New studies show that children and youth who are involved in the life and worship of the church are more likely to stay into adulthood while those with strong “youth programs” drop out.
Kate Murphy reflects in the Christian Century:
I’ve always met young Christians through youth programs. I’ve been hired by churches so committed to the discipleship of their young people that they’ve dedicated resources to creating specialized curriculae and activities. These churches expect regular events that are created exclusively to minister to young people.
But I wonder now if we’re ministering them right out of the church. …
When the youth were asked to contribute to the larger church, it was usually through manual labor, the only thing we thought they were capable of doing. Yes, we may have let them plan and lead one worship service a year, but we never dreamed of asking any of them to sit on the worship committee or serve as a regular worship leader. The message was that the church existed to serve them, not the other way around.
… I think I’ve done youth ministry with integrity.
But I may have been unintentionally disconnecting kids from the larger body of Christ. The young people at my current congregation—a church that many families would never join because “it doesn’t have anything for youth”—are far more likely to remain connected to the faith and become active church members as adults, because that’s what they already are and always have been.
How does your church do “youth ministry” or is it a separate thing?