Where are they?
Churches are struggling — and not just one denomination — it is across the board in all churches. They struggle with attendance, with getting people to help and with finances. All this is really heightened in small churches with fewer than 100 members.
I am a pastor of a small congregation. Our greatest struggle is the battle cry of “Where are they?” I am talking about the future leaders of the church … the youth. They seem to be more apt to blend into the society around them than in the local church, especially when the church is ready to pass the baton of leadership unto them.
As I mentioned to my two congregations today, no wonder the youth are disappearing from the church. They are like the man in the story of the Good Samaritan who was robbed, beaten and left to die alongside the road. When the man was in his pain, two other people walked beside him and offered no help. Our greatest resources in the church, our youth, are being left alongside the road just waiting for help.
From my eyes, church has become a place where the youth are not always shown “radical hospitality.” I hear members’ laments about what these youth are like in church. The music they play is too loud. The words to their songs keep repeating themselves over and over again. Their ideas need to go to committees, and they are worn out from all the politics which took place just because of a suggestion.
A couple of weeks ago I took a 15-year-old with me to our annual church convention in St. Cloud. The convention was geared to those raised in the millennial generation. This was a great idea! Know what the big problem was? How are we going to get them there? After all, church conference seems to be very institutional in their eyes and who wants to give up three days of the life of a youth to sit around a table with a bunch of old people.
So I did the only thing I know how to do — I made a personal invite to this youth, told her the church would pay her way and we would have enough food to keep her happy. And to my surprise she went. Her eyes were open and her heart was stirred. She commented later at times it was really boring but she stuck with us “old people” (even said we were fun) and she would go again. And as the “old people,” we were amazed at the deep insights these youth have for the church and the world around them.
In this scripture text, a Samaritan stopped and took pity on the man beside the road. The Samaritan invested some of his own personal resources to help the man survive. He cleaned and bandaged the man’s wounds, put him on his only means of transportation, paid for care and employed the innkeeper for additional help.
The church should be the Samaritan to the youth. The whole church needs to tend to their wounds when they have been beaten down in life. They need to have the church come to their side and support them, and they need the “whole” church to be employed around them as a community, not just a few people who have a heart for them.
The youth is the future of the church, but as the church, we need to help them lead the future. We are going to have to give them the time, the care, the stability and finances to help each of them as they begin their journey.
The Samaritan changed the life of the dying man. As the church, let’s change the life of our youth so we do not need to ask the question “Where are they?” They are right in front of us, but like the Samaritan we need to invest some valuable and personal resources into them so they can lead the church.