The statistics are brutally clear. Young people are leaving the church in droves. Many churches are simply dying of old age. In desperation, many churches have turned to extreme measures to bring youth into the church. These vary from rap concerts to throwing out the older members of the church in the hopes of attracting a younger demographic. However, in a generation starved for meaning, purpose, and truth, none of these things truly move the needle. There is a way to reach young people, millennials and Generation Z alike, that does not require any extreme measures. Give them the truth.
I’m sure some of those charged with revitalizing older churches or with raising numbers would argue with this, but facts are facts. Every millennial and gen Zer I talk to who is in or around the church tells me the same story. They crave depth. Depth is what they want. They don’t want the activities, they don’t want the small groups, they don’t want the music, they want the truth. And truth preaching pastors are in very short supply.
Unfortunately, much of the church hierarchy has bought into the ideas of the emerging church movement. They believe that they need to be constantly growing the church numerically in order to be successful. Never mind that the people you are bringing in may not be believers or hold to the core beliefs of the church. That is irrelevant. Just add to the numbers. To an extent, I cannot fault a pastor for wanting to increase the number of people in the church. After all, more people means a larger audience on the webcast, more money in the offering plates, and bragging rights at denominational meetings. (And yes, it also means that more people are under the sound of the Gospel but since most pastors are not actually preaching the Gospel, I’m convinced for most of them, this reason never enters their minds.)
Unfortunately, because of this massive focus in growing the attendance figures, we see youth pastors playing stupid, gross games, and preaching abbreviated inspirational nothings that entertain the kids for a while but leave them thinking Christianity is a hollow shell with no substance. It does nothing to answer their questions or give them a foundation to stand on. No wonder when they go to college they fall away at a touch! They have no foundation to stand on because they were never taught the truth in the first place.
The few young adults who survive this maelstrom, either by not going to college, having parents who taught them the truth or both, graduate from the useless youth groups to the main service and find that very little has changed. The pastor doesn’t look all that much different than the youth pastor, the sermons are only marginally deeper and the music is only slightly less obnoxious. The only major difference is the gross games do not happen anymore. And these young people, who, more than at any other age, burn to do something useful with their lives, feel directionless. The sermons are not challenging them to go deeper into the Word, nor are they challenging them to commit their lives to Christ. They thus do not develop a deep connection with the Word or to the church.
The answer is not music. Multiple surveys have demonstrated that the number of people who rate music style as the number one reason they choose a church is less than ten percent. People are starving for truth. They will gladly sing hymns, even if they prefer a more contemporary style, to hear the truth. And sadly, churches are more interested in drawing an unregenerate crowd than they are in nurturing the regenerates in the church.
Church is not a game. Church is a serious proposition, to be taken seriously. We are worshipping the God of the universe who gave His Son to die for us. We need to stop pretending that worship services are about our preferences. Worship services are about honoring the LORD Almighty! It’s time we stopped lowering the bar in our churches and get back to actually doing what church was intended to do: glorifying God by preaching the truth, from the foundation in Genesis to the future rewards of Revelation. Until we do that, expect most of the young people to continue to leave the church in their search for truth.
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