Why Young People Need the Church

Before I get into my post, I would like to say a few words about this blog. I have always loved the idea of blogs, but to be honest I also struggle with them. Sometimes I feel like there is so much information, or someone is just writing to promote their business, and the real reason behind the blog gets lost. My hope for this blog is that it will encourage Christian parents as they take on the important task of helping their kids mature as young women and men of God.

You see, many times in life we want to see what the end game is, we want to know that everything is going to work out, so that we can continue the journey through the hills and the valleys. We want to make sure that the valleys are worth it. Unfortunately, life is not so transparent, and we have to go through some muck, face the pain and uncertainty of the world, and learn along the way that our lives also carry significant meaning, profound love and amazing grace.

So to help your families along on this journey, we hope you will use this blog as a resource, a comrade, a partner in parenting young people in this age of uncertainty, through life altering events, and “learning to dance in the rain.” I hope that through the honest testimonies, the “I have been there’s”, the “I didn’t think I could get through it” times, and helpful resources and articles, you will be encouraged and empowered along the journey of Christian parenting.

Observations on Young Christians

So because I am the Director for Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at Wayne Presbyterian Church, I want to share why I believe the Church is (or should be) so important for our young people.

Many people try to understand what motivates millennials or Generation Z to go to church. Indeed, church attendance rates are down for these generations, and we wonder about their future as Christians. Sometimes we think they will only come to church if their friends come, or if there is a moon bounce each week, or maybe if we have food truck Sundays. On the contrary, I have observed that they most actively explore their faith when they are wrestling with the world, when they are seeing human dignity compromised, or when crisis articles are posted on Facebook. I get more texts from youth and college students when a tragedy occurs, or when their purpose or place in this world is questioned.

There certainly are rumors about this generation being apathetic or too tolerant. On the contrary, I believe that this generation cares more about people's right to dignity, voice, and equality than any generation before.  Our young people really do care about something greater in this world, and at one point or another, they question their purpose and existence in it.

Each person is wired to seek purpose and meaning for the space they occupy in the world. We are a people who want to be inspired, and if that one-minute YouTube does not inspire us, we can easily access another one, and another, until an hour has gone by and we still feel the same. The problem is that we are bombarded with numerous and dubious sources of instant answers to the philosophical, or what I would call theological, question of, “What is my purpose,” or “Why am I here?”

These questions are often on the minds of young people, and their answers are initially shaped by how many sports they play or how many AP classes they take or how many musicals they are in – all for the immediate purpose of getting into the perfect school. It is not bad to play sports, perform in musicals, or want to academically challenge oneself, but it becomes clear that these activities answer only a part of the question.

What’s cool is when you see the small shifts in young people, when they move from seeing their purpose as being the soccer player to seeing their purpose as being a good friend when their friend’s parents are going through a divorce, or being a companion to children experiencing poverty, or standing up to bullying or racism or guns in school or in the world.

A Place for Courageous Exploration and Purpose

The Church can and should be a place where young people experience this shift, and feel safe and encouraged to explore big spiritual matters and worldviews. It is a place where questions of self worth coupled with the injustices in the world can be mulled over, where youth can struggle and doubt, yet still be loved, not judged but known as beautiful children of God. This is where faith builds its root system, after being sown throughout childhood, it grows deeper through exposure to our broken world, the strength of our community, and a commitment to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)   

This is why the Church is so important for our sensitive millennials and Generation Z’s, because they are numb from the fast streaming and pings of constant brokenness in our world. The Church should be the place where young people can turn to in times of tragedy in the world or uncertainty in their lives. When they see the racism, poverty, abuse, pain, addiction, and oppression in the world, they want to do something about it, and the Church can be the home base for the justice and common purpose they seek. And they can always return to this home base in Wayne, or join another Christian community at college or elsewhere, knowing they will find a familiar foundation of faith and purpose.

I have heard many parents talk about wanting so badly for their youth and college students to value faith and the Church, and that led me to Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits for Highly Effective People. In his chapter on “Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind,” Covey talks about envisioning what you hope to accomplish, and within that imagination you can begin to put in place the scaffolding needed to accomplish this. He says,

“There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don't make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default…Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”

So, parents, if your goal is eventually to send off your youth to college or into the workplace with spiritual maturity or seeking a deeper faith, what would change about your lives if you kept that goal at the forefront? What are the resources you might use, or how can our church partner with you to help build life-long faith in your family? Please post a comment below if you have ideas, questions, challenges or resources to share, or you can email me directly!           

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is so true. It takes teachers, parents, family members, pastors, coaches, inspiration or wisdom from a blog post, and many other elements to accomplish this mission if you want faith to be important to young people. 

I am not convinced that Christianity is fading in the next generations, I just think it takes a faithful village to help guide young people towards a place where they can feel unconditional value, enoughness, love, joy, hope, compassion and grace that they can take into college and further into the world.  

As you create, revise or affirm your vision for your youth and/or college students, I hope that faith and the Church will be an important part of the conversation, because this is a community that will support them as they wrestle with this world and their purpose in it.

Sarah Hostetter
Director of Mission and Youth Ministries

 

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. Ephesians 2:10

 

Resources:

When visiting schools, one college student told me it was helpful to look at local churches and Christian organizations during their college tours. There are multiple websites that can help you with this.

Penn State Main Campus: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/campus-community-diversity/religiousspiritual-community/local-houses-worship

University of Delaware: http://www1.udel.edu/spirituallife/relorg.html

Drexel University: http://drexel.edu/studentlife/diversity/spiritual-and-religious-life/

Duke University: (Sarah Beaverson is on Leadership here) https://sites.duke.edu/dukepcm/leadership/student-leadership-team/

University of Pittsburgh: http://ccojubilee.org/about/where-we-serve/university-of-pittsburgh/116/
Posted by Sarah Hostetter at 2:12 PM
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