Generation Lost: Losing the grandchildren of the baby boomers

Weekend Musings

Here’s a post I have been hanging on to for some time.  It is relevant for all believers but especially perhaps for church planters. Kimberley Wagner is a writer and pastor’s wife.  She writes for Revive Our Hearts.

I hope it will challenge your heart to pray and your mind to think more clearly about how your church is “doing ministry”.

Losing the Millennial Generation

Your Purpose posted on 06.22.09 by Kimberly Wagner

Several years ago my husband, (also my pastor) became burdened by the growing number of young people who were leaving the church. Sadly, his burden was backed up by alarming statistics:

  • 69–94 percent of Christian youth forsake their faith after leaving high school.
  • An additional 64 percent loss after college graduation.
  • 75 percent loss of students from The Assemblies of God churches within one year of high school graduation.
  • 88 percent loss of students from churches within the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • 94 percent fallout within two years of high school graduation was reported by Josh McDowell Ministries.1

What is the problem?

A heavy burden for the next generation of Christian leaders caused my husband to spend an extended period seeking God’s guidance and direction for insight into this growing trend. What he came away with resulted in (for us) a completely new approach toward ministry.

We grew up in the “program-driven model” of doing church. That’s all we’d ever known or experienced. My husband surrendered to ministry when only 13 years old and was asked to preach a message at youth camp the very next evening! He was called to pastor his first church when he was barely 18, before he even started college. We kind of “slid into” the pattern of “doing ministry” the only way we knew how. But after seeking the Lord on His view of the church, my husband came to a few different conclusions than what we’d practiced most of our lives.

We noticed our young families were spending more evenings attending church activities than they spent at home, often dragging young ones through the church door, rushing them into some childcare program, dashing down a hall to slip into an adult Bible study class without even having time to eat an evening meal until possibly 9:00 at night! We started counting up how many hours that our church was dividing up the family in order to have “spiritual activities.” We were alarmed by what we discovered.

We are not opposed to church activities. Bible study classes, outreach events, and even church softball leagues can have beneficial aspects in our spiritual formation. But what may have begun as discipling opportunities in many cases seems to have grown into a high-speed treadmill of activities with no way to jump off.

Is the church accomplishing its mission of making disciples? Equipping believers? Evangelizing the lost? It seems we can’t even keep our own kids.

Really, should it surprise us that we are losing our teens when we’ve spent so many hours away from them through the week? Has church robbed us, many times, from family meal-times, family devotion-times, family game nights, or family camping trips? Is this what the church should be doing?

How does Scripture address this issue?

We have a clear model for “doing church,” and it may be aided by various programs—but it definitely is NOT program-driven. Study this model in Titus 2:1–8, combine that with the parental instructions given in Deuteronomy 6:1–7.

How does your church stand up to scrutiny under this model? How does your life?


4 thoughts on “Generation Lost: Losing the grandchildren of the baby boomers

  1. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that young people are leaving the faith. I worked in the comic book field for years drawing comics for all the major publishers. I can tell you first hand that the entire industry is completely secularized. If there was ever any mention of the supernatural it was occult in nature. Anytime there was a priest or preacher, he was always a raving mad lunatic. Every character was atheist. They never appealed to God, never even thought about God ( you can read their thoughts with the thought bubbles) unless it was to blame him for all the ills of the world. The entire entertainment industry is the same, completely anti-Christian. Young people are being propagandized to this anti-Christian agenda.

    I didn’t used to be that way. Christians used to be on the forefront of multi media entertainment. We had glorious magnificent churches, stained glass art, beautiful paintings, and sculpture. Now, I can tell you being in the art community, you are an outcast as a Christian (especially a conservative Christian). That is what needs to change. We need to get back the art and entertainment community. We need artists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, comedians, and actors to be converted to Christianity and to be encouraged to preach that Christianity openly and directly. Even successful entertainment by the likes JRR Tolkien and C. S. Lewis hid their Christian messages in the entertainment. We must be more bold, stop apologizing for being Christian and put the anti-Christians on the defense.

    As Christians we have to be more creative and think outside the box, as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. It’s in the entertainment media that we are getting beaten badly and then handed our hat. We need to become aware and make our children aware of the power of propaganda to destroy your faith. When Batman gets in tight spot and gets through it without any appeal to God your child is being brain washed into the secular atheists mindset. The kids are defenseless against this kind of instructional propaganda. They are sitting ducks. We are losing the youth because we are losing the culture war.


  2. We were on the start-up team for a church plant that started 5 years ago. The pastor specifically set it up so that we are not program based for that very reason. He wanted the focus to be on relationship building, not activities at the campus. It has been a “work-in-progress” and we are still trying to discern the best balance between “structured” and “non-structured”. Definitely has advantages, but we are still wrestling with how to accomplish some aspects of what is required to disciple, teach, etc.

    How do you feel about the family-integrated model?


    1. I think a family-integrated approach to ministry is filled with structural problems and barriers and that none of the structural barriers and problems should keep us from solving them.

      Why? Because a family-integrated approach yields results far superior to a programed approach. See Family Based Youth Ministry by Mark Devries


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