A friend of mine says, "For every difficult question, there is usually a simple answer.....that is wrong". I think this question may be the perfect illustration of that truth. Likely, it is a collision of factors. One expert in the area of transitioning Christian high school youth to college churches and campus based ministries estimates we are losing 75,000 youth per year in Baptist life alone.
What are some of the colliding factors that are producing this loss?
-Many youth disappear from their youth group when they get their drivers license. All those youth that are recognized on Senior Sunday have not been active the whole time. Some estimate as many as half have not been active the last couple of years of high school.
-Everything costs more and youth and college students are working more and longer hours at part time jobs.
-Parents are less active or committed to church and therefore, the expectation on their son or daughter is less.
-College campuses are becoming increasingly unfriendly to campus Christian groups. On some campuses, Christian groups cannot require all their leaders be Christian with certain beliefs in order to be a recognized group.
-The short tenure of Youth Ministers in many churches allows youth to fall through the cracks in interims or from one youth minister to another. This obviously applies to youth who have gone to college and their Youth Minister that connected to them is no longer at their home church.
-Lack of communication between churches and campus based ministers as to who is coming to their campus is significant. One state wide collegiate ministry sent a letter to 1300 churches requesting a list of their students going to college and got fewer than 20 responses.
-The emphasis on evangelism in campus based ministry can subtract from effort of reaching and keeping those who have already made a profession of faith.
-Our society continues to become a more "instant and continuous entertainment oriented society" and a College Ministry isn't always, flash, bling and entertainment.
-College young people tend to isolate more due to their technology. They can stay in their room and watch movies, talk world wide on their phone, google anything, and even never go to the library.
-As college students isolate more, they have fewer friends and the number one factor in college students attending a campus Christian event the first time is a personal invitation.
-College students and even high school youth are exposed to a wider array of beliefs and non-belief than ever before. When they used to sit next to a Methodist and a Presbyterian, they may now sit next to a Buddhist and a witch.
-Continual promotion of sexual images and alcohol use have caused great college student and youth involvement which leads to feelings of guilt which helps isolate them from their faith group.
Obviously, there is no one simple answer. It is a reflection of changes in our society. But, here are three over-arching suggestions:
1. Youth Ministers and College Ministers MUST connect more and partner more.
2. Churches and College Based Ministries must work at making it possible financially for their ministers to serve more long term. Short tenures are anti-productive.
3. Church and Campus based Ministers must partner more with parents and provide more information and training for parents.
4. We must also painfully be reminded that every youth who liked pizza and summer camp was not necessarily a fully committed disciple......and I'm not opposed to pizza or summer camp.