Take a journey with me back into time. Now for some of you, this trip will take a lot longer. Think back to the day after your high school graduation. Once all the parties had ended, you and your classmates then began the process of discovery. Questions abounded about the next chapter in our lives.?
Why Did You Abandon Me?
For some who had already made a decision as to which college, if any, was selected, their arrangements for that transition were in full swing. For others, life would be filled with uncertainty and desert wanderings. At some point, many of us, over time, would find our way, discover our path, and settle into a career. Many would start a family and build a new community. But those years after high school where difficult. The post-high school years were filled with much change and loss. There were lost friends, loss of community, and loss to some degree of innocence. It was a shock to the system to leave the relative safety of high school to find yourself thrust into the world now labeled as a young adult.
Imagine that same feeling but after eighth-grade. You have finished your spiritual journey, or so it seems. Youth experience a sense of loss after confirmation. When I asked some people who work with youth, what is the most significant challenge they face in youth ministry. Here are some of their responses.
preparing them for larger events such as servant events or youth gatherings by connecting youth to adults for longer relationships; exploring and planning how to start mentoring relationships. And exploring how they build relationships through confirmation.”
What the church is experiencing with youth today is the same way I felt after confirmation over 40-years ago. What I missed during my most challenging time of transition was, my church. My church, after confirmation, abandoned me. There was no room for my friends and me. There were no programs for us, and I just assumed after the instruction that I was a mature disciple ready now to take on a leadership role in God’s kingdom, the problem was there was no position nor opportunities to lead. No one showed us how to refine, develop and use our God-given gifts to serve God and His kingdom. The church sent an unmistakable message, “You are the future. It is our time now! Your time will come. Come back, when you are all grown up.” Sadly, one by one my confirmation class attendees dropped out. Some I have not seen since eighth-grade. I get the sense from when I visit churches that this feeling was not my reality alone.
We Need a Shift from Ministry as Usual.
If you have followed my blog long enough, you know that I can’t leave you feeling all of this is hopeless. What needs to happen is a shift from ministry as usual. We need to see confirmation as a process, not a singular time anomaly. What is the way forward? How we view youth and their role in the kingdom now, will determine how we can stop the backdoor losses. Here are some titanic shifts in thinking my readers have suggested.
It’s all about relationships. What keeps youth and their parents engaged in the life and ministry of the church is authentic, meaning relationships, first with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and then with His saints. We were built to live life in a community.
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