Bern, Switzerland [CD EUDNews]. Young people need the church and the church needs young people. Adolescence is a time of physical, psychological, social and economical transition. This applies also to the spiritual dimension of the adolescent's life. Since young people are undergoing a life phase of change they become themselves agents of change. They are dynamic, creative and innovative and capable of great things. Young people are a vital part of the church, and they need our special attention and relational as well as our ideological support. This happens best in the context of an intergenerational faith community.
It is disturbing that several studies on church drop out report unanimously that we lose virtually every second youth that grew up in the church. Roger Dudley reports that "40 percent to 50 percent of those who are baptized members in the midteens will drop out of the church by the time they are halfway through their twenties" (Roger Dudley, 2000, p.60). It has also been reporting by many studies that the reasons for leaving the church are rather relational than doctrinal. This trend is on the rise in the adventist churches all around the world. The Valuegenesis Europe study gives ample evidence that the most crucial factors for staying or leaving the church are church related experiences.
Churches where young people belong to and participate in the shaping of the life, vision, and mission are generally very vital and passionate intergenerational communities and a manifestation of Malachi 4:6: "And the heart of the Fathers shall turn to their Sons and the heart of the Sons shall turn to the fathers". Churches that reach young people are much more likely to reach today's world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Adventist message.
The iCOR initiative
Church of refuge follow the traditions and ideas of the cities of refuge in the Old Testament (Numbers 35: 9-15, Deuteronomy 4:41-43; 19:1-3; Joshua 20:1-9) and apply them especially to being a safe place for young people. Churches of refuge therefore are inclusive, accepting, community-oriented, strategically placed, safe, spiritual environments for young adults. They are faith communities that accept people for who they are, where they are. That is, friendship and acceptance are not given or withheld due to personal history, appearance, current belief system or other factors. In these communities designed to meet their needs, young adults can seek God and grow in Him.
The iCOR Key Qualities
To help local congregations in becoming and being spiritually and relationally relevant for young people the EUD iCOR initiative has identified 10 Key Qualities that congregations can specifically and constantly develop and evaluate:
1. Parenting 2. Connecting 3. Belonging 4. Mentoring 5. Praying 6. Teaching 7. Participating 8. Training 9. Leading 10. Serving
Stephan Sigg, EUD Youth Ministries Director explains: "The church as God's family is called to develop a parenting attitude of love, care and nurture - especially towards the young. It provides the space and the opportunities for young people to connect with relevant adult Adventist believers and reaches out to children and young people as the most receptive group of people in and outside of it's borders. Young people need a spiritual safe place where they are accepted and where they belong. They are longing for authentic adults who can be seen as spiritual role models, who may serve as mentors, and who accompany young people through the turmoils of adolescence through bonds of friendship. Young people in their manyfold challenges are especially in need for the support and the consistent prayer of the body of believers. Research has revealed that young people are looking for biblical teachings and values but these have to be communicated in a relevant way and connect to their life realities. Wherever this happens youth are eight times more likely to remain in the church than if there is no relevant communication of the Everlasting Gospel in the church they attend. Youth have an immense creative and spiritual potential and the church needs to offer young people the possibilities to participate and contribute in their way. However, they need to be trained and accompanied in the development of their own spiritual gifts and finally given leading positions in their church. Youth want to see their church make a difference and thus are ready to serve the community and spread the good news of Jesus in many and creative ways. They want to be part of God's mission - not separated but together with their local church. The iCOR initiative wants to foster awareness for this and help congregations to grow as true spiritual homes for young people. 'Very much has been lost to the cause of truth by a lack of attention to the spiritual needs of the young,' said Ellen G. White (Gospel Workers 212) more than hundred years ago. The iCOR initiative wants to change that."
To learn more about the project, please visit the following web page: www.icor-eud.org