Auteur: Jetteke N.
Category: Enfance et jeunesse, Peuples non-atteints, Ministère sur le lieu du travail
Unseen, unheard, they just disappear. That is what is true for thousands of youth a month in Europe and beyond. And then there’s the millions who have no church connection at all. Do the churches care? Do we care at Cape Town 2010?
In 2006 the Youthworkers Education (Jongerenwerkersopleiding) presented a survey done among thirteen denomintions in the Netherlands. The results were shocking. As they will be in many other countries in Europe and beyond.
Conclusions and challenges of the survey
In the Netherlands alone every month about 400 youth between 12 and 18 years of age leave the church. Most of them leave silently, as if walking on their socks. They do not write a letter to the church board to express their discomfort and disappointment and their leave has no financial consequences for the church (at least not at the moment itself).
Churches should become aware of the number of youths they are losing and make an effort to prohibit the emptying out of the church. Many churches have no idea how many youth are members of their congregation, how mant attend the services and how many participate in other activities. Churches should do a survey in their own congregations. How many youth are members and how many are actively involved in activities and services? How many leave and more specifically: why do they leave? Not just a survey of numbers, but the stories behind the numbers.
Churches reach no more than 10% of the Dutch youth. About 6% of the youth attend church services and about 7% participates in activities (some do both). Though the survey focussed mostly on youth leaving the church, the number of youth not reached by the church at all is much higher. About 2.3 to 2.5 million youth between 12 and 25 years of age in the Netherlands alone. The biggest area of work for the Church therefore is outside its own walls. Many churches do know this and on a small scale try to reach out. Yet, the challenge is enormous. Churches should work together to reach these youth.
Leaving the church starts with children. The survey was done among youth of 12 years old and up. Half of them are not participating in the church anymore. What happens when they are not yet 12? Between baptism and leaving elementary school? We should explore this. There are only a few churches investing in specialists to work with youth. It becomes harder and harder to have youth attach themselves to the church. Causes are: increasing secularism, less interest of parents and changing times in which churches have a hard time showing the relevance of faith to their youth. This situation calls for a bigger investment. Well educated youthworkers can play an important role. Churches could learn from one another, as some are more capable of keeping their youth than others, using one another’s strengths tot reach youth.
It seems like most churches only come into action when the youth has basically all left. As long as there are youth in the church pews, they think it is o.k. And when youth has left, there’s a strong feeling of powerlessness. We therefore strongly urge the churches to invest in children and youth while there still seems to be time. It’s not easy, yet at the same time not impossible to interest youth for the Christian faith and the church. Especially youth not involved in a church, they are literally out of view.
We urgently challenge the churches to invest in youth, before it will be too late. Not only in the youth whose names are known in the church register, but also in the largest group: the ones with no church affinity.
As about half of the population of the world is under 25 - according to the UN (at the World Population Day), never before in history were there so many youth - we also would like to challenge Cape Town 2010 and Conventions to come, to make youth a top priority on the list. For Christ and His Kingdom.