It’s commonly said that Christianity is always one generation from extinction. Though that may seem alarmist and almost impossible, there is a level of truth to it. God has always been faithful to raise up new leaders of the faith and new generations of young people on fire for Him. As the current generation of Christian leaders, however, we need to uphold our role by making an intentional, concerted effort to reach the next generation and disciple them in the faith.
It is incredibly important to engage with young people today in a way that encourages a real, authentic and life-changing relationship with Christ. It’s possibly more important than ever! Recent Barna studies have indicated that 55 percent of Mosaics (those currently ages 18-29; also known as Millennials) will drop out of church after attending regularly as teens. Only 16 percent of young people in that age group acknowledge seeing how the Bible applies to their “field or professional interests”.
What’s the answer to these problems? It’s more than simply dragging your child by the ear to church until they’re old enough to run the other way. It begins first with living the life you want your child to live. It does no good for you to spout Christian sayings while sporting a “do as I say, not as I do” lifestyle. If your walk is authentic and directs your path, your child will see that and may be more inclined to follow in your faith.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Startchildren off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV). Parents, I would encourage you to take this to heart and invite Jesus into your life and home. Make sure your faith in Him is more than lip service; allow Him to direct what you see, hear, discuss, and pray as you go through your day. Love your child with the grace-filled love of Christ.
Church leaders, do the same. Don’t just relegate the young people to that room at the end of the hall with the beanbags and sofas. Engage them, encourage them, pray for them, and help them as they navigate a pressure-filled world that may be hostile to their faith.
Second, disciple the children in your care—both at home and in the church—and encourage them from their early years in learning and growing in the faith. One of my roles as a vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) is to offer guidance to our Children’s and Youth Evangelism Training area. We have worked hard to develop age-appropriate materials to help you and your church effectively minister to children and teens. I encourage you to take advantage of these and other materials that are available to help your young people.
Finally, if the children and young people in your life have not yet made a decision for Christ, pray and watch for opportunities to present the Good News of Jesus Christ. As you pray, God will soften their hearts, break down barriers, and open doors for you.
At BGEA, we are in the midst of developing a nationwide mass-media outreach called My Hope with Billy Graham, which will culminate with a powerful message from my grandfather in November 2013. Be thinking and praying about young people in your life that you can invite to be a part of this program, so they will have an opportunity to encounter the true and living God. You can learn more and become involved at MyHopeWithBillyGraham.org.
Is Christianity always one generation from extinction? Yes, I suppose it probably is. But, are we – you and I – going to let that happen on our watch? Not a chance! Live a godly life, disciple your child, and reach the young people around you with the Gospel. There’s too much at stake to let this moment slip by!
Will Graham is the third generation of Grahams to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the banner of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Will is the grandson of Billy Graham and the oldest son of Franklin Graham. He studied at Liberty University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Since beginning his North American evangelistic ministry he has spoken to more than 50,000 during his Will Graham Celebrations. Will now serves as executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. He and his wife, Kendra, live near Asheville, N.C. and have three young children. You can connect with Will on facebook and twitter. More at BillyGraham.org.