Skip to main content

"The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they - at some distant point in the future - will take over the reins. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely... because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile." - Alvin Toffler

As I read the quote from Alvin Toffler about how society views young people, I don’t think it’s a huge stretch if we substitute the word ‘society’ with ‘Christian Reformed Church'. At least this is the conclusion I came to after Classis Hamilton held a panel discussion to discuss the role of young people within the Christian Reformed Church.

The panel consisted of two people who left the Christian Reformed Church and are now attending another church, one recently came to appreciate the Christian Reformed Church through one of our campus ministries and another left the CRC but has returned. And then there was me — definitely not a young adult.

Our role was to share with the members of Classis, as well as the visitors, our perceptions of the CRC and their relation to young adults. Each began with an eight to ten-minute opening statement and then, we as panelists were subjected to questions from the audience. This whole process took just over one hour. Following the panel discussion, the audience was divided by Classis regions to discuss and talk about what they were going to do when they went back to their respective churches. This took another hour which we soon realized was too short.

After listening to my fellow panelists some thoughts arose concerning young adults in the Christian Reformed Church:

  • The CRC needs to be truthfully authentic in their faith.
  • There is not a ‘program’ or ‘quick fix solution’ for the current situation; it’s a journey.
  • There is a need for mentorship — to journey with, authentically
  • There is a huge desire among young adults to use their gifts/talents within the church and be appreciated for them.

These are just of few items that were shared — obviously there were more, but this gives some of the main points. These comments stirred the pot, ruffled a few feathers and made people sit back and contemplate how they were doing ministry within the context of the church. But I think the biggest outcome from this evening was that it showed young adults that the church, or at least this particular Classis, is willing to listen. The panelists were brutally honest as they shared their life stories and the Classis received them, ready to take the necessary steps.

I take my hat off to Classis Hamilton for being vulnerable and for having a true desire to listen to the young adults of today. They opened the door for conversation – one HUGE step in the right direction.

Being one of the panelists, it was a privilege and an honour to sit up on stage with my fellow panelists who shared openly. It took guts to do it. Thanks for being honest. It’s through your honestly that this Classis can move forward.

As a youth worker, may I encourage you to talk to your local Classis and encourage them to host such a panel at your next classis meeting?  It’s an eye-opening experience. May I also encourage you to do something similar in your own local church? Gather some young adults from your church that would be bold enough to share their thoughts, views, and ideas about the CRC.

For our denomination to move forward and to curve current statistics that state that roughly 80% of young adults leave the church once they graduate high school, we need to begin to truly listen to the church of today — our young people!


The conclusions listed above are nothing new.  I've said the same thing over 20 years ago.  And yet the CRC still expects the pastors to be the primary influence in the lives of our youth and young adults.  It's time for parents and other adults to take an interest in the lives of our youth and young adults and to be a living example to them.  What's taking us so long?

You're right, this is nothing new and that was addressed. But what is NEW is that it's being talked about openly at a much broader level within the denomination. Churches, Classis and Synod are ready to receive what is being said and to begin the refining process. Even though it may seem like 'nothing new under the sun' this Classis took the time to LISTEN!

Ministry to youth and young adults is a topic that has already been talked about openly within the denomination.  In fact, a number of years ago, a study committee presented its report to Synod concerning the churches' ministry to youth and young adults.  Synod adopted some very good recommendations at that time.

I commend Classis Hamilton for their concern for the youth and young adults of the church.  I, too, take my hat off to Classis Hamilton for being vulnerable and having a true desire to listen to the young adults of today.  But why are we still in the talking and listening stage?  Shouldn't we be implementing the recommendations made by Synod years ago?  If churches, classes, and Synod are only now ready to receive what is being said and to begin the refining process, were we not listening years ago?  What's taking us so long?  Too much talk and not enough action?

There are at least three areas of discussion emerging right now that seem to have a similar pattern - young people in the CRC, deacons, and diversity.   Most of what's being said has been said before.  We may rejoice that new people are saying it, or that new people are listening, or perhaps we can take comfort from the fact that the CRC doesn't give up on these tough issues - we just keep chewing on 'em until something lets loose!

Well, as Mister B says, what is taking us so long?   On one hand I have been among those who say that change in the CRC culture and systems goes oh so slowly, and the process of building consensus for change is a long and tedious road.  Yet that's how our systems work.   Change does come - albeit slowly slowly.  Leaders who are the most persistent and tenacious will eventually see change occur.   

ON THE OTHER HAND.....  we can do better.  Our responsiveness to the Spirit's leading often seems to be far too hesitant and tentative.  We fear conflict, and division, not to mention crisis.  When the environment is really turbulent, and the denomination feels really fragile, we are the most hesitant to act in forthright obedience.  We talk a little more, study a little more, revise a little more, and pray a lot more.  But hard decisions get put off.

It's hard times for denominations.  They are aging; they are seen as clunky bureaucracies; they move slowly; they are buffeted by the tough economy; they are questioned more and more by skeptical younger generations.

So where are the bright spots in the CRC?  What's deserving of a little extra notice?   Where are we doing something fresh and frolicsome?   Are we having any fun?  I'd like to ask that question - what do you know of that gives you a bit of hope in the face of a general aura of worry and concern?    Where do you see the CRC sparkling?   Does anyone out there see a point of light in the gloom?   Who among us is having fun and finding joy and energy in something that's really working?  Where is God at work in fresh ways?   Let's talk.

Mark Hilbelink on October 25, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Amen, Karl.  If we spend all our energy bemoaning slow progress or scaling mountains only with our eyes, that is the only way we can assure we'll never change.  Let's bring our brightest and best to the forefront - nothing speaks louder than results, so let's amp up our coverage of the innovators, the risk-takers, the creatives and the mold-breakers.  Let's recognize that sometimes you have to pass by people who are standing still or moving slowly to get ahead in a race and quit trying to pacify the "way-its-always-beeners".  Let's not get so distracted by internal discussions (ie, Children at the Table, Belhar) that we forsake the growth and movement of God and His Kingdom in our world.

We're good at being pioneers in the mission field and the educational realm, so why not be pioneers in ecclesiology?  At the very least, even if we fail sometimes, creating an environment where failing isn't failure, but rather a step in the innovative process is imperative if we're going to fight back against doom & gloom.  I'm fairly certain God's still in the business of doing things in new and creative ways, so let's get on board rather than wishing Him well on His trip.

Trevor Payton on October 30, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Well said, Mark!  "Scaling mountains with our eyes" is a great metaphor, and I think it captures the situation well.  Great comment about failure as a step in the process of innovation too.

I was there at the meeting on Tuesday night, and it was a very good discussion.  Time and again, I kept hearing about the importance of authenticity and relevance.  And this was applied to both pastors and church members. 

To the degree that the CRC is focused on itself rather than the world, and to the degree that our comfort and the continuation of the-CRC-as-we-know-it remains more important than God's kingdom and our role as living missional witnesses of Jesus that degree we are out of touch, inauthentic, and irrelevant to the lives of our young people.  (And to the rest of the people in society too.) 

In large part, it seems like the average CRC congregation is out of touch, being more concerned with staying comfortable than with loving God's world and the people in it.  I think that when we as churches develop the courage to acknowledge that reality and start addressing it in meaningful (and probably uncomfortable) ways, we will start to find young people (and other people too) starting to enter our doors again.  The church exists for the world...not for itself.

Great points!!! There is a whole pile of brightness and hope out there. Those bright spots are those congregations that are recognizing that the intergenerational approach to discipleship is the place to start.  Sadly I'm not sure the denomination is leading the charge... Again it is the CRC lagging as the larger evangelical community wakes up from a silo ministry focused slumber... 

It is sad because the CRC which is at it's very core built on an internegerational foundation has for so long neglected to produce any effective ministry or disciplship track to meet the needs of this changing adolecent demographic.  This is not a Faith Alive nor Youth Unlimited responsiblity. It's a CRC responsibility that has gone over looked for so long that most "youth proffesionals" have now been trained/emersed in non CRC ministry environments/models.  Sadly we now reap the consequences of not meeting the needs of those youth professionals as a denomination. The worst of which is a distrust that the CRC is even interested in the "youth ministry" arena aside from establishing commitees and highlighting the work of Youth Unlimited in the Banner (which is not even a "CRC ministry").

The move away from the silo or peer based ministry is a counter cultural one that I hope and pray the CRC can lead as it looks at the strengths it can draw from it's roots.  iGEN ministry is in our veins it's what is unique and beautiful about the CRC.  So let's gather up all those wonderful documemts, make some descisions as a denomination and lead!        

Great stuff! The Leadership Exchange (a new denominational ministry) is encouraging young adults to do their part in creating lasting change in the church. Check out our manifesto to see what we have been up to :


Ken Kruithoff

Leadership Exchange Young Adult Coordinator

[email protected]

Mark Hilbelink on October 27, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Our brothers and sisters in the Southern Baptist Convention are talking about similar issues regarding leading WITH new, young leaders for the betterment of the Kingdom.

Ed Stetzer & Phillip Nation's 5 Part Series is 2 Parts Complete:

Part I:

Part II:

Trevor Payton on November 4, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That's a very good question, Terry.  I'll suggest as an initial starting point that there is a difference between Christianity as a movement and Christianity as an institution.  Good biblical teaching and doctrine of the Church has primarily to do with Christianity as a says very little about the institution. 

Agreed - so let's get moving.  Let's stop talking about the problems and start talking more about solutions. Let's talk more about how we can implement the guidelines that were made by Synod several years ago.  Let's be pioneers in our ecclesiology, especially how it relates to our youth and young adults.

I am still grateful that the best thing any church has ever done for me as a young, single adult was to give me a job to do.  I was elected a deacon at age 26 (practically unheard of) and I was chairman of the deacons and chairman of the missions committee within two years after that.  That church was both authentic and relevant.  We need more of that - church members showing confidence in the ability of the next generation to lead, chuch members leading by example, church members training the next generation to be missional servants.

So, is there no place for hymns, oh, and even the use of the organ at what we are now looking at, in appropriate places?Are we to discard everything even if it is good. Does the fabric of a particular church means piddely squat, is it like we might as well stop building concert halls, fire all musicians from the orchestras because they are using old material and to a large degree don't appeal to the young and bright in our midst. You might want to check out the concerts they show sometimes on TV from Europe, all old classics, thousands of youth are present and I would venture to dare say that they make as much joyful noise as is heard at any youth convention. Or would it be a good thing if we retain some of this old stuff and use it regularly in the service, not to placate, but to celebrate that which is good. What does this young, smart, full of fire person know about personal tragedy, which by way of still singing in hard times to God, find solace in Him. Don't kid yourselves, you will get there at some point, so yes, we must move on, but the foundation of that bridge across troubled water must still be there, even if the pavement has been changed from large timbers to electrically heated pavement. Just wondering!

Trevor Payton on November 23, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Woah, slow down for a minute.  :)  I haven't read in this discussion anyone bemoaning the use of hymns and organs.  I've read a lot of comments about growing in authenticity, about renewing our methods of making disciples, and about stepping into God's mission for his Church.  I've also read a number of comments basically about shedding some of the selfish mindsets that have settled into our practice of life and ministry.  Nothing about hymns or organs being worthless, though.  Personally, I deeply love a whole bunch of the songs in our grey Psalter Hymnal--and some in the Blue one too!  I hope we won't be throwing the baby out with the bathwater in that regard. 

That being said, I do sincerely believe that a number of the practices and ministry expectations in our denomination have become idolatrous and sinful (even though they were perhaps very faithful in the past).  Reggie McNeal (in "The Present Future") speaks often of the north american church having become a religious social club...and to the degree that he's right, we as a whole denomination have a great deal of serious repentance to work through.  And it goes so much deeper than worship style.

I would not assume that the move to a more intergenerational apporach to ministry means less organ or less repetative praise choruses or less of anything for that matter. This sadly underscores the fault we have at over emphasizing losses in this discussion.  I am not afraid of the pedulum swinging any further to the left extreme I think that's part of our problem.  There is a whole area in between that we seem to have passed by.  Jesus Culture and Robert Robinson can and must coexist in the same service... Why is it that we play the older and younger generation against eachother when as declared by your own insights of European concert halls we can co-exist.  After all don't we always just follow what Europe does??? (Please Lord I hope we don't) 

Intergenerational does not mean we cater to this generations worship style nor does it mean we cater to any other generational style of worship...  It means interdependant faith, worship and ministry as opposed to independant...  It also means the previous generation needs to let go of some control of church and let the this generation own, lead and make mistakes while we together refect on gains and losses as we move ahead...

Thank you Trevor and Koenraad, for your reply's to my rant, I know no one was saying something against the Hymn's/organ, nothing for it neither, and now I am confessing that I am just emerging from the old stuff is good, the new can maybe be ok, so I am fishing a bit. In some of the forums there looks to be a bit of anti establishment if you will, and I may pick that up perhaps easier than you guys, or perceive it to be that way. I am looking for reassurance on my way to I don't really know yet where, and I have the feeling that I may have some influence on my "buddies" from the other side of the fence, I am playing the keyboard now too (beginner stuff!), and I am being watched. On the other side, I like to have some influence on the "other" (Praise) side as well, I have been noticing in the past three or four years that I received messages that not all was as it should be with me and my fav instrument, our new youth director put the point on the pencil so to speak and challenged me to change, but other messages are bound to enter the fray and it is really not that difficult to see that things can go too fast, too far and without thinking or caring where this leaves the traditional side, without trying (communicating with them) to get them to move as well. So I enjoy seeing something reassuring too, something to calm the nerves in myself and others. just started reading "Someone Stole My Church", interesting book, but in the very beginning there it is, we don't sing the hymns anymore, the organ is not played anymore, and on we go, what to take from it? So you are right, the Spiritual side in all of my concerns is of the utmost importance, yet how....? Thanks guys, John.

Trevor Payton on November 24, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

At least as I see it, this matter isn't primarily about the worship wars.  Understandably, many people feel quite strongly about their preferred styles of worship, and it's vital that both sides respect the other in that discussion (Philippians 2:1-11 is crucial here).  And while many people have often equated traditional worship style with a traditional style of church ministry, and vice versa, I think the issue is much deeper than simply about music style. 

I think this discussion is about the more basic questions of What is the Church? and What are we here for?  Having grown up in the CRC bubble, many young people are having a rude awakening to recognize that life is very different outside the bubble than it is inside.  The important questions inside the bubble (worship wars as a good example) are not really (or not readily) important outside.  And the major issues that are impacting youth outside the bubble (is there hope?  truth in other religions?  what to do about the environment?) are rarely talked about inside the bubble.  On the inside, we're spinning our wheels and going crazy about housekeeping matters, while on the outside, life is passing us by at breakneck speed. 

You'd think that, if the Christian faith really was true, and if Jesus Christ as Lord of all creation really was redeeming every square inch of it, then we would be more concerned with what is happening outside the bubble than we are with housekeeping matters on the inside.

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post