Some thoughts shared by our own Stuart Prentice at an evening service on 19th July 2015:
Over the past 2 or 3 weeks I’ve come across a few articles and studies that look at the dropout rates of teenagers and young people from the church as they move on from high school.
So let’s start off with some nice dry statistics!
Now these studies were conducted in America but appear to be reflected in England and I have no doubt would transfer into our own experiences here in Scotland. If anything a study in Scotland might make for even grimmer reading as in the US the studies found that half of all teenagers in the US attend church on a regular basis. This certainly wouldn’t be my experience in Scotland. By age 25, 42% of them will have dropped away, by age 29 this rises to 58%. Another study puts this number as high as 86%, with another putting it at 70% of teenagers and young adults.
Let’s be clear on this, at its most conservative these studies are saying take the number of teenagers and half it.
Half it again and that is the number of young people that will stay in the church while the rest drop out. Away from these statistics I’m sure we all know and are praying for people we know that would fit into this description, those that have grown up in the church through childhood and their teenage years and for whatever reason have moved away, or dropped out of the church. For many this is a painful subject and one that is prayed over constantly. It wouldn’t do to patronise or belittle these experiences as statistics.
There is a glimmer of hope. One of these studies also found that of these drop outs, two thirds will eventually return to a church at some point later down the line, most commonly when they themselves have grown older or settled down and had a family or children of their own.
There are 3 common factors that are found that help to support, encourage and build up youths as they go through this drop zone, which are also found to help bring back some of those that have dropped away.
1) A home with a committed, faithful Christian parent or parents. If you are one of these parents be encouraged and keep praying!
2) Discipleship, discipleship and more discipleship. One of the most common factors is somebody taking the time to personally draw alongside and disciple them, something that is prominent in my own testimony.
3) We need to recognise that it takes a church, a whole church, to disciple, raise and pastor the youth and young adults in our churches.
And it’s with this in mind that we can look at Titus 2.
Written by Paul, a man who majored in discipleship, to a young church leader called Titus.
This letter, along with the two that he wrote to Timothy form the three letters that are known as the Pastoral Epistles.
In his letter to Titus Paul deals predominantly at first with the issues of false teachers and false teachings. One of the ways of dealing with this is through Spiritually healthy relationships within the church which in turn point to the Gospel as the source of godliness. Paul’s letter was written to Titus but it was for Titus to share with and instruct his whole church.
Titus 2 is not addressed to youth leaders, Sunday School teachers or even to parents. This is not how to raise your children, though the Bible has plenty to say about this in other parts. This is for the whole church. Older men, older women, younger men, younger women and slaves. Everybody in the church can fit into at least one these categories!
Older men are called to be “soberminded, dignified, selfcontrolled,sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness.” (Titus 2v2) “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.” (Titus 2v3) Our lives are to be instructional. This is about behaviour but not simply for behaviours sake.
This is behaviour borne out of sound doctrine. Older men and women in the church must show that they are living their lives according to the Gospel or as it says in verses 1114: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live selfcontrolled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
But as well as living Godly lives there is an active teaching element being described here. Our lives have to be instructional but that instruction also has to be intentional. Young women are to be taught and trained (verse 4). Likewise young men, who are also to be urged to be selfcontrolled.
That urging cannot be a passive a thing. When we urge someone to do something we are actively encouraging them, driving them on forwards, supporting them and building them up. We should be arriving alongside them. We need to accept for ourselves the charge set out in Titus. We need to “model good works, teach with integrity, dignity and sound speech.” (verses 78)
What does this look like at Culloden Baptist Church, or your own church? Yes we might have Sunday School and yes we have Youth Fellowship but is that what is being spoken of Titus?
These things are far too important to be left solely in the hands of youth leaders! What could this look like in our churches? I want to challenge us to think and pray about this. What does our discipleship look like in churches? What does our personal discipleship look like? You are never too old to disciple or be discipled. And of our whole church approach to discipling, by the power of the Gospel, by the grace of God and the freedom given to us by our saviour Jesus Christ, let’s hold fast to our young folks, encourage and build up the youth in our church, lest they become a statistic that drops away from the church.
(Studies cited were found through
http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropoutsanddiscipleshowmanystudentsarereallyleaving.html and at https://www.barna.org/barnaupdate/5barnaupdate/127twentysomethingsstruggletofindtheirplaceinchristianchurches#.VbN5yYhwZpU)