Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy DeanThese are not easy reads, nor are they fun and inspiring. The data is sad, and sorta scary. If what these studies suggest is true, we need to wake up and make some changes. I'm encouraged by the conversations I hear in churches and amongst youth workers who are taking these studies seriously, but I'm wondering what other ideas are out there...Is there hope that we can turn the trends in the other direction and put our energy and efforts into ministries that will cultivate lasting faith in the lives of the young people with which God has entrusted us? Will we be honest about ministries and programs of which we are a part that desperately need to be changed or ended? In the world of youth ministry, "That's the way we've always done," just isn't cutting any more.
Sticky Faith by Chap Clark and Kara Powell
Souls in Transition by Christian Smith
You Lost Me by David Kinnaman
I have an idea. It's not a fix, not fool proof, and not the end all be all. It's an idea. It's something that could address this concern for some students, and it has to do with the concept of a "Gap Year." A Gap Year takes place between high school graduation and college studies, and is not a new idea. Let's face it, some of, if not most of, our students are not immediately ready for college or "real life" after high school. And apparently they aren't prepared and equipped for life after youth group either.
The Evangelical Covenant Church used to have a solution of sorts for this; it was called Covenant Bible College, and it was successful for many years serving students on 3 campuses. Unfortunately, as you may have deciphered, these campuses are all closed. What can we offer students today?
As I talked with my wife and a friend about this growing concern, we started talking about the Gap Year. What if there was something for students who weren't ready for college but wanted to pursue Christian discipleship and service training? There is an organization already doing this rather successfully, it's called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. Maybe you've heard of them! Say what you will, they have this down. Every year Mormon students forgo college scholarships, athletic opportunities, and put other life goals on hold because they are committed to their church and their faith. Seems like it's working for them as they continue to be one of the fastest growing religious groups in America.
What about us? Could we do this? Could we create a program of sorts where students move away from home for a year or two to serve in a church and participate in kingdom work in the community all while participating in an intentional discipleship program led by church staff and/or lay leaders? Could we make this happen? It wouldn't be that hard. Gather a host family or two, make a list of all the ministries that need to be supported, create an informal discipleship curriculum, and set aside a meager budget to provide the students with some spending money.
I'm tossing this out there to see if this idea has legs. Anyone reading this blog, I'd love to hear your reactions. What am I missing? Could we pull this off? Is it already happening and the word hasn't gotten out?