By Guest Writer Riley Jarman
One challenge facing the church today is a decrease in youth participation in church activities. A recent survey found that in Protestant worship alone, up to two-thirds of young people aged eighteen to twenty-two stopped going to church. Nearly all the respondents cited life changes like starting college or work as reasons for decreased attendance. However, 63 percent said they stopped participating in church because they didn’t connect with its student and youth ministry initiatives.
By focusing on revamping your church’s approach to communicating with young people, you can better find spiritual common ground and encourage them to participate in your church once more. Below are a few tips to get you started.
Make Relevant Youth Programs
In part, this step means making sure that your programs can help the youth navigate modern life using the Bible’s teachings. For example, a program on cyberbullying can help victims turn to the Bible for solace: Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, not respond with personal slights, and thus not retaliate insults with further insults. A “relevant” program should also reach out to all youth, regardless of their upbringing. You can do so by recognizing cultural influences on child development. For example, Asian and Latin American societies are more “collectivist,” meaning that compared to conventional American society, they uphold family values more. Making programs that focus on these values can resonate with these youths’ upbringing and encourage them to participate.
Get Kids Totally Involved
The youth want to be taken as seriously as adult members of the church are, so don’t limit them to setting tables at events. Hone in on what each kid, teen, or young adult is good at and find a way to include them in various church activities. If your church runs a social media account, youth writers can come up with relevant and engaging blog posts on spiritual topics. More musically-inclined individuals can choose and perform songs at church events, and the artists can help with everything from youth ministry t-shirts to informative church media materials. By doing so, you’ll help kids experience God at church in their own way and encourage them to keep serving.
Reach Out through Social Media
You can always use social media to invite more of the youth in your area to visit your church, but doing so can be tricky. For example, using memes in the wrong context can damage your post’s reach. Kids won’t look at posts without visual elements, either. Therefore, it’s crucial to build a social media strategy. Play to the strengths of each platform you use. YouTube and TikTok are great for long- and short-form videos, while you’ll do well with aesthetically pleasing shots on Instagram. All your posts should also have a call to action to encourage the youth to participate in the initiatives you’re broadcasting. Does this sound like a handful? Have a youth member help you out!
We’ve previously emphasized the effectiveness of using crystal-clear expectations in church activities. In the case of engaging youth, such expectations involve highlighting at all times the purpose of their participation: to serve God and spread the Word and love of Jesus. By doing so, you’ll be stressing your authenticity as a church, and this is something that the youth appreciates the most. Don’t try to be overly ”cool” to fit with the times. Instead, promote your church as it is – a warm and welcoming safe space in which all people can worship God. In the end, being authentic in your dealings with youth gives them a clear purpose, something to strive toward, and something to encourage them to keep participating.
Declining youth participation in church is one of the foremost pressing issues of our time. By reaching out to youth in ways that are relevant, accessible, and authentic, your church will overcome this challenge and help our younger generations find God.