Home » Discipleship » Discipling the Young Generation: Part 3

Discipling the Young Generation: Part 3

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I read a study that said only 4% of the young people who attend church during high school continue to do so after leaving high school. If that’s even close to accurate, that means that over 90% of young people just opt out of church. That is a massive statistic, and raises a lot of questions about what we need to be doing.

What if they leave because they have no reason to stay? I’m positive they would stay, if they really understood God.

So how can we get young people to understand who God is? How can we teach young people about who He really is, the lover of human souls who sent His son to die? How can we teach the joy of Jesus? If you really know what it’s like to hang with the King of Kings, the creator of everything, and receive the gift of joy from Him, you won’t walk away. You won’t say, “Okay, I did that church thing. I’m out.” That doesn’t make sense!

Try reading about the character of God, and who He is and what He is about. Read Psalm 91 and reflect on David’s adoration for God. I mean, why would anybody leave the God who says,

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

But kids do leave. They don’t realize who God is, and who Jesus is, in His full form. They don’t truly feel God’s love in any of the ways in which it finds fulfillment. We should be creating opportunities that will cause them to say, “If what I feel right now is Jesus, then this is what I want.”

I think the only way to do this is by discipling them.

I’ve seen what happens with the college kids that go through Dave Batstone’s Not For Sale Academy. In the press conferences, when they speak, they are very, very confident. Most college kids aren’t that sure of themselves in front of a group of people. But Dave’s students take the podium and just hammer it out. They say, “This is what we’ve seen, and we cannot take this anymore!” They say, “Slavery is wrong, this is why, and we cannot stand for it.” It’s awesome. They’re so passionate! They don’t care what people think. They don’t worry about their own comfort. They’re focused on something much greater than themselves. They know exactly who God is.

Jesus said, “I have come to set the captives free! The slaves will be free! I have come to heal the broken hearts.” He said all those things and more. He said, “I have come. I am the river of life, I am the bread of life, I’m food for your hunger, I’m your shelter, I’m your strong tower, I will protect those who find their dwelling in Me.” Jesus cares about shelter, He cares about food, He cares about water, He cares about those who have broken hearts and those who are enslaved.

You want to give young people the experience of God’s love? Teach them about Jesus. Give them opportunities to walk in His footsteps, and speak prophetically about His love and compassion for those who suffer from poverty or hunger or slavery. This is the way to teach the young generation. Because anyone who really understands love like this, will never leave.

15 thoughts on “Discipling the Young Generation: Part 3

  1. The rate of kids who stop going to Church after high school is alarming. I was reading a great article about this not too long ago that offered up some reasoning. One of which is this. At high school, relationship between youth leaders and kids is often for the kids. What do you need? how can we get you to come to our Youth group etc Once they get to college age, that relationship dynamic slowly starts to disintegrate. The dynamic becomes less inward looking to more outward. When faced with the social issues of the world, many late teens and early twenties don’t have a response to such travesties. For so long it has been all about them. The resulting feeling is that they have been in a bubble of false living. That they haven’t witnessed the true world. The reality is, God cares about social issues. He cares about the homeless. The widows. The sick. The poor. The needy. He cares about the child at home without an earthly father and His heart aches!

    If we as leaders of our youth are able to connect these issues with our young people earlier and show them that the King of Kings does care for them, but also the world. Teach them these scriptures. Show practical examples around them and then give them practical application. I have found this to be tremendously successful in retaining teens as they mature because they already have an outward focus of the world that is Christ and they care.

    This ties in with the discipleship of these young people for sure. After all the great commission not only says to baptize and disciple but to ‘teach them my ways.’ Teaching the world perspective from the fathers heart is powerful.

    There is a great song by Brandon Heath that has a line “Give me your eyes for just one second…” If our teens can see the world through the eyes of our Lord, even for just one second, it is much harder to walk away from a God who loves you.

  2. “I’m positive they WOULD stay, if they really understood God.” Haha… this is the exact kind of language that turns OFF the new generation.

    Did he ever think that maybe they DO understand God? And that maybe they think the old generation …has it all wrong?

    • Brian,

      I am intrigued with your short and questionable comment. Thanks for you input however I think that it has so loose ends. You seem pretty confident that you know God and us of the”older generation” do not. ( I am 31, by the way). I doubt many would agree with you if you asked them if I was out of touch with the younger generation and I don’t think I can agree or disagree with you due to the fact you didn’t explain why your generation understands God and and my “older generation” doesn’t. I am hoping you understand that I am defending the young adults of today and not offending them. I am also assuming you understand that when I say church I don’t mean four walls and a roof, I am actually talking about the whole community of believers from all around the world. I am trying to explain how the Love of our God is so much greater than what has been advertised and through a lack of knowledge of that love young people are unfortunately missing out on the greatest most fulfilling life and acceptance ever offered. That being said please elaborate on what you mean by your generation know more and we have it wrong. I am old so I might have missed it:)

      • Jeremy,

        Forgive me for not writing sooner. The comment was not originally meant to be posted on your blog, but as a response to a facebook post. I gave permission to have it posted with the complete understanding that my response was… well… incomplete.

        But to be clear, my argument is defensible on the following grounds:

        The blog discusses a group of people that went to church at one time and no longer do. Please remember that I am talking SPECIFICALLY about that group and not the young population in general. You claim that if they understood God (or more specifically, the way that YOU understand God), they would stay. My argument is that there is a DIFFERENT understanding of God and his love, and it does not require attendance at church. In fact, one might argue that in the older generation, those youth see ULTERIOR MOTIVES in church attendance, such as the need to APPEAR spiritual, as opposed to the real point of being there, which is to develop your personal relationship with God.

        It is not that they know MORE, but they know differently, and it should not be alarming that they turn from the church to learn for themselves, as I would be more fearful if they adhered blindly to tradition for tradition’s sake!

        If the goal is church attendance, then that is not my religion. If the goal is to exhibit our relationship with God so that others might see how great it is and join us? The church isn’t necessary. Helpful to US, for other reasons, perhaps, but unnecessary.

        And let’s not make any logical leaps, now, Jeremy… I’m 26, and certainly not of the subject generation… though… I hope… of their ideology… ;)

  3. The reason people do not understand God is why most church people do not. When we get born again the first thing we do is get everyone “involved” in church working for God not getting to know him. Works can come later.

    What we need to do is take them to John 17:

    3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

    We must introduce them to a true and living God that will meet them right where they are! Relationship is the crux of Christianity. To even begin to understand God you must develop a relationship with him. That means studying the Word. Meditating on it, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God to you. We forget the whole purpose Jesus came was to bring us into relationship with God himself. If you want to know God then lo0k at Jesus in the Gospels. John 14: 9 tells us that if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. He stated, if you have seen me you have seen the Father.

    As we are in relationship with God we then begin to bear fruit, his fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. As people know God they fall in love with him.

    We have been told that faith works by love in a wacked out context. Faith only works when you understand how much God loves you. Once you understand that, then you know his character and you say, of course I have faith in God. I know him and in knowing him you trust him and faith comes easily.

    Take Walker for example. If you stood by the couch and say to him. Jump into daddies arms, more than likely he will without thought! Why, because he trust you because he knows your character. He does not stand there saying, I believe that dad will catch me, I believe dad will catch me. He just jumps because he knows and trusts you. He has a relationship with you and childlike faith.

    I disagree with the young mans statement when he says most kids do know God. No they do not. They think God is this gooey type of love and really do not know him. I have watched as kids jump from cause to cause helping people which is good, but they never lead anyone to christ. Doing good things are important, but if you do not lead people to Christ all you have done is good things and they will die damned eternally. There is a balance.

    Kids see all this injustice and they become outraged which they should, but do they understand the spiritual significance behind it all? Its a two fold work. We reach out, then we introduce then to the true and living God. Most young people today are being drawn into Moralistic therapeutic deism. If you do not know what it is then look it up. It will shock you because it has a form of christianity.

    Now, I am not knocking young people, but ALL people need to get back to basics and define what they believe based on the bible, see how Jesus and his followers touched their generation. Remember, they turned the world upside down and the new testament had not been written. They had an incredible relationship with God and people saw it. Have you ever wondered why they sang as they were being fed to the lions or as they watched as their families were Martyred? Its because they had a deep relationship with God and did not love their life even unto death.

  4. Great stuff. I had a seminary professor that was fond of saying, “How you draw them is how you have to keep them.” Sure, we need to be open to creative ways of connecting with students who don’t know Jesus, but we can’t bring them to church with lock-ins and pizza, keep it at that shallow level, and expect them to magically learn about Jesus via osmosis. Students are drawn to the truth of Jesus more than anything else we have to offer them, even if it doesn’t seem like it on the surface. Thanks for reminding us of that truth!

  5. I found your entry very interesting. I am wondering if you also have some crime statistics for the same time period and age range to help demonstrate how the number of young people choosing to opt out of religion has affected the greater population. Additionally, did the article you read speak to people who choose to believe and practice their religion in their own way, which does not involve attending an organized service? Do you believe that someone can only show their love for God in a church?

    I respect people who choose to believe in God (my twin sister is one such person), but I also question why it is so important that non-believers convert. Is it not enough to be a good person? I am a non-believer, but I have never done drugs, and have not had so much as a speeding ticket, and when I can, I donate my time and money to non-profits. Is there no room in God’s “heart” for good people who question His existence?

    Thank you.

    • Elizabeth,

      I want to thank you for commenting on the blog and I think many have had the same questions you have.

      Is it not good enough to be a good person?
      My first question back would be: what is the definition of a “good person”. I do think that everyone has good in them I also think that there are things about each one of us that can be not so good. Just because we dont do drugs, or dont get “caught speeding” and get a ticket, or donate money to good causes does that mean that we are “good”? What about if we see someone we know or dont know and have a bad thought towards them, we mostly wish people well until we have a bad day and then we lose it and think or say something that is harmful to that person. I think “not doing” bad things is good, however, I do believe in the saying ” what a person thinks in their heart so are they”. If someone could hear everything you are thinking would you then still feel like a good person that doesn’t need God?

      Is there no room in God’s heart for a good person who questions His existence?
      I cannot speak for God himself. That is a tough question to answer. I can give my opinion though. I do see that you spelled His with a capital H so I see the respect that you do give God. I think He has a huge heart for those who question His existence! I think that is why He sent His son Jesus Christ to earth to die for all mankind, knowing full well that a few thousand years later there would be people that deny He even exists. I also think that it grieves Him to see that in all that He created people still dont truly believe. There are so many distractions in this world that people think that they can do with out God. My question back to you without feeling like I am on a soap box preaching “hell, fire and brimstone” would be this? If he doesn’t exist and our 70 to 90 years come to an end what was the purpose of life and what happens when the heart stops beating?

      The dilemma? My limited knowledge of God drives me to ask this question. I ask it to myself and to others. I do not have the answer, I only have the question from a human perspective and from one who has not always done things right in life.

      Would your or I have room in our hearts for someone who question our existence?

      hopefully you or I will never have to find out. I do believe God loves you and understands your questioning soul. I also think He will show Himself to you so you wont question His reality anymore.

      Elizabeth you are loved by God!

  6. Jeremy, I love reading your blog. Your posts are a breath of fresh air, and I really appreciate the perspective you share. Praise God for you, sir. Many thanks! Keep up the good work and God bless!

  7. Interesting article! I believe that the young generation just don’t understand God because they have no motivation. Those who seek for his help and pray sometimes do not get the answers they are looking for, and that sometimes makes the young generation feel like their ‘effort’ into trying to understand is not worth it. On the other hand there are those from this young generation that get what they want handed to them, & have it easy that they don’t bother to look into God for support and motivation, because there is sometimes no need to. There are many young adults, teens, and children that feel ashamed that they believe in God. I’m happy to say that I am not one of those teens, despite the fact that I don’t regularly go to church.

  8. What I would wonder is what the rate of 20 and 30 something people returing to or finding religion for the first time is. I would think it is high and I’ve seen it first hand with people I know. I think faith waning is inevitable, in a way, for teenagers, so I think the important thing is placing a seed that will not leave and I think that seed has to be one of beauty. If a child really understands how beautiful the world is, I don’t think they will ever leave religion for good.

    I also have to agree with April that being an atheist, or saying you are, has become trendy and so I think their is the element, again, of leaving the church in body because of pressure, but perhaps not leaving in spirit.

  9. Jeremy, I just want to thank you again for your blog. Although this commment doesn’t specifically deal with youth, I felt compelled to comment based on your “not for walls and a roof” comment. I used to go to church regularly but was so turned off by most of the people attending, that I just stopped going. I taught Sunday school and even worked tirelessly and nearly daily for about 5 months on a dramatic production. I became, close, or so I thought with the people involved. But when it was over, nearly all of the people I was involved with just ignored me. I poured my heart out to these people too during some of our devotional time. That was really difficult for me. But still, I am a believer. I just don’t go to “four walls and a roof” to ‘proove’ it. Keep up the good work and may you continue to heal.

  10. stacey

    I just read a book that deals with some of the scenarios you have just described. I think you would enjoy the book and I think in it would encourage you. It is called “the bait of satan” by John Bevere

    jeremy

  11. Jeremy, hey man…couldn’t agree w/ your comment more.
    Personally I think a major part of it is the perception many young people have of God.
    Instead of knowing deeply a loving God who passionately pursues us and loves us unconditionally many young people view God as more of the ‘cosmic cop’.

    But very honestly having run a ministry that works with many churches I think another big part is the fact that in many churches the youth groups engage the kids, but when they reach the age of being too old for youth group, many churches seem to lose the young people. There’s a great book called UnChristian written by the founder of Catalyst Conference that addresses alot of this…pretty cool book.

    I’d also love to see the churches engaging young people more within their local communities. I run an org that helps children who are homeless. While we work with many churches, most churches tell us they can’t help the homeless children in their community because their missions teams are too busy with overseas work. Which don’t get me wrong is very important. But I really believe if more churches got their young people actively engaged in serving in their communities these kids would truly know what it meant to touch the heart of Jesus. And once you touch the heart of Jesus and really experience what it’s like to be his hands and feet, well..you’re hooked!

    God bless man and thanks

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