We all watched in horror as one of the worst natural disasters in history hit the Gulf Coast in September 2005. As we witnessed the looting and the lawlessness, it seemed surreal-like the script to a B movie. It is hard to imagine anything worse than Hurricane Katrina. But let's try.
Imagine something like Katrina happening in every city, town and suburb in America. Imagine not only the flooding and loss of property, but also the carnality, abuse and people fighting for survival all over the country all at once.
What if it lasted longer than a few weeks or months and more than 50 years? What if we found out that this disaster was not natural or accidental but was preventable? What if we then discovered that it targeted the youngest members of our society?
Something on the order of Katrina is about to hit a whole nation of young people. Just as we saw Doppler radar indicating that the hurricane was on the way, we can see the signs of an approaching spiritual “storm.”
After serving in youth ministry for 19 years and speaking to millions of students, I am ready to sound an alarm. The Lord has given me the opportunity to travel extensively overseas and share with many hurting teens how He has the power to heal their broken lives. But, something is happening right under our noses as Christians here in America that demands our attention. Here are the facts:
Thom S. Rainer documents in his book The Bridger Generation that the percentage of evangelicals has been steadily decreasing since the builder generation:
Our nation is at a crossroads. For two centuries we have enjoyed a society in which many of the moral imperatives from Scripture have restrained the lifestyles of our populace.
However, with the erosion of core beliefs, standards and guidelines, society as a whole has shifted. There is no longer a potent majority who scream loud when traditional biblical values are violated in our tolerant society.
Consider the legacy of baby boomers and the society they have created:
If these are the struggles we face now, what will it be like when only 4 percent of adult Americans are evangelical? Studies have shown that two-thirds of those who come to Christ do so before the age of 18, and as many as 90 percent do so before the age of 20. If we do not reach them now, in 10 years we will have a whole new set of challenges here in America.
So how much time do we have? Well, 1989 was the highest birth rate for the Millennial generation, so the median age right now is 15 to 16. That means we have about five years before most of them are in their 20s.
Whatever they are when they get there is what we as a nation become. What we do in the next five years will determine the next 50 years of American history. Whether teaching violence through video games or seeing 3,000 soft-core pornographic images on MTV each week, our kids are being shaped by this world in countless insidious ways.
These companies don't care about the crime, the sexual disease and the teen pregnancies they are causing. What kind of America are we giving our kids?
This is not a time for business as usual in our Christian lives or in our outreach to teens. If we do not act now, in 20 years we will all look back and say, “If we would have only known about this, we could have done something.”
There is a holy urgency burning in my soul to capture the heart of this generation now while there is still a measure of openness. But what can be done to combat such formidable odds? How can we fight MTV, Hollywood and the music industry? When we hear all this bad news, it is tempting to throw our hands up and just resort to rescuing the children in our own households.
It reminds me of what it must have been like in England as the Nazis marched across lower Europe, capturing every nation and threatening England with bombing raids. The British knew unless something dramatic happened, they would soon be speaking German.
So, what might a battle plan to rescue a generation look like? After talking to a number of leaders across the land, several essentials have been conceived.
The first phase is a massive awareness and engagement campaign. People in the body of Christ need to be aware of the urgency of the hour and that they can do something to make a difference in their own communities. If we do not come together on this and focus on teens then we all lose!
My book and study guide are designed to help not only youth pastors, but also senior pastors and laypeople get a real picture of what they can do to help. After all, one of the main reasons that got us in this predicament is that we have subcontracted our love for teens out to our youth pastors.
I have made materials available to help in the process. Sermon outlines, PowerPoint presentations and video clips are readily available online at www.battlecry.com. Enlisting your church members is a very practical thing that you can do to rescue the teens in your community.
The second phase is all about equipping our youth pastors and workers. For all that has been done in the name of youth ministry in the last 20 to 30 years, we are still losing this generation. One of the prevalent reasons for youth pastor burnout is a lack of preparation. They have good hearts, they love teens, they are willing to work hard, but they simply need more preparation that will equip them to reach the teens in a whole region.
It seems that no matter how hard we have all been working, the enemy has been working harder. I believe that the only way to effectively counteract this trend is to double the size of our youth groups every year for at least the next five years.
To make this happen, we need 100,000 churches (both pastors and laypeople) that will catch the vision and get passionately committed to rescuing this generation so we can turn this around in a short five years. Think of this: If 100,000 churches doubled their youth ministry every year for the next five years, and the average started with 20 students in their group, in five years we would be discipling 32 million teens!
Third, we must capture their hearts. With the media, music, movies and cultural pressure bombarding our teens, we must find ways to isolate them from these influences long enough to grab their attention and help them see how God wants to dramatically change their lives.
I believe this is why mass events geared to a young generation are so important. They help teens to focus on God over the course of a weekend so He can capture their hearts. Pastors (and youth pastors), load up your cars with teens, get them to an event-and let God work on them.
How will we seize our moment? These only come once in a generation, maybe less. Will we prove we were ready for the challenge of our day?
The time is now for each of us to rally around these young ones-whether we feel called to youth ministry or not. The urgency of the moment compels everyone of us to grab a teen and pull him out of the fire. Don't wait for your youth pastor to do it all himself. Go to your youth pastor now, and insist on helping in some way.
We have all known that kids are in trouble, but for the most part have not known what to do as a whole to rescue them. Now we have a plan that can avoid the imminent tragedy for our nation. Let it be said of us, that when we saw a storm was imminent, we did everything we could possibly do to prevent the tragic loss.Battle Plan
Action points for rescuing a generation at risk
As a pastor, there are specific actions that you can take to begin the rescue in your community:
1. Begin to share with your congregation regularly the plight of this generation, to endear them and engage them.
2. Begin study groups (Sunday school or small groups) to create the critical mass of your congregation deeply informed of what is happening to this generation. For instance, 250 of the 800 members at Rock Church in the Seattle area have read through Battle Cry and have begun reaching out to teens in their region.
3. Join other like-minded pastors, and put your name on the line that you and your church are going to battle for this generation.
4. Commit more money than ever to your local youth ministry. Last year the company that owns MTV (Viacom) made a billion dollars in profit, and their investment is destroying our kids.
5. Rally the teens and parents (and yourself) to get to an event in your region, such as Battle Cry.
Reach out to as many unsaved kids as you can, and load up all your vehicles with adults too. When you see for yourself thousands of teens on their faces before God, you will have much hope for the revolution that can happen!
Ron Luce is the president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries, a Christian youth organization that reaches millions of young people worldwide. He is the author of Battle Cry for a Generation (Cook/NexGen).
Visit www.battlecry.com for Ron Luce's resources for enlisting and equipping your church to rescue this generation of teens.