“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6.
Statistics show that church is becoming an obsolete ideal of the past to the modernizing world, especially concerning teens and young adults. Christianity Today reports that “86% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation, never to return.” So the question is why?
First Baptist Church in Covington, Louisiana offers numerous ministries catering to specific groups, one in particular catering to the youth of the congregation. The youth program offers services and guidance to students in seventh grade to 12th grade. The church’s whole congregation totals to be around 4,000 members. Of those 4,000 members, about 200 are active in the church’s youth program. To lead this program, First Baptist Church Covington, also known as FBC, hired Chris Kroll.
Prior to his time at FBC, Chris Kroll has served as a pastor for over eight years, mentoring and ministering to countless amounts of adolescents. Kroll chose to pursue ministry because he felt “called to further the kingdom of God.” He specifically felt a calling to work with youth and help them navigate through the difficulties of growing up and trying to find a place in this world.
Like many other youth pastors, Kroll has been faced with the lack of participation from adolescents in his youth program. When asked why he thinks many adolescents resist the concept of church or religion, Kroll simply stated, “the secularization of society.” He went on to explain that preteens and teens are at a critical time in their lives when they are constantly being influenced or pressured by the world around them, and the world around them simply does not idealize religion, specifically Christianity. Because of this, teens are not willing to go against popular belief and risk the scrutiny of their peers. However, while trying to conform to tendencies of society, children often end up feeling “lost in their own identity.”
When adolescents try to fit in with the crowd around them, they often end up sacrificing many parts of themselves. Kroll states that many times when children enter the youth building, they are “looking for answers about life.” He feels that children are just “trying to figure out who they are in this world and what their purpose is” and his goal is to try to help them find the answers that they are looking for.
In attempt to reverse the lack of youth involvement in the church, Kroll uses various different tactics to try and reach out to the adolescents in his community. He offers weekly gatherings and Bible studies on Sundays and Wednesdays. Also, him and his team plan annual events and concerts that usually attract large groups of teens. Not to mention, the facility that the youth group gathers in, known as the ROC, features an outside basketball court, baseball field, and sand volleyball courts that are open to the public 24/7. However, more than anything, he encourages current members of the program to invite their friends from school or around their neighborhood to show them that church can be a fun place where they make new friends and feel like they are a part of something.
Kroll explains that, ultimately, his goal, as a youth pastor, is to show kids that “they are valuable.” He says that the when a new kid walks in the doors of the ROC, he wants them to immediately feel loved and wanted, despite anything that has happened in their lives.