One weekend evening recently, I received a voice message on my cell phone. It was a good friend, Kevin, whom I have written about before. In His message Kevin slowly said, “Alright, so I’m sitting here at a campfire up in Indiana with…” he then proceeded to name the last names of couples I remembered from a church I served years ago. Afterwards Kevin said, “…But there is about thirty of us here with all of our kids and grandkids and I’m thinking all these people are here because you asked me to teach.” After a pause he continued, but with a dampness in his voice. He later told me that he intended to leave a longer message, but his emotions overwhelmed him.
What started as a class of five or six young married people when Kevin began teaching, launched into young couples living life together. It started nearly thirty years ago. Their children grew up together and now their grandkids are reaping the benefits. Once a year they go camping for a weekend. This was where Kevin called me from a few weeks ago. I have to admit I got a little emotional as well.
Using misguided barometers and practices inside our churches has sent many churches into the decline spiral over the past few decades. For years church leaders blamed the baby-boomer generation for this exodus from the church, yet it was much due to our very own practices. So how has this group of thirty plus people stayed close for so many years? What made the difference?
Let’s briefly assess the impact that the church’s misguided barometers of evidences of learning might have had on this exodus. It will also assist us in answering the question of the lack of return of some post-covid. If it is true that human nature wants and needs acceptance and relationships, why in the church are we losing ninety percent of our teenagers at the age of eighteen? Acceptance and relationships are encouraged through the church’s activities and the Bible teaches this through God’s love, right?
Something that God intended to happen through the local church must be missing. Stronger or more relevant relationships are being built outside the church especially in the lives of teenagers and young adults. Could it be that our misguided understanding of evidences of learning has played a part in this scenario?
When asked why they do not attend church or Bible study classes (Sunday School), many adults respond, “I have been there before.” Their report is, “It is boring.” It may be boring because they are not being taught in an environment of acceptance. Learning is exciting! If true learning is taking place, life change is happening, and learning is being evidenced in people’s lives. When this happens, people will return for more and they will be sharing their experiences with others.
This is what happened in this group of young adults that grew from a group of six to – I’m not sure if anyone knows the true number. As each one entered, he/she was genuinely accepted. Relationships grew organically and intentionally. Learning was exciting and lived out with one another. They longed to be together, they walked life’s journey together, they studied, prayed, laughed, and cried together. They grew spiritually together. Almost thirty years later, the evidences of learning are still projecting in their lives.
What will you do this week to increase the acceptance and relationship building for true evidences of learning and spiritual growth?