According to a recent George Barna article, How Teenagers’ Faith Practices are Changing, discipleship is on the decline and young people are leaving Church. Why?
Young adults who want to be challenged in their growth will walk out on anything if they find it mediocre, including the Church. The best kept secret of the Seven Ecumenical Church Councils is that Holiness is more desirable than heresy—to the people a discipleship ministry should be focusing on.
Why haven’t willing young people had access to deeper levels of discipleship? I don’t think the pastors have failed, there just haven’t been enough good mentors that young people have access to. Many teenage Bible studies are led by a layman who’s trying his best, and the youth like him, but the really good leaders are in demand and simply don’t have the time for the necessary tailored-coaching to answer deep questions asked by inquiring young minds. But all this is changing.
With new technologies like podcasts and eBooks, anyone is able to publish and broadcast their ideas through venues like the iTunes Store and soon through Barnes & Noble’s “PubIt!” Coupled with improvements to threaded discussion, like Google Wave, the accessibility that eager youth have to need-specific discipleship will increase.
Media will always contain deception and immorality. The more garbage passed-on as “food for thought,” the more people will hunger for truth. Dedicated Christians don’t depart over an abundance of shallow beaches—they leave because there’s no place to scuba dive even when they want to. And there’s nothing wrong with shallow beaches, so long as they aren’t littered with garbage.
Since podcasting technology easily allows us to review a message several times, at no extra cost, even people from older generations will start asking, “Why do I need to drive to hear a sermon I can listen to five times in my kitchen?” If Limbaugh disciples and proselytizes through the car stereo, so can the pastor. Christian discipleship in the Internet-information era will begin with blog posts and pastor-podcasts Sunday night, develop threaded discussion all week, and Sunday morning messages will be largely replaced by church-wide Q&A. The “seeker-sensitive” / “dig-deeper” teaching differences will no longer be in the form of separate sermons and gatherings, but in: those who listen to the podcasted sermon during the week and those who merely discuss it on Sunday morning.
A “tech-inept” pastor can get help for podcasts, but a good thread moderator needs more than an MDiv—he must live in the blogosphere or young people won’t engage him.
Even with the need for tech-savvy pastoring, wisdom of older pastors will be in greater demand. “Youth” pastors may be replaced with “young” pastors who handle tech, digital discussion, and Q&A moderation of the “senior” pastor’s podcast from the week before. This will increase discussion-fellowship both digitally and in the main service while both young and old adults engage both young and old pastors.
We are becoming more like the New Testament Church. Discipleship-rooted revival and evangelism will surely follow.