Thanks to the generous support of Crossover Australia, Baptist Youth Ministries from around the country hosted Dave and Karra Overholt from Church on the Rock in Canada. In New South Wales, we were privileged to have them as part of our annual youth and young adult pastor’s conference in Gerringong – with more than 70 pastors and leaders present in early March.
Dave and Karra shared with us about some vital Canadian research (which is very similar to our experience here in Australia) that explored why young people were leaving the church and not coming back. In short, Canada is seeing 7 out of 10 young people leaving the church by their 20’s, with only 2% coming back!!!
On the solution side, Dave and Karra spoke about the need for effective transitions across the children’s – youth – young adult generations, and how reaching down and building anticipation was important as a young person grows. The topic of young people leaving the church appears to be one of the trending topics on my Facebook wall at the moment, with a variety of convictions being presented on why we are seeing less and less young people continuing in faith across the Western world.
Dave and Karra shared four big ideas in building lasting faith in the lives of our children and teenagers:
- Personal experience of God needs to be real
- Creating an alive community of faith is core to faith development
- Teaching of God’s Word needs to be thoughtful and with dialogue
- Parental engagement and faith modelling is essential
While these four ideas may seem to be motherhood statements, I do believe they capture the heart of what God intended for His church – applicable engagement with the Scriptures in community. I am not saying this is only done in a sermon or church service, but what the Overholt’s reminded me of was the power of the Gospel to change lives both for eternity but also for life today.
Young people – teenagers and young adults – need to hear the Good News of Jesus preached, but they also need to see the Good News of Jesus lived. They need to know that it makes a difference today, as well as for the future.