Why Young People Leave The Salvation Army – Part 2
**Update 6/5/13 – Things are getting real y’all. Dave Mantel wrote a response to this two part series here. Anyone else have a thought?
This week, THQ is celebrating the coming Congress/Commissioning 2013 with a collective freak out over the few days and hours that remain until the arrival of the General and 4000+ Salvos in St. Louis. This year’s Congress is a youth and families focused event, so last week we started taking a look at this blog post that outlines the top 10 reasons young people are leaving the Church in disproportionately high numbers. If you didn’t read the first 5 reasons overviewed, check it out in Part 1. Got a thought to share? Hit us up in the comments at the bottom.
The Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church
We can be just as guilty as the rest of the Church for making “community” a code word for “cocoon.” It’s incredibly naive to think we can protect children and youths from the world around them. We should instead focus on building a community around them that loves, supports, encourages, and equips them to become the agents of change in our world (and please don’t read that as “people who vote like I do”). Sometimes this means something easy like supporting the teen group’s bake sale for summer camp, but it also means doing things that can be hard at first, like inviting young people into positions of leadership, seeking their involvement in community life outside of just the annual Youth Sunday, allowing them to have a voice in what your Corps community looks like, and affirming their efforts even in light of their mistakes. Otherwise…
7) They Find Better Feelings
Let’s be honest–this world has a lot of great, fun stuff to offer. It also offers plenty of alternative theories for spiritual-ish contentment. Of course, none of it will last with us into eternity, and it all proves to be a shoddy foundation even for this life. Yet, pizza parties and lock-ins don’t fare much better, and only keep their appeal for about 1 thousand times (sarcasm there, sorry) and if that’s all their Church community has to offer young people, then they’ll find something better. It’s no wonder that they leave after years of being told they’re too loud, their music sucks, they’re not allowed to change this or that or someone would have a fit, the Corps can’t afford to send them here because the adults want new drapery, and on and on. The world offers imperfect relationships too, and often it’s easier to find a place to belong where you’re not judged or harangued by an older generation outside of the Church.
8) They Got Tired of Pretending
As I stated last week, I don’t think we’re too guilty of preaching any culturally influenced, grossly unbiblical prosperity gospel (notice I said “preaching” not “living”; yet that’s outside the scope of our current consideration though). What we are really, really guilty of though is indoctrinating young people into the intricacies of our specific culture without truly equipping them to be disciples of Jesus. We’re pretty darn good at cranking out Junior Soldiers, Girl Guards, and Corps Cadets when and where we’ve made that our aim, but producing disciples of Jesus who have their identity in Christ alone… If I can be honest, I’d say that one of the greatest struggles I’ve faced in my spiritual life as an adult has been rooting my identity in Christ, not in what I do, what positions I hold or invitations I receive, or who thinks what about me. That’s just not something I was taught to do growing up in The SA. Maybe I’m alone in feeling this way, but I have a hard time believing I’m totally wrong about this. Similar to the struggle I’ve experienced, I believe that many of our young people get tired of pretending to be the perfect soldier in the face of all our TSA dysfunction, and they’ve never been taught to truly identify with Christ. So when they get fed up with us, they leave God behind as well.
9) They Know the Truth
This point seemed to me, to basically rehash what was just covered. DYL delegates will remember Dr. Root’s words about the youth ministry approach that views young people as calculators that need to be programmed to give our desired outcome. Discipling young people is about more than just teaching them to think like we do, it’s supposed to be about leading them to the heart and mind of Christ. We often seem to settle for the former, and don’t connect them to Christ in any meaningful, life changing way. Then when they grow old enough to realize that they’ve just been playing a church persona, they no longer have any interest to continue doing so.
10) They Don’t Need It
We definitely have our boxes that we love to check off to, more to make ourselves feel good about all the work we’re doing than to really assess whether the things we’re doing are bearing fruit in the lives of the young people we serve. We can easily fall into a routine of shuffling young people through the ranks of cradle roll, Junior Soldier, Corps Cadet, Senior Soldier, and on. But as Marc points out, “If church is simply a place to learn life-application principals to achieve a better life in community… you don’t need a crucified Jesus for that.” If we’re just teaching life skills, or preparing our young people to think the way we want them to think, we’re missing the point. We can talk a great talk, but it won’t translate into something meaningful and necessary for the lives of our young people unless they see that in us. In your Corps, does “serving Jesus” really mean “serving an SA program?” Does “throwing your life away for the sake of the Gospel” really mean “go to the CFOT and enjoy a free minivan for life?” Young people don’t need Jesus to live a mostly fulfilling, care free and affluent, Western lifestyle. They can easily choose to do that, and not give up sleeping in on Sunday mornings. They’re not going to connect with the Gospel that bids them to come and die unless they see us dead to the things of this world–materialism, pursuit of status and power, pride, autonomy, etc.
- Which of these points to you see most effecting your Corps or community?
- Bring this list to your youth and have a frank conversation with them about the way they feel.
- Prayerfully assess the state of youth development in your Corps with your leadership team.