Making the Tough Calls

Every church needs a youth group. Isn’t that right? That is the impression one gets. But what if the majority of the people in your community and in your church are young families and seniors, do you still have a youth group?

We had to make a tough call recently. I’m still not quite sure if there will be fallout from it or not. We, meaning the Elders Board, had to make the tough decision of deciding we would not have a youth group this next year. We don’t know about the year after that or the next, but this year we will not be running a youth group.

When I arrived a this church 7 years ago they had  a great youth center and a part time youth pastor. A year or two after I arrived they celebrated a Grade 12 Grad in our church and had about 12 grads. But from then on the youth group slowly declined. A year ago our part time youth pastor resigned. Last year we tried running with volunteer help. But we had very irregular and very low attendance. The volunteers were discouraged and decided they would not help with youth this year.

Recently, the Elders Board has been working through our church Vision and Purpose and Plans. In our discussions we realized that we have a church with hardly any youth in it. Our church and our community are predominantly young families and seniors. We do not have a Jr. or Sr. High School in town, so families with teens do not choose to move here and those whose children become teens choose to move out of town. tough_decisions_aheadWhile there are some youth, we need to understand our limited resources and focus on who we have right now. We might have a youth program again, but not this year.

This is not an easy decision and may be misunderstood by some, but it was a decision we felt we needed to make. We are presently thinking through how best to talk with our congregation about this decision. There will be questions, but hopefully they understand. Some might see us not having a youth program as “going backwards”. Instead, I see it as a step forward in clarifying our vision. If we really felt we needed to make this happen, then we would find a way, but it is not part of our vision for this next year.

As leaders, we need to make the tough decisions even if they may be misunderstood. As a pastor of a small church, as leaders in a small church, we can’t do everything. We have to be more focused. Young families and Seniors is our new focus.

Don’t be scared to make the tough calls.

Do We Have To Expect Our Youth Will Leave the Faith?

I just had the great opportunity, a couple of weeks ago, of moving my daughter to Vancouver. She’s enrolled in film school.

And then I see an interview by Josh McDowell – and another new book warning us that we are to expect that 70% of our young people will walk away from God by the time they are in their early twenties. Not the most encouraging to a parent who has just dropped off his daughter in the city for school.

But it made me think about this concern as both a parent and a pastor. Should we expect that our youth will drift away? While there are examples of kids who have wandered away, aren’t there a number of examples of those who did not?

I don’t feel worried about my daughter. Here’s why.

1. We made church a priority as a family all her life. And not just because I’m a pastor. We made church a priority, even making sure we went to church when we were on holidays. We made sure to never make it feel like a duty but a privilege to be part of a church. We involved our family in serving in the church from an early age – helping with children’s ministry, with music, and whatever else we could do.

2. We made sure our children understood what salvation was all about. I’m not worried about our daughter because I’m convinced that she really came to faith herself. She made a decision to follow Jesus that was her decision, a decision she understood, a decision she chose to make. This is going to go with her wherever she is.

3. My wife and I told our daughters we expected them to take at least one year of Bible School at a school of their choice. My daughter spent a year at Capernwray. This was an opportunity for her to grow spiritually on her own, away from her parents. She had the opportunity to learn with others her age. It gave her an opportunity to further think through her faith in an environment where she could question in a safe environment.

4. When we dropped our daughter off at school, we took the time to check out a couple of churches with her. It’s been a few Sundays now and she has been attending one of the churches both Sundays.  And she even met another young girl who attends the same church.

5. And we have been praying for our daughter. God has been working in her life all the time. I trust that God will walk with her.

I don’t think we need to be scared to send our kids away to college. We just need to do some work to help them along. Much of this is stuff that happens when they are younger.

And as a pastor, I probably need to do more to encourage the parents in the church with their children.

Some will still choose to walk away, but we don’t need to expect them too.