Okay, I’ll just be honest… I’ve been kind of under the weather lately which means I’ve been void of brilliant thinking or really any form of thinking for that matter. The blog takes a hard hit when my mind isn’t quite running on all cylinders. Oh well, I’m not 100% back to my good old shelf, but I have to share some thoughts from my current reading – You Lost Me by David Kinnaman. They’ve been bouncing around so much that I just can’t help but get them out on to the page (or screen as the case may be)!
In a previous blog, I mentioned how I got to hear the author speak live on the topic of this book. It was really interesting and it compelled me to buy the book. I knew that what was being conveyed in a four hour seminar would be expanded upon in a book. I didn’t want a cliff notes seminar, I want the full story. With that in mind, I started reading You Lost Me and let me tell, it’s mind blowing.
It’s a book based on research so it’s not a fast read. It’s a book that calls you to process and wrestle with the truth being shared. I’ve done a lot of highlighting and nodding my head as I’ve read. The topic of the book is why young people are leaving the church, specifically those in the age range of 18-29. This topic means a lot to me for a number of reasons. The first would be that this is my generation. These are my peers. These are the kids that I sat in youth group with who no longer attend church. The next reason would be that I’m actively mentoring a handful of teenagers. This is the world that they are living in. They will soon join the statistics. As I mentor, I wonder what can I learn from this so they don’t experience this same break from the church. The final reason this intrigues me so much is because I work in children’s ministry. The kids in my ministry are watching the teens who are watching the twentysomethings walk away. Without a change, the kids that I’m ministering to will follow in their footsteps. They will disengage from the church as well. What can I do now to keep that from becoming a reality in less than a decade? So much to process on multiple levels!
Kinnaman breaks the “lost” into three categories. 1) Nomads – They have left the church, but they haven’t left their faith. At least, not yet. 2) Prodigals – They have left the church and their faith behind. 3) Exiles – They live with the tension between their faith and the church. They haven’t walked away, but wrestle with how things can be different. According to Kinnaman, there is no smoking gun as to why these young adults are leaving. There isn’t one big problem. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why they are leaving. Some may seem small, but when they are layered on top of each other, it creates the catalyst for disengagement.
It’s strange to read a book written about my own age range. There have been frequent moments when I see myself on the page. These are the issues that resonate in my own heart. On the flip side, I’ve heard it said that those who grow up in conservative Christian homes are more likely to have a worldview of the previous generation. I believe this is true in my situation. While I understand my own generations issues, my personal story has led me on a more conservative path. I think this has allowed me to stay engaged in the church more easily than others my own age. However, it makes me wonder about my future children or the ones that I have seated in my classroom on Wednesday night. They will have a different worldview than me. They are already growing up in a different world than I did. How do I stay engaged in culture and not be so shut off in my Christian bubble that I become irrelevant to them?
I haven’t finished the book yet and I’m fairly positive that it is not going to end with a “this is what we need to do to fix the problem.” Truthfully, it’s more complex than that. There is a lot that we can take away from the research. Small changes and big changes can come from reading this book. Kinnaman mentions that we have a discipleship problem. That young people’s faith isn’t being actively engaged and given depth, so when they grow into young adults their faith doesn’t go the distance with them. I would say mentoring and teaching are two of my greatest passions. Whether it’s in my classroom on a Wednesday night or out to lunch with a teenager, I see myself discipling the next generation. My prayer is that I’m not making them to be like me, but making them to be like Jesus. If it’s about me then their faith isn’t going to stick. They have much greater staying power if they find Jesus. Not a shallow Jesus, but a life altering Jesus. Not a Jesus that meet once or a twice a week, but a Jesus who walks with them in their everyday life.
The issues are not simple. The solutions are not clear. But I have hope. I have a faith. I know that the church is the Body of Christ – that we are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. Culture is playing a huge part in the lives our young people. Instead of hiding from it, let’s learn to ask questions. Let’s talk about things. Gone are the days where I say something in a Sunday school classroom and it’s just taken as fact. Relational connections will be what keep these young people in the church. They need a safe place to wrestle with their thoughts – their doubts, their tensions. If I can take away anything from what I’ve been reading so far it would be this – I want to be a leader that has honest dialogues with students. I want to someone safe to talk with. I want Jesus to be seen more than me. This is my prayer! I can’t change an entire generation, but I can make an impact on the handful of kids in my life.