A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Symposium on Youth & Culture at my alma mater, Spartanburg Methodist College. The Symposium featured keynote addresses from Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean and Dr. Darwin Glassford. Both of our guests offered timely, expert analysis of the current youth culture and the opportunities and challenges that face the church in light of the shifts in culture that have and are taking place. I don’t have the space or the ability to recap the breadth of the learning here, but I was impacted by one particular comment that Dr. Dean made and it has stuck with me over the last couple of weeks. Allow me to share a bit of background to help you understand why the comment struck me. As I have gotten settled in to my position as Congregational Specialist, and especially with a specialization in youth ministry, the question I have been asked most is “how do we (as a church) get and keep youth and young adults?” I have answered that time and again with a question: “why do you want them?” I would then share with the leadership of churches my belief that if a church only wants youth and young adults to “save” the church, or to prolong the life of the church that youth would never come, but rather would be attracted to a church that truly, genuinely cared for them, loved them, and wanted to share Christ with them. It seems to be a common perception that the way to”save the church” is to capture youth and young adults to be the savior.
Enter Dr. Dean at the Symposium on Youth & Culture. In the midst of one of her keynote addresses she made the following comment:
” In order to save the church, we don’t need youth….we need hope!”
Read that again. It is a true, accurate, convicting and powerful statement. The theological ramifications of the idea that youth will “save the church” are obvious. After all, the church is created to worship THE savior of the world. The church is the bride of Christ. Surely there is good logic in trusting HIM to save the church than trusting any group of sinful, misguided humans. So what is our HOPE found in? It is in Christ. And to save the church and to reach and keep youth and young adults I believe our strategy should be simply to connect people (young, old, and in between) to a life-altering relationship with Christ. I am reminded of the old hymn….
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
May we find our hope in NOTHING LESS.