The first paragraph contains these words from Mark Oestreicher, president of YouthSpecialties:
There are a lot of people who've had this nagging sense that we're missing the mark somehow. That kids seem happy and willing to attend, and engaged in our ministries, but five years from now, when they're in college or post-college, they just really aren't connecting with real faith, let alone church.Now, if you're familiar with YouthSpecialties, you're probably aware that the mark they seem to be aiming at is attracting young people to church (or perhaps we should say, the church's "youth ministry") by making it fun, entertaining, hip, and exciting. Perhaps it's a good thing that Oestreicher is beginning to recognize that the market-driven strategy of fun and excitement draws a crowd, but does not make a church.
Oestreicher's comments are followed by others from people at places like Princeton and Fuller seminaries, some of which are rather insightful and sound.
I'm not holding my breath that this is the beginning of some revolution for the better in evangelical youth ministry. But it does bring to mind the statement I've heard Frank Hamrick make, and that others have told me Les Ollila has made: "What it takes to reach them is what it takes to keep them."
If broadly evangelical churches are suffering a dearth of post-college young people, so are many fundamentalist churches. I wonder if fundamentalist churches don't often employ the same "fun and exciting" strategy for youth ministry (just without the rock music) and experience the same departure of those young people when they're transitioned into big people church after high school or college. After all, isn't it fair to say that after high school, many fundamentalist young people "really aren't connecting with real faith, let alone church"?
Here's my question: If your church uses candy or prizes as a primary motivational techniques in your children's ministry or youth ministry, what do you think those strategies accomplish? And if they accomplish something of value, do you use the same strategies with your adults? If not, why not?
What it takes to reach them is what it takes to keep them.