“When kids leave the church” is the title of the cover article for the July 23, 2010 issue of The United Methodist Reporter. You can read the entire piece by clicking HERE.
The article strikes me as one that merely identifies the problem that the UMC is experiencing, that is, losing young people from its roles, but fails to really deal with the sharp edges of why those loses are occurring. The article seems to suggest that there is not enough “Wesleyanism” being taught in UMC youth curriculum, as if that is the solution, particularly when they acknowledge that when youth are exposed to Reformed Theology, they tend to bolt from the UMC. So, let me get this straight…when young people are exposed to the self-evident truths of the Doctrines of Grace, the solution is to give them more Wesleyanism? Yikes! Is it possible that Reformed Theology is simply more Biblically persuasive that Arminianism? My opinion aside, the statistics seem to speak for themselves. The UMC should perhaps look beyond the data exclusively related to their own youth, and take note of the huge upswing in young people embracing reformed doctrine.
Still, I get that it would be disingenuous for the UMC to NOT teach Wesleyanism as a counter proposal to Reformed Theology. While it may be a losing game, I understand the dilemma they are in. So, perhaps they should look beyond their fundamental doctrine to areas where they have departed from historic Christian orthodoxy, and deal with those stumbling blocks they have set up for themselves with respect to keeping or attracting young people to continue to associate with their denomination. Perhaps they should begin by challenging the culturally expedient, but completely unbiblical policy of ordaining women as pastors/elders which leads to them being installed in roles where they teach and have authority over men. Is it possible that when young people read the writings of the apostle Paul that they see a willful disobedience on the part of the “church of their youth,” and decide that they need to be nurtured under the more Biblically faithful institutions? Is it possible that some of the left-leaning social justice sensitivities of the UMC and their support of explicitly un-Christian theological education at one of their affiliated seminaries is not an attractive set of policies for young people? Indeed, these are also off-putting for adults, who are also leaving the UMC in droves, just as they are from other similarly liberal old mainline denominations.
“More Wesleyanism” may be a strategy that is unavoidable for the UMC, even if its effectiveness is questionable. So perhaps energy should be expended on areas that can and should be changed, and which might actually prove to be helpful in retaining kids (and their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles…) before they leave the UMC.