It seems that Teen attendance in church peaked in 1999 and the figures ever since have been lagging or dropping. Only 1 in 4 teens (according to Barna) attends church and some have said that "church is irrelevant" to my life.
What does this mean?
We can sit here and say some of the reasons that they don't attend:
- Kids have more to do now than they ever have: Elite teams in baseball, soccer, volleyball, football, basketball, Dance, art, cheer squads (outside of school squads) and so on and so on.
- Parents aren't coming with kids anymore. The old saying was--get the kid and you'll get their parents. That just isn't true anymore and if you do get a kid who comes without his parents it's doubly hard to keep them
- Kids have more options now (socially--through Facebook/Twitter/MySpace) All of that can be taken care of online
- Youth ministry methods haven't changed much in the last 30-40 years. Kids have seen it all and done it all by the time they've moved to youth groups (because we've moved some of that down to Children's Ministry)
- Until they are able to drive, teens are at the mercy of parental transportation and the split-parent weekend is now more of an impact on attendance than ever before.
Now, about the irrelevance part, this is tougher
- We have to look at the ways we reach and disciple teens. It's no longer the LARGE GROUP thing that is drawing them. It's time to get specialized in Youth Ministry which makes it harder for a one stop shop where everyone gets the same thing
- We need a cadre of adults who have a passion for teens and don't mind being involved in their lives. It's going to be harder to get inside that circle, but once inside these adults weild great influence in the lives of teens.
- The church is going to have to acknowledge a place for teens in their current ministries. We have to include them in the life of worship and the work of the church. We can no longer relegate them to a department or floor and hope that when they grow up they will be part of the church. They must learn about service now. (One friend's church has done this and I think it's a great idea)
- The issues facing today's teens are different from 10 years ago (just ask them) We must develop resources and methods to speak to these issues, but more importantly we must live from Christ indwelling and centered lives to show them how Jesus would respond to these issues.
So, have you observed this? What are your thoughts?