I love teaching at conferences, and I especially enjoy going to Pensacola Christian College for the Enrichment Retreat. Even though I am one of the workshop speakers, this teacher ends up on the learning end every time. Isn't it funny how those of us who serve to refresh others have often been refreshed as well?
While the sessions and workshops were spot on, my favorite time was with the students. I have a tradition of sending a text backed up with a Facebook message, alerting the Minnesota students to meet me for a pizza party while I'm on campus. I'm a "face from home," and they are my "research subjects." I never tell them about the research in advance. It would spoil the party.
We had five large pizzas, two bags of baby carrots, and one bottle of yogurt-ranch dressing. We also had a bakery box of chocolate chip cookies, but we forgot all about them until the end. That would never have happened with homemade chocolate chip cookies.
I have a pre-planned question for every visit. This year's question: "Why are so many students graduating from Bible College and then leaving church?"
Consider these responses:
1. Adults make the ministry look uninviting.
Why would they want to "sign on" with us if we're always looking so stressed out and unhappy? Suggestion: If you love the ministry, let it show. "Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing." (Psalm 100:2)
2. Problems are not properly addressed.
Too many young people are carrying wounds inflicted by heavy-handed adults intending to "correct" them. And even when it is known that a situation was mishandled, apologies are rare. Inconsistencies from authorities have caused untold damage. Is it any wonder that some students are just counting the days until they can move on?
Suggestion: Instead of staging a cover-up or pretending that problems don't exist, deal with things properly. Otherwise, we may find that some are unwilling to stay in a place where offenses are ignored rather than handled appropriately. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." (Proverbs 18:19)
3. The family comes last.
Long hours in the ministry were mentioned as so common that some students had friends who were in the church building seven days a week (unwillingly).
Suggestion: Remember your own family while serving others. Sacrificial love and attention are needed at all stages, for all family members. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)
The students mentioned other things as well, but the overall direction of the dialogue was this: "We don't want something that looks so user-unfriendly."
Is it time for us to make some adjustments?
If we're not too proud, we'll carefully consider these observations without taking it personally. The Scripture reminds us that "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom." (Proverbs 13:10) If we imagine that these young people "don't know what they're talking about," pride is winning and reason is losing. These students weren't condemning adults (and they are also adults themselves, even though we struggle to see them as such). They were answering a question.
The responses of these young adults were delivered thoughtfully. Not one student had a tone of whining or accusation. I asked a question, and in the limited time that we had they answered honestly. My guess is that they would have had even more to offer if they had more time to think about it. Are we open to suggestions, or do we just demand compliance?
I don't want to have my home church become the First Baptist Church of No Young People, and I'm guessing that it's not your goal, either. I was grateful for the candid feedback, so I'm sharing it with the hope that it may provide some beneficial insights for more than just my research files.
When was the last time you had a good conversation with someone outside of your peer group? There's a lot that could be learned by opening up a dialogue and hearing another point of view. Order some pizzas, launch the discussion with a thoughtful question and then just listen. Suggestion: Skip the baby carrots.
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)
Francie Taylor is the Editor-in Chief at www.keeptheheart.com. Read more on the website and in the popular quarterly eMagazine, Keep the Heart.