This past Sunday our Church had its annual congregational meeting. It is a time for the staff and treasurer to give reports and for us to talk about our future plans. This event has been on my calendar for a couple of months, so my thoughts were clear on what I was going to say. As I think about the future of our Church and Christians in general, I am focused on one word: Discipleship. I want to help people grow as believers into fully devoted followers of Jesus. This one concept then branches into my two most significant concerns in ministry.
1. How does the Church leadership help people grow as believers?
The numbers I read tell me that people used to attend Church 3-4 times a month minimum and today it is 1-2 times a month maximum. This creates enormous issues for all Churches especially smaller ones in rural settings. In the past, the leadership relied on a person to come on Sunday morning for both a small group called Sunday school and stay for a large group time of worship. Many times, believers would return for an evening gathering and possibly another Bible study through the week. The opportunities for discipleship were easy and abundant. Today the landscape has changed. Many of the people I lead will only be on our campus once a month for one hour. How do we help those people grow in the Lord?
Honestly, I don’t have any solid answers, but I continue to read, study, ask questions and watch what is working across the country. One thing does seem clear; for many people, spiritual growth is going to include technology. It will consist of online small groups, social media groups, internet resources and video from our own setting.
Church attendance is not a goal of the Christians life. It is part of the journey as it helps us to connect, grow, serve and worship. The ultimate goal is for people to become like Christ. One of my biggest concerns is how to facilitate that as a Church leader with the current culture.
2. How does the Church help young people to grow in their faith?
Once again, I am watching the numbers of teens who attend youth group shrinking. In fact, this is the first Church I have led where the youth group size has continued to decline. Two primary factors are contributing to this reduction in teens involved in Church. One is the cultural obsession with entertainment and second is sports. The people I talk to give me only one of two reasons that they do not come to youth events anymore. They either say, “It’s boring” or “I’m busy.” The problem then becomes twice as difficult if their parents are only at Church once a month and are not growing in their faith.
I clearly understand that involvement in the youth ministry of the Church is not the ultimate goal for teens. The goal is to see them grow in their faith and hold onto it for a lifetime. Youth groups were formed to help them accomplish that end, but it no longer seems to be working.
Honestly, I have no idea how to fix this problem either. I think part of the solution is getting parents to grow toward spiritual maturity and then they can teach better in the home. Also, technology is going to be a significant factor in helping teens develop. I am not sure what else is going to work. As a parent of teens along with working as a youth leader, my heart breaks to see so few kids who grow up coming to Sunday morning worship having little spiritual depth.
These are the two issues that keep me up at night. I spend more time thinking about these topics as a Church leader than any others. What is it going to take to help people of all ages grow into disciples of Christ in the immediate future? I am not sure.
What are your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions? If you have none, then I suggest you begin praying about these issues because they are not going away anytime soon.