Not all youth are leaving the church!
Church leaders are very aware of the steep decline in church attendance and religious affiliation among the millennial generation and adults who no longer connect with a church.
What is generally overlooked, however, is this encouraging reality: not all youth and adults leave the church, nor do they abandon Jesus. Their reasons for staying in church possess an elegant simplicity:
- They enjoy meaningful relationships with adult mentors
- They discover a deeper intimacy with Jesus
- They develop a sense of mission
The Generation Spark Strategy
Generation Spark gives church leaders a research-based action plan to not only retain youth (ages 16–24) and adults (ages 45 and older) but also attract and fully integrate them into the life and leadership of the church. Inspired by Hope College youth, this plan is intergenerational, relational and entrepreneurial.
Funded by a national foundation, the Generation Spark strategy helps churches bring together youth and adults in one-to-one mentoring relationships that have a unique shared purpose: to identify, assess and recommend solutions for real problems in church and community. A prayer partner supports each relationship.
Tested for over a decade at Hope College’s Center for Leadership, these problem-based intergenerational relationships provide an appreciative context for faith formation, leadership development and relevant missional services that makes a difference.
“It’s not just talk, it’s action. In my 42 years of ministry...Generation Spark is unique in that it finally is doing the ‘something’ we have been talking about for decades by incorporating two of the overlooked groups — youth as well as older members — into the accomplishment of the task.”
—Rev. Joel Boot, retired executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America
Generation Spark (GS) is a church ministry, not a youth ministry. This intergenerational mentoring ministry integrates youth and adults into the life and leadership of the church.
Authentic, safe and non-threatening relationships between youth and adults are at the heart of GS. These relationships give youth and adults the opportunity to:
- Learn from and about each other
- Make a difference by solving church and community problems
- Develop a deeper intimacy with Jesus while growing in calling, faith and prayer
- Acquire and apply leadership skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving
Five life-changing truths
The church owns GS, providing multi-generational leadership, volunteers and, most importantly, an appreciative context within which participants, young and old internalize five life-changing truths:
- “I am needed.”
- “I am heard.”
- “I belong!”
- “I made a difference.”
- “I believe…and I know why I believe.”
Church leaders validate the youth by celebrating their contributions and giving serious consideration to youth recommendations regarding relevant problems in church and community.
GS is woven into the worship, outreach, discipleship and youth ministries at the church.
Churches piloting GS will be located within three hours (by car) from Hope College and have at least 10 youth and 20 adults.
“Focusing on a real problem lays the foundation for adults and youth to combine the wisdom, knowledge and experience of the former and the vibrancy, creativity and the youthful perspective of the latter.”