today.
How do we keep young people living in faith? Here are some ideas to consider:
- Help young people develop relationships with the larger church community. Provide opportunities for older people to share with and mentor the youth. Invite young people to serve in the church nursery, pass out church bulletins, participate in leading worship, or help with church maintenance. Being discipled and discipling others will help young people see they are a valued part of the body of Christ.
- Teach young people God’s grand story. Children often grow up knowing certain favorite Bible stories, but they miss out on the larger perspective of all that God has done for them. Help them understand that the whole Bible is one story: God’s amazing story of love and redemption. Guide them to realize that they each have an important part in His story—and that their faith shapes every aspect of their lives.
- Set an example of faith. Parents have the greatest influence in their children’s lives—even during the teen years. Parents and other adults who live out their faith in real ways and engage in real conversations about faith provide important examples of what it means to be a lifelong follower of Christ.
- Allow young people to ask difficult questions. Give them opportunities to express their doubts and share their concerns. If you do not know the answer, study Scripture together or seek the advice of a pastor or church leader. The better young people understand their faith, the more likely they are to make it a permanent part of their lives.
- Pray with and for the young people in your family and your church. Though you can encourage young people to attend church, only God can transform their hearts and minds as they engage in relationship with Him. Invite God to do His beautiful work in the lives of the young people you know…and then watch their faith grow!