How to Stop Canadian Youths From Leaving the Church
VANCOUVER – Canada’s Evangelical population has been growing while other denominations have been losing nearly 80 percent of their flocks over the past few decades.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, according to David Cheung, senior pastor at Richmond’s Immanuel Christian Reformed Church.
“God is still working in Canada,” Cheung said during his seminar at Missions Fest in Vancouver on Saturday.
“What we see across Canada is there is a majority population of youngsters who are not going to church but, there is a significant vibrant minority who are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The future depends on how we respond.”
Cheung offered several actions churches can take to capture the hearts and minds of youth – starting at home.
“In terms of church attendance, those whose parents are very regular, tend to be five times as likely to become regulars when they become adults,” he said.
This means that churches need to “disciple the parents. Disciple the parents-to-be. Disciple everyone.”
Too often, according to mission-mobilizer Cheung, churches fail to prepare parents-to-be for the mission field of home.
“It’s like now that the war has started, we will teach you how to use your gun,” he noted.
Statistics have also shown that other family members can impact youth.
“The home has other people in it other than parents and they can be influencers.”
Cheung added that modelling could also be invited into the home.
He shared a story of one family with several children who invited a family with a single child over for the night.
“The father of the multiple kids told me, ‘You know what happened? The guys were in their room before bedtime all reading their Bible. They have never done that before.’ Why? Because the guest did it first.”
Youth must be taught and trained in the way of spiritual pursuits so they can experience God themselves, he explained.
“We need to teach young people that spiritual pursuit is like bodybuilding. You have to do the same thing every week to build the muscles.”
One major way that churches need to adjust to today’s youth culture is the idea of belonging.
“Understand that for today’s young people belonging is not membership. Belonging is participation. If I come every Sunday I feel I am part of you.”
He said that was in opposition to how most churches have traditionally operated.
“You are registered. If not, you are a guest. You could be a regular attendee but you are not a member.”
He said churches needed to keep the door open.
“If you want to come great, we’ll welcome you. If you don’t want to come we’ll text you and say that we missed you. But, keep the door open. Let them come in and come out. When they are here, max the opportunity,” the pastor advised.
That includes those young adults who seek out the church for a religious ceremony like marriage or baptism.
It is also crucial that the church be a place of guidance during tough times.
For young Canadians, that has been the move from Grade 8 to Grade 9, where about 25 percent of youth are lost to the church.
“The church should be able to support kids through these transitions.”
Missions Fest is the largest annual missions conference in Canada. This year’s conference, with the theme of “What is the Gospel?”, attracted over 10,000, and took place from Jan. 26-28.
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