It’s no secret that the Church in America is struggling. Discipleship, by the model of “come to our building and learn about Jesus,” isn’t working as it once did. And not just by discipleship standards, but even church-going numbers are dropping. In their book, Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide, Mike Breen and Alex Absalom quote Thomas Rainer’s statistics on this:
- About 65% of the Builder Generation are in a church each week.
- With the Boomers, it’s about 35%.
- You will find 15% of Gen X’ers gather to a church this Sunday.
- For Gen Y (Millennials), the oldest of whom turned 30 in 2010, it’s only 4%.
If you are called to this generation of students the stat “it’s only 4%” needs to set off many alarms! We cannot allow this to continue. But what needs to change? What methods need tweeked? Where do we go from here?
Mike Breen, in a recent blog post quotes some Barna Research group statistics on church attendance:
- 4,000 churches will close this year
- Only 1,5oo churches will successfully launch (that’s an 80% failure rate)
- Only 15% of American churches are growing
- Of those that are growing, only 2.3% are growing through conversion. The rest is transfer growth
- Just half of the 200,000 viable churches in America added even 1 new member through conversion last year
So, maybe the answer to those questions is in the method of how “church” is done. It’s quite apparent that the effectiveness of the church, as we know it, from an attractional standpoint, is not producing disciples of Christ as it should.
We started asking those questions even from a student ministry view. If the way of doing “church” isn’t as effective in producing disciples then is the way we do student ministry (from a similar attractional model) effective?
As we look at scripture we see discipleship occur in the relationship between Jesus and the disciples. The key there is “in the relationship.” Jesus calls the disciples to follow him (Mt. 4), gives them authority to do the miraculous (Mt. 10), invites them to join in on the craziness (Mt. 14 – Peter joins Jesus on the water), teaches them, has meals with them (Mt. 26), and it goes on and on. In a nutshell, Jesus DOES LIFE with them. If Jesus’ model of discipleship is based on relationships, then how do we most effectively do that in a student ministry context? How do we DO LIFE with students as Christ did life with the disciples?
On top of that, Jesus didn’t just hang out with the disciples and do life with them, leaving it at that. He sent them on a mission. There was purpose and intentionality in the times they spent together. Whether it was in the healings, the preaching, the journeys into towns, or the praying for others – they were on a mission together. The mission they were on was always evolved around the Kingdom. In Matthew 28, the Great Commission, Jesus tells the disciples to GO, make disciples, and do life with them! He sent them on a mission. Again in Acts 1, Jesus’ last words for them was to GO and be His witnesses. He sent them on a mission. A mission to advance the Kingdom.
So where does this idea relationship and intentional mission fuse together in a ministry context? This is where the missional community way of student ministry comes into play…