We live in a culture that divides people. Socially, demographically, politically—our culture continually promotes dividing lines. In particular, our society tends to pit young people against older people, making generations conflict.
Thankfully, in the family of God, we are led otherwise, led toward unity among generations. We are all one in the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12; Gal. 3:28). From the womb to the tomb to eternity, every member of the family of God has value and worth.
Oklahoma Baptist churches are blessed to have strong members from every generation: Greatest Generation, Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and now Gen Z. Each of these are playing a vital role in what God is doing in our state and around the world.
I am thankful for each and every one of these generations and individuals. I am particularly grateful for senior saints who have served so faithfully for so long: praying, giving, going. Because of them, we have seen the Gospel advance, to the glory of Christ!
Today, I am writing with a focus on the younger generation mentioned—Gen Z. In a recent column, Lifeway writer Aaron Earls talks about how Gen Z is facing a church drop out crisis of epic proportions.
“Lifeway Research found 66 percent of churchgoing teenagers drop out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22,” Earls wrote. “Thinking about the similarities between a church dropout during college and COVID may provide pastors and church leaders with more realistic expectations moving forward and ways to think about reaching those who still haven’t returned.
“As teenagers transition to young adults, many also transition away from the religious beliefs and practices they previously held. In the Lifeway Research study of young adults, 29 percent of those who dropped out of the church say they planned on taking a break from church after high school.
“The primary reason young adults leave the church after high school, and more than likely the primary reason churchgoers have not returned post-pandemic, is not, however, an intentional decision. Most simply drifted away during those college years. And the same is true for many during COVID.”
Stop and think about that. What’s true for young people was true for many other generations. We simply got out of the habit of going to church.
Earls added, “Their habits and routines of life were disrupted, and many didn’t make the intentional effort needed to find a new church. Many teens aren’t changing their beliefs, but their beliefs aren’t enough motivation for the work of church hunting and attending.”
It would be easy to think that these young people will simply boomerang back to church once they get married or have children. Yet there is no guarantee of that, and we need them to engage now.
As one minister said, the 18-year-old needs the 81-year-old, and vice versa, in church life. This all underscores the urgent need to pray for ministries like Falls Creek, Baptist Collegiate Ministries (also known as BSU), Oklahoma Baptist University, Vacation Bible School and so many other ministries that reach the next generation for Christ.
What can you do? Today, pray. Pray for your pastor, your church, these ministries. Next, go to church yourself to set the example. Next, spend time volunteering, if you are able. Then spend time reaching out in fellowship and friendship to younger people. Finally, continue to financially support your church.
In the Body of Christ, we value all phases of life, from first to last. And we need all generations, from the first to the middle to the last, to accomplish the Gospel work to which Jesus has commanded us.