Keeping Our youth in the Faith
By Kai Mark
An ontario pastor shares how the Hemorrhaging Faith report con-
firms his understanding of how churches can best minister to youth.
hemorrhaging Faith, a recent Canadian study on young adults and churches, confirmed what many of us already knew – that many young
adults are leaving the Church. Although some have used
this study to draw attention to the need for youth ministry, it could also be seen as an indictment to our existing
youth ministry. We have given our teens youth programs
without genuine spiritual substance. We have put our
young people into their own little groups away from the
influence of godly adults.
This study challenges us to rethink our strategies in
working with our youth. A situation where 60 to 90 per
cent of our youth drop out of church is unacceptable.
I have never been a “youth pastor” in the sense of focusing only on youth. However, I have been a pastor for
nearly 27 years and have always worked with youth. As
a lead pastor and church planter, I have always believed
what our churches need is not more youth pastors, but
more pastors who have a heart for youth.
We have placed the responsibility of the spirituality
of our youth solely on the youth pastor, when it is the
responsibility of every adult in the congregation to share.
Hemorrhaging Faith confirms some of my thoughts
in ministry over the years. (The study, co-authored by
Rick Hiemstra of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada,
is available at www.hemorrhagingfaith.com.) There are
four key points that will help keep youth in the Church.
There will still be some youth who drop out, but these
four things are sure to help minimize the number.
Understanding the Value of the Gospel. In Hemor-
rhaging Faith the researchers concluded, “One of the most
critical factors determining
the engagement of youth and
young adults in the Church is
their experience of their faith
and their walk with God. Spe-
cifically, we learn that those in
the Wanderers and Rejecters
categories report they have
never experienced the love of
God and answered prayer.”
If our young people do
not have a relationship with
God, why would we expect
them to stay in the Church?
What will change our youth is
not our structures, programs,
or even ourselves, but Jesus
Christ Himself through the life-changing message of the gospel.
Our institutionalization of
the gospel has not resulted in
the conversion of our youth
and, therefore, they will naturally leave a church where there
is no spiritual reality. We must
re-examine whether we are
preaching the real gospel or
some sugar-coated, feel-good,
that leads our youth to hell just
as much as the false teachings
of the cults.
It seems that many who grew
up in our churches are not confronted by the gospel unless they
attend some Christian camp.
Early in my ministry I wrestled with what the gospel really was, and re-examined
fundamental questions about the nature of the gospel
and its relevance. The result of this lengthy journey was a
clearer understanding of the gospel and how to present it.
I have discovered that many church leaders have
never wrestled through the message of the gospel. Many
Evangelicals are content with a prayer for salvation, when
Jesus wants us to repent of our sins, believe in Him and
follow Him in His Kingdom.
The Apostle Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the
gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to
the Gentile” (Romans 1: 16). We must preach a gospel
that has the power to change lives, especially the lives
of our youth.
Understanding the Value of Junior Highs. Hemor-
rhaging Faith reveals that:
there are some significant patterns in why and when
Canadian young adults are leaving, staying or returning
to church, including: we are losing more young people
between childhood and adolescence than between ado-
lescence and young adult years. . . . [T]he transition