For most young people today, church and religion has little importance in daily life. Compared to school, social media, popular entertainment, sports and other diversions, church is neither attractive nor relevant.
A Pew Research Center study, Religion Among the Millennials, found the following about young adults (age 30 and under):
Many assume this is a new phenomenon, unique to Generation X, Generation Y and the Millennials. Yet, this trend has in some form been observed for decades, and efforts to stem the flow of young people leaving the churches date back more than 70 years, ever since organizations like "Young Life" and "Youth for Christ" tried to reach teens (and please their parents) with activity-oriented programs, often with food and live music. Today, the trend encompasses visual media, sound and lighting designed to rival pop-culture levels of stimulation—and it is being used to grab the attention even of older adults!
Yet young people are still leaving the church. Why? Could it be that they are looking for the wrong things? Is there a different way to approach the problem—one that can help young people find relevance and meaning without the gimmicks designed to trick them into thinking their church is a video game or a concert?
One major difference between biblical worship and modern trends involves the role of the family. For generations, children have been sent off to "Sabbath School" or "Sunday School" while their parents went to the "real" worship service. Yet your Bible describes God's people worshiping together as families. In 2 Chronicles 20:13, we read "Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord." In Joel 2:16, we read "Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes." God commanded the Israelites to gather as families to enjoy His Feast days in Deuteronomy 12:18. And in Exodus 12:26–27, God commanded parents to explain the meaning of the Passover to the younger generation. In the next chapter, children were to learn from their parents about the meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, in conjunction with assembling together with other families on these High Holy Days.
What a wonderful message for a young person! The church does not need to pander to you, or to talk down to you. You are valuable as a member of your family, right now! You are an integral part of God's plan, with a role to fill. Remember. "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39).
At church it is the speaker's responsibility to hold your attention, but it is also your responsibility to pay attention. If you crave wisdom and understanding, you should be eager to learn what you can—even when the speaker is not the most exciting. In Proverbs 2:1, God urges a young person to crave wisdom and understanding. "Receive my words, and treasure my commands," He says.
Messages given in church are not just meant for the "older crowd." If you are old enough to read and understand this column, you are old enough to understand what is being taught at church. Listen and think about what is being said. Fellowship is one important part of coming together with fellow believers, but if you are busy sending text messages and checking your iPhone for Snapchat activity, it may say less about the speaker's skill than about your short attention span. Scripture does not tell us that the temple elders were super-exciting when Jesus came to learn from them, yet He amazed them by His curiosity and intense desire to learn (Luke 2:46). So, be smart. Focus. Listen. Learn. Be curious. And ask questions. Going to church gives you a unique opportunity to learn and grow.
Church activities serve a purpose, but it may not be what you think. Remember Jesus' example as a servant. No activity is so "boring" that you cannot use it as an opportunity to get to know other people, and help to meet their needs. Maybe you can serve in the kitchen, or help with the cleanup. If an activity is not "good enough" for you, talk to the organizers and find out how you can serve to help make it better—for you and for others in the group!
This approach will also help you build strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie with others who share your Christian values—an important factor when you face challenges from the world around you. As you grow more involved with others, you mean something to them, and they mean something to you. You miss each other when you are not there.
It is easy enough to see that, for many young people today, church is not attractive. Above all, the average neighborhood church does not provide real answers to the toughest questions: Why were you born? What is your destiny? Is it something hazy and even boring, or is it filled with awe-inspiring joy and meaning? Most churches today give only shallow, superficial answers, not even drawn from Scripture. To a young person with Internet access, even the simplest search can prove that so many of the traditions of modern Christianity—Christmas, Easter, Sunday services, and more—are just that: traditions of men.
But you have access to something more. You are in touch with the true Church of God—a body of believers with a mandate to fulfill Christ's commission, and with real answers that will explain your future and give meaning to your present. Armed with this truth, and using the principles outlined above, the Church can be more relevant than ever to you(th).