Stop Trying to Keep Young People in the Church

posted in: Woman to Woman Newsletter | 0

By Tori Hammond

When I first attended a by design conference, I was the youngest person there. I felt so famous when, after I was announced as the “baby” of the room, everyone seemed to be quite interested in me and wanted to hear my input on important cultural issues. This was not at all the response that I expected. If people found out how young I was, wouldn’t they discredit my opinions? Instead, I ended up finding that older women were eager to hear the perspective of a serious Christian living in a foreign generation. First of all, it was shocking to them that I could be a 20-year-old pastor’s daughter and still be excited about the church. Secondly, they wanted to know why people my age were leaving the church. 

Although I knew then that it was an important question, I didn’t realize that it would soon become a personal one for my friend group. It was only recently that I started noticing the trends of young people’s indifference to, frustration with, and abandonment of the church. As I paid more attention to why my friends felt the way they did about church, I realized that a major aspect for them was involvement. 

There are two lies I’ve seen young people believe about the church: 

  1. “My gifts are not wanted.”
  2. “If the church is not good for me, the church is not good.”

I believe the second lie often stems from the first. If the church has not communicated to young people that their gifts are needed in order to build up the church body, young people will start thinking that church is only about pleasing themselves. From my perspective, the progression is often like this: Young people are not seen as capable workers in the church, and therefore, they are not given jobs to do. Naturally, they are always at church only for their own pleasure, and therefore, as soon as church stops pleasing them, they will leave. 

If the goal of the church is to keep people, it won’t. If the goal of the church is to build people up in the work of ministry, young people will more likely be happy to stay. Not to mention this is God’s goal for the church anyway. According to Ephesians 4:11-13, it is the purpose of the church to serve people who will continue to serve more people:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ …

God’s goal for the church is not to keep people but to build people – specifically, to build people who will, in turn, build more people, in order to build the body as a whole toward maturity in Christ. The building up of the body is done by the work of every Christian, as 1 Corinthians 12:15-27 says:

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body…. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

God didn’t make extras. Young people are eyes and feet and hands who, largely, have not yet been invited to take part in the work of the Kingdom. Will you invite them? Will you encourage and train and empower the next generation? You are the ones who have done it for me, and I am grateful. Let’s not become weary in doing good. The next generation is waiting.

Want to hear more from Tori? She will be leading one of the workshops at our upcoming reTREAT, which takes place from January 21-23, 2022. Click here for more information and to register. And bring a friend or two! We offer a discount to groups of 3 or more!

Tori Hammond lives in NH with her husband, Colby. She has a Bachelor of Biblical Studies from Trinity College of the Bible and is pursuing a Master of Ministry from Cedarville University. She began leading and teaching when she started a conference as a teenager. She takes every opportunity she gets to teach about the greatness of God and the wisdom of His Word. Tori is excited to fulfill her calling as a high school Bible teacher at Concord Christian Academy this upcoming school year, while also making time for hobbies such as cooking, baking, and singing.