The State of Church Ministry: Why We are Failing as Pastors?

I read. A lot. Including, but not limited to: SportsCenter and Georgia Football blogs.

Then I read this. (It’s worth checking out.)

My first thought was, “Yes! We are failing. Preach harder! More conviction! More altar calls! The busses will wait.”

Then I thought about it some more. The article makes the claim that 88% of students are leaving church when they get to college, which is an indicator that student ministry is failing. And we fail, apparently, because we play chubby bunny a lot and water down the gospel.

Really, 88 percent? Gone. Are 88 percent of youth ministries across the country failing? Are 88 percent of student ministers failing?

First of all, what does 88 percent really mean? Are these students who never go to church again? Are they students who don’t go to church when they are freshman? Sophomores? Do they never ever go back to church? Are they students who bounce around from church to church and never find a home?

No, I think 88 percent of students is a little high. I have plenty of friends who never found a church home when they got to college. But they found a Wednesday night home. And I watched them lay hands on the sick and hurting. I watched them start house churches. I watched them start a movement on my campus. I watched blind people get sight back. And sick people get well. All from kids who never went to church on Sunday.

And shame on us for thinking that we, you and I, have the power, authority, or ability to water down the gospel.

The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can store up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. (Philippians 1.17-18)

And so it is. Christ is preached.

No. That’s not the problem.

What happens is this, we grow up our whole lives going to church being told to be careful who you hang out with. We are shown the illustration that it’s easier to pull a person down from a chair than it is to pull someone up. We go to sunday school and then big church and then Sunday night church and then Wednesday night church. We are there every time the door is open.

Why? To grow spiritually. To learn. To whatever…

Yes, I do believe you should choose wisely who you’re friends are. I absolutely believe your friends determine the direction and the quality of your life. And yes, I do believe it’s vital to mature as a believer in Christ (so that we do not lack anything.)

However, I think we are missing one piece of the puzzle. And missing this piece of the puzzle breeds consumer christians. Christians who go to college and bounce around from church to church saying, “Oh, the worship doesn’t do it for me.” “It’s not deep enough.” “I need more teaching.” “I need to be discipled better.”

Yak. Yak. Yak. Consumer Christians.

Here’s what I think has been on my heart for weeks now: The church is the hope of the world. What if we as pastors, student ministers, small group leaders, and family pastors started to preach the need for influence with outsiders? 

I’m not talking about getting our small group together and going to feed homeless people. Social justice is what we are called to, not something we organize special trips for.

No. I’m talking about outsiders who sit by us on the bus, who shop next to us, who eat next to us, who live in our cup-de-sac. The church is their hope.

What if we told our students it’s ok to like people who aren’t christians? What if we gave them permission to be friends with those people? What if we told them to go have dinner at their house? Play baseball with them? Spend time one-on-one with them?

What if our students really got that the church is the hope of the world and those who have found it, namely Jesus, are the stewards of the message for a better life? Not more prosperous or heisman winning, but the message of a life filled with hope and joy and love and forgiveness and redemption and grace and Jesus.

If a student really believed they, the church, are the hope of the world, would they not find a church home with a vision to seek and save the lost and jump in head first? Would they not?

What if we told them the church wasn’t for them, but it was for everyone else who hadn’t found it yet?

This could be the idea that changes everything. Don’t you think?

So, are we losing church attenders because we water down the gospel in Church ministry? I don’t think so.

But are we teaching our students that the answer for the brokenness in the world is the local church? The answer is Jesus? Are we teaching them that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost? To bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free?

I think the reason students are leaving church when they get to college is because they grow up their whole lives thinking church is for them. They think church is for church people. So, they get used to a “style” of church and when they get to college and can’t find the “style” they like, they just don’t go.

And for those of you who are thinking right now that I’m taking discipleship out of church by encouraging students to invite unchurched friends, it has been my experience that engaging with outsiders grows and stretches my faith more than sitting in a class gaining knowledge. Think about it. If you’re engaged in conversation with people who think differently than you and who ask tough questions to what you believe, what will happen to your faith? And what would happen to your faith if one of those people who you have been investing in finally comes to church for the first time? What would happen when that person finally looks at you and says, “I get it?”

I believe it leads to a growing faith, not a growing knowledge.

So, let us as pastors and church leaders lead our people into believing they have the answers for the hurt of a dying world.

What a difference we could make…