“About two-thirds of the young people who are confirmed in WELS churches are still attending church as often as once a month by the time they are 19 years old.” That is one of the findings of a study WELS conducted in the early 2000s about youth membership in our churches. It was also estimated that less than 20% of WELS young people are retained in the church from the time of their baptism until age 30.
More recent studies by independent research groups have shown similar trends with youth in other denominations. For example, a 2013 Barna Group survey found that nearly 60% of Millennials with a Christian background have, at some point, dropped out of going to church after having gone regularly.
“Research shows that youth are falling away from big, mega churches, just as much as our churches,” says Rev. Jon Enter, pastor at Hope, West Palm Beach, Fla., and youth coordinator for South Atlantic District. “We need to do something about this, but many congregations don’t know where to start.”
That was the impetus for creating the new School of Youth and Family called Transformed: Equipping Youth Leaders, an eight-part video series that includes presentations by youth workers from around the synod and shares ideas and resources to help congregations transform their youth ministries.
“It all boils down to the spiritual aspect of our kids,” says Enter, who is leading this effort. “If they continue to grow in their faith and they have ownership in our churches, then they stay engaged.” That’s why the videos — which include topics like Christian mentoring, games and activities, youth-driven Bible studies and faith experiences — focus on helping youth create meaningful relationships with each other, with their churches and with God’s Word.
“We have done a great job of training our kids in school and in confirmation class,” says Enter. “They have a very informed faith. But they struggle with sharing it and using it. So instead of just a cerebral thing, we want this to be heart and soul thing. We want to completely connect kids into the DNA of their local church and to get them to actively serve. We want to them to feel like this is my church.”
Along with the downloadable videos, which focus on the importance of the different aspects of youth ministry, congregations can also access a collection of Bible studies, recommended reading and “how-to” resources for their youth ministries.
“I pray congregations will be excited after watching the videos and, Lord-willing, implement a lot of these things into their ministries,” says Enter. He says that even making small changes or refocusing some time and energy can have a big impact. “We’re not trying to drastically change what we’re doing. We are just looking at things a little differently and then asking God to bless them.”
For more information about the program, watch Enter’s presentation at the 2016 Youth Rally at https://vimeo.com/174532181. To order the video series and accompanying resources, visit www.nph.net and search for “transformed equipping youth leaders.” Special pre-sale pricing ends Oct. 31.
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Author: Alicia Neumann
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016
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