The conversation grew out of a national and worldwide discussion among Evangelical Alliance members and to tackle the issue, Gavin as been going around different cities, engaging with churches by challenging them to reach out to this key age group.
In his presentation he highlights seven major issues that perhaps account for the lack of 18-30’s in our church and the seven points will be listed below with a brief commentary on each from what I heard and with my own opinions too.
1. Churches need to see leadership differently- Although the key positions in high authority is held by males it is surprising that the church has now become so feminized. Research shows that females outnumber males in the church by almost 4 to 1 (although this varies depending on the research and demographic of the area). The problem now with this generation is how does things feel and perhaps the leadership team could explore this area and see how using this approach can best serve the missing generation to the glory of God. Also perhaps, authoritarian leadership may not be the best approach but a sacrificial approach, willing to sacrifice once style but maintaining consistency with scripture
2. Young people need to be empowered- Rather than allowing young people to be mere consumers, they should be empowered and giving roles and responsibilities in the church. Young people should be active and not passive because passivity will lead to a disinterest in church eventually.
3. Need to be challenged- churches need to challenge their young peoples and not just to merely cater for their every need being afraid that they would offend them. Life is to be lived and challenging young people will motivate them to do more and allow them to have a sense of belonging and role in the community. Jesus chose a bunch of young disciples and he challenged them to go into all the world to preach the gospel- such a challenge should be issued to many of the young peoples in church today and due to their energy and youthful strength, more will be accomplished.
4. Need to be straight talked- Some churches are laden with hypocrisy and the youth sees this among the older generations and are thus turned off from the church. The church should be a place of authenticity and not merely religious; young people should not be pampered down for the sake of keeping them but to be straight forward with them. Its not about them but about Jesus, and we should be straight forward in our lives and be real. We should show them our humanity and that we are not perfect but that God is not yet finished with us yet.
5. Need freedom to come back- here is a picture of the prodigal son. When he finally came back to His father’s house, how did his father respond? The father ran to meet him with joy and then prepared a feast for him. But in our churches it is seldom the same. When a wayward teenager has finally the guts to admit his wrong and come back to the church, he is not greeted with open arms but a malign of sinicism and criticism. We should have an air of forgiveness and openness, that our churches are keen and eager to welcome back the prodigals with open heart and an unjudgemental spirit.
6. Need our prayers and support- young people need our prayers and support in so many ways that it is up to us to take time and effort to pray for them and not just to leave them on their own. We should not just give them the task of looking after the Sunday school kids and then invest no time in them when it is in those years that valuable investment is key to their growth and stay in the church. Also when many students go to universities, home churches should not just hand over their rights of discipleship, but they should maintain it by keeping communication and checking on their spiritual health. Half the task will be done if we only kept young people from leaving our churches.
7. We should start with teenagers- we shouldn’t forget our teenaegers but we should start with them for they are the future of tomorrow. Teenage years is difficult for most Christians, well in general for all for this is where people start to find more things about themselves and choose which social groups they want to belong too. With high social pressure and conformity to the norms of society, many teenage Christians may discard their faith for the sake of acceptance and thus loose their faith altogether. So it is crucial that we do not neglect teenagers, but that we should be relational with them and get alongside them before it is too late.
Galver’s seven points were challenging and indeed one should ponder on them. In addition to his seven points, I want to add two things that perhaps may enhance filling the gap of the missing generation. The first being the necessity of building a community and the second a more practical love at work in the church for the young people.
In building communities, I mean that there should be a free relational integration among all the age groups where we can be church together, where we can be a family and do those things in which families do. Our society is very individualistic and even among families; young people need a place of belonging and if this is not found in the church, then it would be sought for somewhere else. Practical love is vital for building communities and this is where we share each others struggle and burden, that there is a strong solidarity in the church. And if ever one was to have a problem; with key confidence the individual can approach the community and thus the community will all be tuned in to help the individual as much as their strength can afford.
So I pray that, the missing generation may no longer be missing but that your church oh Lord will work with all of their might to fill the gaps, so that more Wilberfoce’ more Whitfield’s may be won for the glory of your precious name.
Link to this is something i wrote titled, 'serve Jesus while you are still young'. http://countedrighteousinchrist.blogspot.com/2010/11/serve-jesus-while-you-are-still-young.html
for further research into this missing generation, more resources are to be found here: http://www.eauk.org/theology/the-18-30-mission-a-missing-generation.cfm