Last weekend we had the delight of hosting a Children’s Ministry Conference with author Steve Parr as our keynote speaker. Brother Parr and Tom Crites have done extensive research on adults 26 through 39 to discover why some young adults stay connected to a church family and some do not. His book is entitled, Why They Stay. Dr. Parr discovered 15 key reasons that people stay connected to the church as young adults, but he shared with our conferees six takeaways from his research I thought I would share today.
Takeaway One: Mom and Dad demonstrate priorities by serving at church. Our kids are over 50% more likely to stay in church as young adults if they see their parents involved in a ministry at church. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is not a good strategy for keeping young adults involved in the church. Notice, simply attending with parents is good, but when children see their parents serving, it makes all the difference.
Takeaway Two: Love for the Pastor. This one amazed me. The research shows that 90% of the nearly 1400 surveyed, were more likely to stay if they liked their pastor while growing up. A pastor’s influence on a child’s life was much more of a factor than I imagined. I suppose it also speaks to how well church members protect the pastor’s reputation in family discussions in front of their children.
Takeaway Three: A High View of Scripture. If we believe the Bible is inspired of God, it makes a difference in how we live. It also makes a difference in how the next generation will live! A church that has a low view of the Bible will lose the next generation. The church is not doing itself any favors by lowering biblical standards. Clearly, a church with a low view of Scripture is setting itself up for a gradual death.
Takeaway Four: Attending Worship Services with Their Parents When Growing Up. When children see their parents worshiping God, it impacts their lives. When kids see dad listening to the sermon, they believe it must be important. When they hear mom singing to the Lord, they also want to sing. Here’s the kicker—20-30 years later, they are still likely to be worshiping due to the influence of their parents.
Takeaway Five: Spiritual Fuel During Adolescence. Young adults are more likely to be in church if they attended a church with a vibrant student ministry. That does not mean the church was large and had a full-time youth minister. It does mean the church had good leaders who invested themselves into the lives of teenagers. The teen years are years of great importance that have lasting ramifications.
Takeaway Six: The Six Months Following Graduation are Crucial. The research shows that 60% of those that strayed did so between ages 18-22 and 33% were more likely to have stayed if their home church had a ministry directed toward college students. Staying connected to our graduating high school students is critical for their future involvement in the church. Even those who go away to college benefit greatly from cards, letters and gifts sent from their home church.
I’m grateful we are a church of all generations, but we have a deliberate focus on reaching and discipling the next generation. These takeaways from Dr. Parr are crucial to our success in getting the job done. Regardless of age, most adult Christians are burdened to see their children and grandchildren become faithful followers of Jesus. That is why we are willing to make the investment of time, energy and resources to see them come to Christ. If we see the need to give great effort to see that they have healthy food, proper clothing, and the best education, then surely, we can see the need to provide the best possible church experience for those that will one day be leading the church and advancing the kingdom of God. May God bless our efforts.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.