Unlike most 78 year olds caught up in worship wars, Lord Carey believes that churches struggle because they are too old fashion. The former Archbishop of Canterbury understands that young people no longer view church attendance to be a societal norm. Wanting millennials to know and embrace the creator of the universe, Lord Carey is calling for Christians to reach out to the next generation. If they do not reach for the hand the next generation, he warns of disastrous consequences. Lord Carey notes: “
“We are one generation away from extinction – if we do not invest in young people there is going to be no-one in the future.”
Sadly, this phenomenon has left the shores of England and has swept into American churches with supersonic speed. Answers in Genesis, Lifeway, and the Barna Group have all done studies documenting the growing exodus of young people from evangelical churches. These groups also stumbled across the troubling statistic that most young people decided to leave the church by the time they turn fourteen, believing the Bible to have the relevance of a Greek myth (Ham , Beemer, & Hillard, 2012).
Thankfully, everyone from Tom Rainer, the President of Lifeway, to Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggies Tales, is grabbling with the reality that evangelicals are failing to reach the next generation with the gospel. They and the creative teams at Answers in Genesis and Nav. Press have begun providing parents and Sunday school teachers with wonderful materials such as the “Gospel Project”, “Buck Denver’s What’s In the Bible”, and the “Treasuring Christ Curriculum” – to name a few. Understanding America’s shift to a secular worldview, evangelical leaders are sensing the need to exchange Christian moralism for biblical evangelism.
Yet, resources can only take the church so far. Churches need teachers. They need adults who are willing to love, reach, and engage the next generation. Sadly, most churches struggle to find to men and women to teach their children. (Barna, 2003).
Many causes contribute to this dark reality, including a lack of pastoral vision, poor training for volunteers, and poor facilities. I believe that all of these causes stem from one source, the devaluation of children. To avert the coming doom, we must first embrace children in our homes.
When the baby boomers slowly welcomed the ideas of Margret Sanger into the church, they transformed the blessed image children into a burdensome statue. Instead of welcoming children as Christ, many baby boomers followed the example of Jesus’ disciples. They elevated their financial stability and their desire to reinvent motherhood above the value of children. Consequently, Christian boomers used birth control to ensuing that children arrived at a convenient time. (Spontaneous pregnancies became an evil)And then, they employed it again to limit their families to the perfect size of one boy and one girl. They desired a life of easy, wealth, and security. They left behind a legacy of Christian books with dedications to two children and family pet.
Consequently, many millennials, like me, grew up hearing that we should delay having children until our lives pictured the American dream. Most of us were told that college degree, a great job, a house with a white picket fence, and two cars should always proceed the arrival of children. We can remember our parents or their friends saying, “I can’t believe how many kids the Jones have; don’t they know how kids are made; I could never love more than two kids, I was glad that the kids left so I could get back to life; why do you want so many children; you are not getting in younger; oh, my children are so much work; Keeping the nursery is the best type of birth control.” We were taught to view worldly possessions and the acquirement of knowledge as the definition of spiritual blessing. Not surprisingly, we now blog about how our favorite family member, the dog, celebrated its second birthday.
Because the church now consists primarily of two generations shaped by the sexual revolution, church members and their pastors often spend little money, time, or effort on ministering to children. Viewed as a holding area for misfit toys, many baby boomers begrudgingly embraced children’s ministry for brief time. But once their children graduated to the treasured island of youth ministry, many boomers returned to land of grownup ministries, consisting of fellowship and travel.
Like our many of our parents, we millennials see Sunday morning as a time of escape from bothersome little creatures. We never enter the country of children’s ministry because it is just another reminder of all that our children have taken or all that potential children could take from us. We want to corporate worship experience to mimic our family values of ease and education.
Friends if we want to revitalize our churches, we need to start embracing children. We must realize that he who labors for wealth and ease apart from Christ labors in vain. We must apply Psalm 127 to our lives, seeing Children as one of the main definitions of spiritual blessing. We should encourage engaged couples to be open to having a baby before they celebrate their first anniversary. We should celebrate the joys of parenthood (especially motherhood as God uses motherhood as a portal for his redemptive purpose- I Timothy 2:15). Rather than promoting the accumulation of earthly treasures, we should advise couples to prepare budget for birth and/or adoption costs. We should structure our churches to equip couples to be parents. And then we must support couples with children through prayers, hugs, gifts, and the occasional warm meal. We must leave the attitude of the disciples behind and embrace the heart of Christ.
If we and our parents create homes that welcome children, I am confident churches will follow. If we are excited to welcome new babies and grandbabies into our lives, we will be excited to invest in the lives of the babies who attend our churches. Encouraged by a right view of family, we will have a heart for reaching children. And equipped with the relevant and gospel centered resources, we will be able reach this and future generations for Christ.
Let’s not embrace the doom of which Lord Carey warns. Let’s embrace children!
Barna, G. (2003). Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should be Your Church’s #1 Priority . Ventura : Regal .
Ham , K., Beemer, B., & Hillard, T. (2012). Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church And What you Can do to Stop it. Green Forest : Master Books.