Christian Smith, a sociologist who has studied teens and religion, did extensive research on the two key things that keep the younger generation in church. The following quotation is a paraphrase of what Christian Smith wrote in his first book. This is quoted from a panel discussion on global evangelism. This conversation recently took place on the campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. (I think the person talking here is Skye Jethani.)
"We've got big youth programs, and we take them to camps and we've got lots of things to entertain them. And he said . . . none of those are really the things that keep them in. The two things that show up over and over again with those kids who are still in the church and are still believers . . . . And, listen to how low-tech they are. One of them is that they see there's a pattern of Scripture-reading in the home - they see their parents reading the Scripture, and they're having the Scriptures read to them. And the second thing is that they're part of an inter-generational church . . . rubbing shoulders with believers of other age-groups. That's it! And, how much time, how much energy, how [many] resources do we put into all kinds of other programs instead of encouraging two of the most basic things?"
Please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater here. I believe programs can be good. I believe resources can be good. But, these two key things must stay KEY or else we may not really be doing ministry. We may just be doing stuff.