The PCA is #1 ... sounds rather exciting until you discover the category!
I recently ran across an article on some research done by the Pew Research Center regarding the youngest and oldest religious groups in America. Do you want to guess which denomination has the oldest median age? That's right ... our own, the Presbyterian Church in America. Wooohooo ... let's all chant "we're number 1!" The median age of adults in the USA is 46; the median age of the PCA is 59. We're actually tied for being the oldest with the PCUSA and the ultra-liberal United Church of Christ. And not far behind are the Methodists coming in at 57 and the Southern Baptists at 54. The only denomination that would be considered Protestant that comes in below the median age of 46 is the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination. Other religious groups reaching adults below the median age are Mormons, Buddhists, Agnostics, Atheists, Muslims, and Hindus. I'm only 57, still considered a youngster in the PCA! Sad, isn't it?
Of course you have to be careful with statistics and numbers. If you actually look up the median age of the entire USA population you'll find it to be 37. Apparently the research previously noted was only among adults, presumably over 18. But regardless, it's painfully apparent that we, the PCA, along with other evangelical and mainline churches in the country are losing ground while blatantly non-Christian groups are growing in popularity.
So what are we to do? We certainly can't compromise our theology; we mustn't sell out and reject Biblical principles in order to embrace a worldly methodology merely to appeal to younger folks; yet neither should we just sit back and do nothing, content to see how things play out. And while I don't have "the answer" that will fix or reverse this trend in the American church landscape, I do believe that I and every one of us can do something. Here are some suggestions that come to mind:
- First we must all pray. Obviously this matter is ultimately in the hands of our Father. He alone is Lord of the harvest.
- Consider the call of mentoring, discipling, gospelling (yes, that's an ok term to use; see 1 Cor 15:1) a younger Christian. You don't have to be a seminary graduate to help someone learn what it means to follow Christ. You really only need to be one step ahead of them. As CPC has aged and we now have many more mature adults than we used to, we should also see a corresponding increase in spiritual "fathering" and "mothering" taking place in our church family. There are younger believers who desperately want and need someone to come alongside them and help them navigate this thing called the Christian life.
- Get involved in teaching, leading, serving our children and youth. CPC has an abundance of opportunities to get involved with our kids. I know right now we're looking for folks to serve in various positions this fall (which starts in a month!) Your investment in the lives of young people will pay tremendous dividends in the coming years.
- Help create an atmosphere in the church where young people are welcomed. Even if you're not able to teach, take time to encourage children and youth when you see them. Don't just assume they're at church for "youth group" to be with their own peers. Rather know that God has them here to be with a church family of all ages who can love them through the the ups and downs of growing into adulthood. Sometimes a kind word, handshake, hug, simple conversation, etc. is remembered and cherished by them for years to come.
- Encourage those already working with our children and youth - staff members, existing teachers, leaders, etc. Tell them you appreciate their work; drop them a note, email, or text; buy them a gift card for meal out with their family; ask them what supplies would be beneficial for their class or group and then get it for them.
- Continue to support the work of the church with your tithes and offerings. We all wish it wasn't so expensive to run and operate the ministry of a church, but the fact is that we require money to do what God has called us to do. When CPC struggles financially all ministries suffer, particularly those directed toward those who can't give ... children, youth, poor, etc. Your financial investment in the church also helps insure that future generations can and will be ministered to.
There are only a few thoughts and ideas ... there are surely many, many more. If you're interested in any of this - teaching children, mentoring/discipling adults, etc. - please contact the church office. The need is great and the opportunities are plentiful. Let's not remain apathetic about the PCA and evangelical Christianity continue to lose ground here in our own backyard.