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CHANGE OR DIE

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CHANGE OR DIE
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Recently, two different fathers told me about their deep sadness about how their daughters have left the church. "We did everything right," explained one father,"We homeschooled them, lived in the country, and kept them away from modern influences. To be honest, I'm not only sad, but I'm embarrassed. I'm not sure what we could have done differently."

The other father had a similar story. "Our children all went to Adventist school. We were all involved in ministry, and yet, the day she graduated from high school, she received her diploma and walked out of the church, never to return again."

These stories are repeated in Adventist churches throughout the country. A recent study from Life Way Research found that up to 70% of all young people will leave the church once they reach high school. Why is this happening? Numerous studies have effectively documented why young people leave the church. Reasons include…… However, until recently, there has been very little focus, on what keeps young adults in the church.

There is a common phrase that says, "Change or die" which may be applicable to the Adventist church in North America. As boomers begin to retire and die of old age, will the Adventist church retain its membership over the next fifty years? Are there enough engaged young people in our denomination to support our mission?

We used to depend on young people to return to church after they were married. There has been anecdotal evidence that these young married would return with their young children, attending Sabbath school divisions after several years of absence.

Unfortunately those stories are becoming rare. With the influence of secularization, people are finding other avenues to fill their spiritual voids other than organized religion.

There are three important questions that must be asked by our churches:

Are we being real? Churches used to be a place where Christians put away their true selves and put on a "face" Sabbath mornings. Younger generations value honesty over perfection.

This means they are likely to talk about their problems and struggles with doubt. We, too, can share our questions and acknowledge that just because we are Christians, we don't always have ALL the answers. The church should be a safe place

to voice our questions and concerns and demonstrate God's love and acceptance for each other.

Are we engaging the community? Churches in past generations have been bent on keeping their members outside of the culture. We started our own schools, planned our own extracurricular activities and enjoyed keeping outside influences out of our sphere of Adventism. Younger generations realized that when we live our lives only interacting with each other, we are no longer a relevant part of the community.

The church doesn't have to give up our beliefs, but we do have to share our talents, strengths and resources to reach the communities around us.

Are we willing to do church differently for the sake of our kids? If you were a missionary in India, what would you do differently to reach people for Jesus? Would you speak in a different language? Would you wear different clothes? Traditions are only useful when they are relevant and understood. What traditions do your church follow that is not relevant to the current generation?

Older generations may find comfort in the language, music and order of service of our church, but these traditions need to be made relevant for future generations or they need to change. Can we make changes without losing moral values?

Are we willing to give leadership positions to new or younger members? Many church boards and ministry teams are made up of elderly people who have helped these positions for decades. How many years have you been serving in your ministry position?

Do you continue to serve because nobody else is willing or because you aren't willing for change happen? Can you identify a few people under the age of 40 who could be mentored into your position?