Recently I sent an Email to the folks in charge at my church. In it I asked how they would respond to the 5 previous articles on this blog. How will Traditional Adventism seek to retain our young people in the church? A portion of my email stated:
I arrived at this decision when I was thinking what the traditional Adventist proposes to do to help youth stay in the Adventist church. I looked on the internet and found precious little that dealt with the principles involved in retaining American youth in the SDA church.
After I read the article copied below, I was thinking, as it identifies relationship as the big thing how does one build a relationship if they deny the ability of others to hold differing views. Can one have a relationship with the young person while demanding that they accept all your beliefs and doctrines? What does a young person feel if they find that their teacher is not allowed to teach anything other then generic SDA beliefs or worse yet a subset of SDA beliefs which are ill identified or have to be officially presented by the SDA organization? Basically it comes down to how is a relationship built or maintained if the relationship is primarily built upon either side accepting a specific set of doctrines? How does a method of Traditional SDA doctrine only related classes, work with visitors or the friends of youth, do they feel that their church is open enough to accept their non SDA friends or will they feel that their teachers can't handle alternative Christian views? Perhaps, and I hope this is not the case but it likely is, we don't want to expose our young people to other possibilities and ideas because we have assumed that we have all the truth and if it is not part of our doctrines then it has no value, that the possibility that we could be wrong is too terrible to even contemplate.
A recent article in Adventist Today by Chris Blake began:
Every year I see my students leave a vibrant campus, and I know what’s going to happen to them. Many will walk inside a small Adventist church, where they expect or hope to encounter excellent preaching; soul-stirring music; honest, deep friendships characterized by open dialogue; and attractive, imaginative, courageous discipleship.
Soon they will be disappointed. Soon after that, they will bolt.
Some of that may be a little over the top. I grew up very close to
Of course Adventism is not alone in seeing their young people leave the church. It happens in most all Christian churches in
Ron Luce is worried. And if Ron Luce is worried, we should be too. Ron runs an organization called Teen Mania which puts on camps, concerts and various and sundry other sorts of events for youth. He claims that in the last fifteen years 2 million youth have attended his events, the usual formula for which includes some prominent popular Evangelical band, speakers, and counselors. There is a figure that was put out there a decade or so ago which said that even Evangelical Churches are retaining only about 4-5% of our youth. A more recent poll by George Barna suggests that only 5% of our country's youth are Bible believing Christians, but perhaps he was defining Christian or Bible-believing too narrowly. I personally don't think this is true, but even if it is in the ball park it means that youth ministry as currently constituted is largely failing. You should read the story for yourself. Here's the link from this morning's N.Y. Times.
The youth in our churches have the same malaise affecting Christianity in the Western World. They just haven’t committed the years as adults so they feel free to bolt. The fact is that music and speakers and counselors aren’t going to really change anything. We have to change they way we do church. We have to allow open dialogue, stop being so dogmatic and provide relevancy of Christianity to the reality of the world we live in. Relevancy is not found in doctrines but in relationship; relationship between people which encourage and stimulate the relationship with God. We could all have a relationship with God in private but really what good is that? Christianity was never about making the individual content with whatever he or she thought they wanted in a relationship with God. After all if it is just you then you will tend to make God fit in to your ways. We need the outside relationship to stimulate that personal relationship with God…to make it more than what we want into what makes our community better. In simple terms we need to be healed, but when we are isolated by ourselves our sickness is not so obvious and of course we are of no aid to the other sick campers.
We have to get past our insistence upon doctrines as our salvation or the way to salvation. They are not, and sometimes our doctrines are part of the problem. The old methods are not working; they are not working in the Adventist church any better then any other denomination or non denominational church. When was the last time your church talked about this subject? Mine doesn’t I hope to stimulate them; it is too bad I had to be treated as problem to get them to talk about it, if they will talk about it. Hopefully they will respond and I will relay it here, and if they don’t…well hopefully not every Christian wants to play ostrich with their head in the ground.