Data can be revealing and enlightening. The things we thought we knew to be true can be shattered in a moment with data. And the things we knew in our gut to be true are proven when the quantitative and qualitative data are revealed.
That’s what happened to many ministry leaders in 2005, when the first wave of data was released from the National Study on Youth and Religion. Our gut feeling and suspicions were proven as fact.
What was that gut feeling?
I know that’s not a life changing or ministry changing epiphany, but maybe it should be.
The NSYR data said (summed up in my words), that it doesn’t matter how great of a ministry program you have at your church, the biggest determinant of whether a child or youth will be practicing their faith as adults and have a relationship with Jesus Christ and God is the modeling by their parents.
What do I mean by this?
It’s simple: As a child becomes an adult, it is remarkable how similar their faith and their practice of that faith is to their parents. Here is one statistic from the NSYR that allows us to conclude this:
Looking at church attendance, we can clearly see that young people attend mass in the same frequency that their parents do. Sometimes I hear church leaders ask, “Where are the young people?” This data proves that we should be asking a different question: “Where are the parents?”
I encourage you to delve into the data yourself, so I will not present more statistics right now.
The question I want to pose over the next several weeks as I start this series of blog articles is this:
In light of the data, how should our models of ministry change so that we are working with our parents more effectively?
Too many ministry leaders have heard this data, agree with the data, but have not made substantial changes to their model of ministry. I am suggesting that if we really want to be successful in our ministry to children and youth, then maybe our focus should not be children and youth.
Our focus should be on parents.
I know change is difficult. Our churches have been operating in the same model for years. Just because we’ve been doing it a certain way for so many years does not mean it is effective.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I want to explore with you different models and ideas that could work for your church. Some ideas have been tested and work. But I will admit that some of the other ideas I will present in this series are not proven…yet.
My hope it to help you and I become more creative in our ministry so that we can truly lead people to Christ and the community of faith, not just when they are young, but even as adults.
Question: What ideas for engaging parents have worked for you?