We talk a lot about why young people leave the church. For Christian parents, this can be one of the most trying, faith-testing parts of parenthood. Youth group attendance is just no guarantee that your child will continue to be plugged into a church for the long run. So what sets apart the kids who stay in church?
Gospel Coalition contributor Jon Nielson shares three reasons young people will stay in church, long after parents stop bringing them every Sunday.
First, these kids are truly converted. “We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats,” Nielson writes. “We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them.”
To add to this, after conversion, we need to make disciples. Relevant contributor Tyler Edwards writes about the crucial need to take next steps with those who are newly converted. “For years churches have worked to get people to make a decision to accept Christ, which is a great thing. It’s important. But what happens next… A disciple is someone who finds their entire identity, purpose and meaning in Jesus. Jesus is the center of their lives. They are all in, fully committed.”
Related, Nielson’s second point is that the youth has been equipped, not entertained. “[A]fter conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches, and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them.”
Finally, Nielson reminds us that the kids who stay in church have had the gospel preached to them by their parents. “This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it's also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.”
In his Crosswalk post 5 Reasons Why Not All Young Adults Leave the Church, Pastor Joe McKeever echoes a lot of Nielson’s points, but also adds the influence of supportive friends and great role models as factors that help kids stay plugged into church community.
But both Nielson and McKeever agree: a genuine, personal relationship with Christ is first and foremost why children in the church grow into adults who stay in church. McKeever writes, “Only those who have internalized the gospel message, who have settled once and for all that Jesus Christ is alive and within them and that He hears their prayers and is intimately concerned about the minutest details of their lives, only these can be counted on to hang tough through these difficult years of transition and growth.”
Your turn: If you grew up in the church, what factors influenced you to stay? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.