For a newcomer, getting plugged into the life of a church can be quite the challenge if there are no intentional pathways to involvement.
Sometimes it takes weeks, if not months for a newcomer to find their place in the church, if they are even able to stick around that long.
We often don’t have that long before we lose teens.
Within 5 minutes of showing up at your youth ministry, if teens do not feel welcome, or like they belong and can fit in and make friends there, it is highly unlikely they will ever return, unless forced by parents.
A new life stage called Emerging Adulthood has developed over the past 30 years and it is taking about 5 to 7 years longer than it used to take for a high school grad to form their identity and move into adulthood. This is due to traditional adulthood markers, such as full time work, marriage, kids, finishing school, etc., being delayed by 5 to 7 years.
The recent Renegotiating Faith Study has shown us that during this new life stage, many young adults are walking away from their faith, as they form their identity and discover who they are outside of the local church context.
For years the marker of success in youth ministry has been graduating teens from our ministry with their faith intact. Then if they lose their faith down the road, it’s not our fault. It’s the Young Adult Pastor’s fault, or it’s the Lead Pastor’s fault because the church isn’t modern enough.
It’s not enough to just graduate students with faith intact. Our job has to be to set students up for a life of vibrant and thriving faith.
So how do we do this, and how do we not lose our teens when they enter Emerging Adulthood?
As Youth Pastors, we have to work on moving our students from being plugged into our silo youth ministry on Wednesday night, to being fully plugged into the life of the larger church body.
Having students plugged into your weekly youth ministry is so important, but it can’t end there. We have to think bigger than that.
If we can help teens discover their identity separate from their parent’s faith, and help them discover their unique gifts and calling, and where they fit within the life of the larger church before they enter Emerging Adulthood, we can actually help to mitigate them leaving their faith as they enter Emerging Adulthood.
It’s all about helping students to discover their place within the Kingdom of God, and how this isn’t just for their parents, or old people. This is for them, today. They can have an active role in the Kingdom of God within their local church right now.
So ask yourself these two questions:
How am I setting our students up for a life of vibrant and thriving faith?
How am I helping our students find their identity and unique fit within the life of the larger church, before they finish high school?
Check out our interview with John Albiston below on Assimilation Strategies for Youth Ministry, or check out this blog post for more ideas on Assimilation.