NASHVILLE – A youth-focused minister of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is stressing that loving God and students is more important than trying to constantly stay culturally relevant.
Chad Miller, ordained in 2000 as a non-denominational pastor, is currently serving as director of Dare to be a Daniel, a BGEA youth evangelism training project, and as an associate pastor for West Cabarrus Church in Concord, N.C. "Dare to be a Daniel" is attempting to raise a new generation of evangelists.
"You will wear yourself out being culturally relevant as you think you may want to be," Miller told The Christian Post on Saturday at the National Religious Broadcasters convention. "The problem is in trying to communicate with cultural relevance, it's possible to become biblically irrelevant. In our foundation, our beginning, middle and end, our faith was authored and finished by Jesus Christ; the word as flesh."
While Miller does not suggest youth workers completely ignore cultural relevancy, he said it's important to remember that students are "looking for someone who really loves them … And somebody who really loves God."
Recent studies and books examining the faith life of young adults and teens have found that across denominational lines youths are increasingly leaving the church. A recent study by the Barna Group conducted on teenagers and young adults between the ages of 18 and 29, concluded that nearly three out of every five young Christians, or 59 percent, disconnect from church life, either permanently or for a long period of time after the age of 15. Those polled were active in a Christian church during their teen years.
"I would just remind those who are on the front lines of youth ministry to start with the word of God," the minister recommended.
Sociologists admit that significant cultural shifts are taking place every 60 to 90 days, the minister highlighted. Therefore, it seems there is no way a youth minister could keep up with changing trends anyways.
Getting young people to be involved with church activities might be a better tactic than staying culturally relevant, Miller proposes. Making young people feel a little closer to their ministry seems to decrease the chance of them drifting away. Students who minister with their parents tend to not leave faith, he notes. Also, those who find Christ at an early age and get involved with their ministry early on tend to stay in church.
Miller also pointed out that youths are being asked tough questions about their faith today that they are not prepared to answer.
"I don't think that kids that name the name of Jesus Christ, I don't think their biggest challenges are somebody making fun of them because they are Christian. I think their challenges come when people ask, 'how can you believe the Bible? It's not even true,'" Miller said.
"We have tools and resources to put in the hands of that youth worker, of that children's minister, of that youth pastor to give them tools to specifically equip those kids to reach their friends with Christ."
Among Dare to be a Daniel's new ventures is organizing Christian camps, which has also proven successful in bringing more youths to church, according to results from early stages of the project, Miller shared.