HemorrhagingFaith n YOUTH AND YOUR CHURCH
how a generation leaving the church
is actually propelling it Forward
By Matt Wilkinson
The Church in Canada today finds itself in very chal- lenging times, desperately seeking to understand and respond to the ever-shifting world around us.
That should not surprise us – we are in an age of rapid
change, instant gratification and the celebration of veiled
narcissism and moral apathy.
There remains a very short window of time during
which the Church will have to make the critical shifts to
respond effectively to this emerging generation. Yet, in
the midst of angst about the future of the Church, I have
found – as I engage with frontline youth workers and
youth today – there is much hope to be found in this generation. I would even go so far as to say the young people
of today are the generation the Church has unknowingly
needed. We’re just having a hard time seeing it.
Where are these youth the Church so badly needs? A
few of these young people are still in our churches and
firmly committed to the faith. Others are ones who have
left the institution of church, but still desire to walk with
Jesus. Still others appear to have no interest in church. But
in their rejection they have exposed some very helpful
and critical insights. It is when we hear their concerns,
take time to listen and take seriously what they are revealing, that the Church will be moved to become what it
means to truly be the Bride of Christ in our world.
If the Church is committed to reaching, engaging and
empowering this generation to be the Church, then we
can no longer simply say that. We have to do it. Many
see reaching this next generation as the sole responsibility of the youth worker. If we hope to engage this next
generation, it will come as church leaders, parents, youth
workers and the entire congregation work together to
disciple, empower and invest in the lives of today’s youth
(Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78).
Why and when young
adults are leaving, returning or
staying in the Church are issues
that have recently been highlighted by Hemorrhaging Faith,
a study commissioned by the
EFC National Youth and Young
Adult Ministry Roundtable. It
found that one in three who
have grown up in the Church
are no longer attending church,
and one in two who have left
the Church no longer consider
How can we believe this generation is propelling the Church
forward when the research looks
so bleak? Where is the hope?
It is true the hope is not found
in this generation leaving the
Church. However, it is in their
leaving that the Church has realized it can no longer continue
with the status quo. What is
more important than the statistics presented in Hemorrhaging
Faith are the voices behind those
percentages. The voices of a generation calling the Church back
to being authentic followers of
These young people are game
changers who are looking at their
world, families, faith journey and means of influence in
a different way. It is largely because of this there is great
hope. If we are willing to listen and respond to this research, I believe the Church in Canada will become a
healthier and more committed gathering of people who
reflect the message of Jesus to a world desperately needing a loving Saviour and Lord.
When youth see their world differently, they seek to
live differently than the previous generation. This is their
worldview in terms of faith:
• They value diversity instead of segregation. They are
focused on what can bring people together, rather than
what divides them.
• They are not interested in preserving an institution.
They want to embrace spirituality.
• They seek to be people who respond to issues of justice
and the preservation of God’s creation.
• They more often lead with grace and love than judgement and rejection.
• They embrace elements that bring unity rather than
• They are unafraid to question the status quo in search
of something deeper.
• They desire a faith that is transformational, not merely
• They want to experience God, not just know more about
Are we willing to be the church that will engage, embrace and adapt in dynamic and biblical ways to see this