Attention youth workers: you are absolutely necessary and what you pour into your students is so important. You are on the front lines in a battle that continues to increase in intensity and difficulty. Statistics say that somewhere around 70-80% of students (Christians and/or attended youth group) are walking away from their faith after they graduate high school.
I know…hearing that makes us sick to our stomachs and furious too. For the last 7 years we (Eric and Erica) have had the privilege of mentoring 18-24 year olds through the discipleship program, EPIC Commission, that we oversee at Valley Family Church in Kalamazoo, MI. We also create content to help young adults and Millennials live well for Christ at www.ericanderica.org. I (Eric) have also served as a middle school pastor for 2 years and have been highly involved with student ministries over the years.
We are on the same team in helping students navigate through all the darkness in this world and still hold onto their relationship with Christ. Over the years we have worked with many young adults, and there are some common themes that pop up when they seem to be wavering in their faith. If you are involved with youth in any capacity, then here are 4 ways you can better prepare students for their 20’s and young adult life:
- Put The Focus On God, Not You
The real question to ask is: “Are they still pursuing God if you are no longer the youth pastor/worker? No doubt, students are attracted to cool, relational youth pastors, and relationships are everything in youth ministry. However, we have observed that when a student’s personal relationship with Jesus is overly dependant on their youth pastor, that student can become disillusioned in their faith when they graduate or when/if the youth pastors/workers leaves or transitions. We have seen that the team leadership approach really works well to bring diversity to the platform and make it so the students are not dependent and too attached to just one person in an unhealthy way. Teach them to be dependent on God, because He will always be there, but you may not. Empowering youth volunteers and giving them stage presence and discipleship responsibility is also recommended.
- Make Sure They “Buy” their Faith, and Don’t Just Borrow from You
It’s important to provide opportunities for your students to “own” their beliefs, dialogue about their beliefs, and not always be spoon-fed. So many students walk away from “their” faith in their 20’s because it was never really their faith. They borrowed their faith from their youth pastor, parents or friends, but never really bought it and owned it for themselves. Then they get to college and have professors, roommates and friends challenge their faith and they had never taken time to really own their own Biblical convictions and beliefs. With the young adults we help disciple we have recently instilled a “what I believe” project that every student has to complete by the end of the year. This project empowers them to form Biblical belief statements (with three supporting scriptures) on foundational doctrine. Simple things like what do you believe about the Word of God? And what scriptures do you have to support your belief statements? We have seen a ton of fruit in this helping students “own” their faith.
- Teach Them to “Hustle”
So many twenty-somethings are entering their young adult season of life with an entitlement attitude. Then for Christians sometimes the entitlement attitude is spiritualized… “I don’t have to work hard, because God has good plans for me”. Youth Pastors/workers could help students enter their twenties better by teaching Biblical principles of how God uses both the natural and the supernatural to get students to their purpose in life. This young generation often times does not see the spiritual significance of faithfulness and hard work to get them to their dreams and to fulfill God’s call on their lives.
- S-L-O-W, spells slow
Dating relationships can often be a culprit of wandering faith if not handled properly. Continue to encourage dating couples to take it slower than slow. Help to give them proper perspective. For example, if they are a sophomore in a dating relationship, and their parents want them to finish college before marriage, then we are talking 7 years of dating and pursuing purity before the marriage bed. As you know, many Christian young adults have regrets from taking it too fast with dating relationships in high school. Keep encouraging them to take it slow or not date at all!!
We pray these tips will encourage and equip you to continue to prepare the students in your sphere of influence for their young adult life. The thing about statistics is…they can change! Let’s raise up confident young men and women who know and fear God and are ready to tackle their 20s head on!
Eric & Erica Giesow from ericanderica.org