This week I’m at the Sticky Faith co-hort. It’s a group of 26 churches meeting to discuss the challenge of students leaving the church after graduation. The team at Fuller Youth Institute has done a six year study on what elements it takes for students to hold onto their faith effectively once they leave high school. They’ve found some interesting information, and you can read about it in Sticky Faith.
One of the most surprising correlations they have found is that a majority of students they studied who successfully held onto their faith post-high school were actively involved in the Sunday morning worship at their church. I’ve got to admit that this one shocked me. Of all of the things I would have thought would help students grow a long term faith, inter-generational worship was not high on the list. But in FYI’s study, a huge percentage of the students shared this common trait. Why? What in the world does inter-generational worship have to do with faith development? Understand, this is not in churches that are necessarily “contemporary”, many of the churches were more “mainline” churches with a traditional worship style. So, what’s going on with this one?
I’m not sure, and I don’t think FYI is positive either. But definitely, there is something about being a part of a larger group, consistently focusing on God together, that speaks to who we are created to be. I think back to the story told in Genesis about Adam and Eve. Adam was created for worshipping God, but existing on His own wasn’t the full realization of all God wanted him to be. So He created Eve, and they worshipped God together, and it was “very good.” Ever since then, the story of God’s people is one of a family of families worshipping God together. So, today, when we get together and worship on a regular basis, something fundamental changes in us. It brings us closer to who we are supposed to be.
Also, when a student engages in worship with other generations, each generation is going to have to humbly flex a little to meet in the middle on methods and styles of worship. This mutual serving of each other draws us closer together. Any time we put ourselves second to serve another person in Jesus’ name, our faith is deepened.
I think both of these factors play into the whole process. I’m sure there are a couple of dozen of other factors involved as well. Some of the questions this raises for me are:
1. how do we take this information and leverage it to serve our churches?
2. What does this mean for how we should understand and plan our worship services?
3. If our current worship services are having this impact, what would happen if we became more intentional?
4. What does this mean for youth centered worship services that are not inter-generational?
5. Is it okay to view worship as a tool to produce long term discipleship?
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.