How can we keep our young adults involved?

How can we keep our young adults involved?

Jan 23, 2013

How can we keep our young adults involved?

by Pastor John Camenga

Agape SDB Church of the South

Kissimmee, Fla.


“Salvation is a gift from God. It is available free for the asking.

Salvation comes through acceptance of Jesus Christ by personal decision. It is not a group decision. It is not a family decision. It is personal. The New Testament consistently presents this fact.”


Demands can lead to rejection

This same New Testament also explains that life as saved people will be demanding. It includes self-denial (“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” —Luke 9:23). It includes continued effort within salvation; what Paul described as working out our own salvation “with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12).

Various things lead to the current rejection of church involvement by many young adults:

• “Easy-believe-ism” may make Christianity seem insignificant.

• Lack of doctrinal clarity seems to say that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as you believe something.

• In many cases the young adults are building on the example of parents whose attendance patterns were not consistent.

• Financial and moral scandals in many denominations have been viewed as an indictment of all organized religion.

Each of you could undoubtedly add to this list.


Feat 2 family Bible study

Parents: How committed are you?

A genuine Christian lifestyle requires conviction that Christianity continues to have significance and meaning. The same is true for our position regarding the Sabbath of the Bible—God’s Sabbath. Why observe the Sabbath unless we believe it continues to have meaning and significance in the 21st century?

Parents have a key role in helping children understand these principles. When those children become young adults they will be equipped to make wise personal decisions about involvement. So, we must ask: “What example and explanations are parents providing?”

Having been far from perfect in my own Christian living, I offer the following observations not as criticism of parents past or present, but as challenges for all of us to consider. They relate to both church involvement in general and Sabbath observance in particular.


Involved—when convenient and inconvenient

When children grow up seeing how important involvement with other Christians is to parents, they are more likely to value involvement. Someone has said Christianity is “caught” more than taught. Live it and the next generation will be more likely to live it, too. Some young adult “drop-outs” are continuing a pattern started by their parents.

The importance of Sabbath-keeping is not demonstrated by what we do when it is convenient to observe Sabbath. Our Sabbath conviction is shown (and sown) at the times it is inconvenient, difficult or expensive.

Is the Sabbath important enough for the young athlete to give up football and other sports when practice and games usurp any part of the 24 hours God declared holy? When a father substitutes a round of golf for being in church with his family, what does it say about the value he places on Sabbath? What does it say when someone takes that promotion or better job when it will include Sabbath conflicts?

It also says something important when a parent is willing to drive a high school student 200 miles to take the SAT test on Sunday, when it would have been more convenient to “make an exception” and take it at the local test center on Sabbath.

More than just going to church

Church programs supplement a process that must begin at home. Employment took my childhood family away from Seventh Day Baptist contacts. Sometimes Dad was too tired to take on three more hours so we could be in our home church each week, but Sabbath always included home Bible study, uplifting music and family time. Part of the need for fellowship was supplied by involvement in the local Baptist church.

By example and teaching my parents declared the importance of serving Christ as Savior. That service included observance of the Sabbath. Our faith is portable. It functions best in fellowship with like-minded people, but it can and should survive anywhere.


What’s a parent to do?

Today’s young parents can do some things to help reverse dropping out in the future:

• Live it yourself.

• Explain it. Remember the wonderful words of the shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Placement of God’s Word between the eyes and on the hands symbolizes knowing and doing what God’s Word proclaims.

• Remember that the fourth commandment places household observance squarely on the parents. Sabbath observance is to include all “within your gates.” The next generation can make their own decision once they have their own “gates” – their own household. (It is far easier to maintain this standard when the example and explanation have started far before “issues” arise. Be consistent!)

• Be sure of your own faith. It is hard to explain what we do not know personally.

• Observe the Sabbath when convenient. Make an even greater effort to observe the Sabbath when it is inconvenient.

• Take your children to church with you.

• Involve your kids in whatever youth activities your church provides. Challenge your church to offer more if outside influences are “alluring.”

• Attend Association and Conference. Get the kids to church camp and retreats (including Pre-Con). Make sacrifices to make it happen. Demonstrate that involvement with “our people” is important. Your children will value it more. These memories will help them during the struggles that come to young adults as they make faith their own personal property, and not just something handed down to them.

• Accept the fact that not all young people will respond to this or any approach.


Dealing with drop-outs

These suggestions may be helpful for a generation that is not yet “young adult.” What do we do with those who are drop-outs out now? This is not a new problem. Only the percentage of drop-outs has changed.

There is the return phenomenon—people in their 30s and 40s coming back to church. We can develop methods to make the return easier. (The Prodigal’s father patiently watched and welcomed. We must avoid acting like the elder brother in that story.)


Make the return worth it

We can make the return more significant as we preach and teach the enduring values of Scripture to a generation that is hungering for meaning. We must also accept the fact that not all people make the decision to accept Christ as personal Savior, nor to keep the Sabbath. (The descendents of just one SDB couple in the year 1700 should account for a membership of around 100,000 in our churches today!)

It is sad, but God provides each person the opportunity to say “No” as well as “Yes.”

As the old gospel hymn declares,

More like the Master is my daily prayer,

More strength to carry crosses I must bear;

More earnest effort to bring His kingdom in,

More of His Spirit the wanderer to win.


If our church involvement and Sabbath observance demonstrate significance and contribute to a joy-filled life, it will attract the “wanderers” to return home.

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