“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
The Church is One body made up of many different parts, both globally and locally. As believers we are united and marked with the same Holy Spirit. We are connected in a way that smashes through the barriers created in this fallen world. It is a beautiful image.
Unity is tough. It is not an easy thing that comes naturally to us. We love our independence, our rights, our ability to choose, our self. Yet we are called to die to our self and live in Jesus together as one. Putting differences aside and coming alongside together is definitely a challenge. Unity does not simply happen; it is something we need to develop.
A six-year study was recently completed by the Fuller Youth Institute from ’04 – ‘10 called “The College Transition Project.” This study was aimed at trying to discover the secret to developing long-term faith in kids. Shortly before the study launched, the Barna Group observed that over 60 percent of today’s young adults that had been “churched” when they were younger are now spiritually disengaged. Over half of our youth drift away after high school graduation. The study did not find a single solution to this problem, but they did find that a key component: building lasting faith in students develops through intergenerational relationships and worship.
The College Transition Project revealed that students felt separated from the church as a whole. One student stated that his church “would talk about having students involved, but they never really did.” Another perceived that the members of the church “wanted nothing to do with us.” Think about it this way, if all a child knows about the Church is the children’s or youth program, once they graduate out from that program they will feel as if they graduated from the Church. We need to find ways to unite, to form connections between all the members of the body to one another, and not simply those members who are similar in age or circumstance.
Students are leaving after graduation because they haven’t formed any connections to the Church as a whole. Without the influence of certain adults in my own life I am not certain that my faith would be where it is today. They noticed me, my potential and my passions, and steered me towards taking that potential and passion and using it to serve God and His Church. If they hadn’t given me that support and encouragement, it is highly likely my life and my faith would look very differently today.
In today’s modern western church structure, we strive to offer relevant and age appropriate teaching and fellowship to the church – which is important and vital to a healthy faith development and maturity. However, it is also important to come together as one body in our worship, teaching, and fellowship. Students need to be involved in all-church worship. Focusing on age groups causes a separation to occur within the Body.
It is good for students to see their parents and other adults worship and grow in their faith. It is also good to actively involve them in a service, whether it is through music, or reading, or prayer. The study also found that the more students serve and build relationships with younger children, the more likely it is that their faith will carry into their adult lives and survive the transition. In serving younger children, students have the opportunity to become role models and mentors. But it is also important for them to have their own role models and mentors, and it isn’t necessarily just their parents. As adult members of the church we need to support our youth and children, get to know them, be a part of their lives. It doesn’t have to be in a big way, but building those relationships help connect the body together; it helps us find unity.
So I challenge you: get involved, come together as one body that moves and acts in unity. Get to know other members, invest in our youth and children, invest in our seniors, invest in our young parents, build relationships. It is through relationship and mentorship that faith develops and matures, and it is cyclical. As your faith develops and matures, so you can also be a part of developing and mentoring someone else’s faith. We are all called to go, to make disciples, and to baptize. Make your faith more than just Sunday morning, make it the focus of your life daily.
Referenced article: http://stickyfaith.org/articles/the-church-sticking-together