Those who see their young people becoming believers and staying in the church are those who are clear on the need for young people to convert and who equip parents to take their responsibilities for teaching the gospel to their children seriously. The answer is not raising up godly young people through better youth work, but raising up godly parents who will teach and train their own children.
I am amazed by the number of people who seem to think that youth work and children’s programmes are the key to raising up a new, godly generation of believers. Now, don’t get me wrong, these things can be a wonderful benefit to the church. But I am utterly convinced that if we want a generation of new believers being raised up, we will best achieve it by building up godly parents.
There is often a reflex that assumes teenagers drift away from church because there wasn’t anything on for them. This line of thinking typically ignores the fact that if teenagers are only coming to church because there is a youth work, we haven’t actually won them to Christ. If we haven’t actually won them to Christ, all the time and effort poured into keeping them with youth work seems entirely pointless. Indeed, if they haven’t been won to Christ, we can’t be that surprised that they do not want to stay in the church.
As I noted here, the number one reason youth drift away from the church is because they never actually became believers. The responsibility for teaching and raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord lies with families. Youth do not drift off from church because there weren’t enough programmes on for them, they drift off because they never came to trust in Jesus. The responsibility for teaching and training our children lies with the family unit, particularly with fathers.
What this means is that, if we want to see a godly generation of new believers raised up in the church, the answer may not lie in putting on more activities for the youth. The answer lies in building up the parents so that they can better teach their children at home and equip them as those God holds responsible for the spiritual state of the family. As I noted here, ‘It is not good enough to outsource all of our children’s spiritual teaching and then wonder why they never came to faith given we sent them out of the service for half an hour every week. This is neither talking of the scriptures in your house nor the incorporation of them into your everyday life that Deuteronomy expects. It is likewise not fulfilling the imperative of Ephesians 6:4 that fathers are responsible for the spiritual teaching and training of their children.’
Indeed, as I argued here (and I would encourage you to read the full post), the fruit of such thinking was noted back in the 80s by Roy Joslin in Urban Harvest, but his comments continue to go unheeded. He wrote:
For all the dedication of godly Sunday School teachers over many years, it appears that much of that effort was like pouring water into a badly holed bucket or, to be more biblical, like trying to catch fish with some badly torn gospel nets. Why was it that so many children who swam into the gospel nets in their earlier years had on the whole swum out again before adult years had been reached?
Elaborate doctrinal teaching may be inculcated in childhood, but its influence is not likely to last unless maintained by the atmosphere of the home or unless supported by social usage.