Last week saw some interesting blogs (including Krish Kandiah's blog here) and twitter conversations about the statistics that suggest the church is haemorrhaging young people; despite significant investment into youth work. Having read some of the conversation it seemed to me that it didn’t resonate with my own experience. So I spent half an hour looking back at some of our church records here and have drawn the following observations:
1. The biggest reason for young people not continuing in youthwork has been their parents moving away from the church. It maybe, of course, that since many of these moves are down to relocation the families concerned have found new church communities to be part of. However, it is noteworthy that new surroundings is often a moment when church attendance declines.
2. About 10% of those who were part of our childrens’ work stop attending youth work before they leave for University.
3. Of those who drift away during their teens the biggest predictor is the regularity with which they attended the childrens’ work. Those who were regular as children are much less likely to drift away.
4. The bigger fall out points seem to be moving to University or the move from University into the world of work (or non-work at present).
5. Those who make it all the way through tend to be those who have found ways of serving in the wider church before they leave for college. This is particularly important for those young people who do not have Christian parents.
If you are a Christian parent and want your child to grow in faith there are a couple of easy steps you can take.
1. Don’t get divorced or move churches.
2. Create a routine while your children are young which includes regular church commitment.
3. Encourage your teenagers to be involved in some aspect of church life; helping with Children’s work, singing & playing in the band, video, PA; it doesn’t seem to matter too much what it is, the involvement is what counts.
We also did a brief survey last Sunday asking young people what they liked about Church, why some of their friends left and how we could help equip them for real life. Overwhelmingly they said they liked church community, youth group and being with friends. Their friends are not Christians because they think church is boring and old fashioned and because of peer pressure. And we could help them by tacking difficult issues and relating what the Bible says to them. The third one interests me because I thought that is what we were doing so I hope to drill down into that a bit in coming weeks.
It maybe that some further digging would also reveal similarities between the situation here and the quoted statistics; it may also be because we have consistently tried to include some of the things which are now being suggested as ways of improving the situation.