By the Reverend Phyllis Coates, WNCC Convener for African-American Ministries and Pastor of St. John’s UMC in Greensboro.
Where are all the young people in church?
I am amazed at how much our churches say we want to target our young adults and our youth and keep them in our churches. It amazes me to what extent we will go to entertain them and the cost of doing so. We move them from worship to entertainment. We offer them the world but not the Word!
Some say music is the answer. Others say we need to be relevant, that’s the trend. All of us want more of what we are interested in. But has anyone bothered recently to ask God what the problem is? He has already addressed the issue.
Ask me how to reach our youth and young adults and I say, “Teach them God’s Word. It is everlasting.”
The scripture says; Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from the training. (Proverbs 22:6 paraphrased) If they are leaving, then we, the adults are not training in the early stages. If I might ask, how can you teach what you don’t know? The training must start early. When there is no stable foundation, where is there to go? We need to train in every area of their lives. We need to teach, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12) If people don’t respect their parents, they probably won’t respect any authority. If we don’t teach them ‘thou shall not steal, thou shall not kill, or want what others have early, how will they know? If we don’t teach them what is said in I Corinthians 6:19-20 about the body being a temple of God, how will they know and respect their bodies?
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
So many of us don’t take our children and youth to church.
What if in our churches we taught or trained, from the beginning, The Commandments? This should be a given, but it is not. What If?
What If we told everybody, every Sunday, John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
What If we said every Sunday, if not everyday, Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What If we said to everybody Romans 10: 8-10, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith which we preach) “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Now we must know and understand as adults; before you can help the young folk. We must be in a relationship with God ourselves. I surmise that our kids are doing what they see us doing. Our kids are not stupid. If we cheat in their presence, maybe they will cheat. If we gossip……. If we are abusive……
If we are quick to lose control when we are stopped by law enforcement, so will they be. If we snap at other church members, so will they. It’s all about teaching the right thing.
What If we showed love, acceptance, peace, and purpose openly in our homes and our churches? The youth might stay. They need to see love, acceptance, peace and purpose in us as we live it before them.
What If we show them that we love and need them in the church?
What If we don’t send them out so that they will not disturb us?
What If we gave them a purpose?
What If we gave them respect?
I believe that if we listen to God more and not to ourselves, the church will be more inviting.
What If we really want the youth to stay? Then, let us continuously encourage them to live a life as true Christians, as we too are called to do.
If we do what the Word says do, we, and our children will not be in the world, but in the church universal; being about our Father’s business. I feel that if we live according to God’s Word, we will see less, crime, less violence, less disrespect and more love. There can be peace.