Christianity in America
Christianity is in decline in America. A recent report revealed the number of religiously unaffiliated people is hypothesized to approach or exceed the number of Christians by 2070. This trend is even more severe for Generation Z (anyone born from 1997 to 2012). One source explained, “The parents of millennials and Generation Z did less to encourage regular participation in formal worship services and model religious behaviors in their children than had previous generations. Many childhood religious activities that were once common have become more of the exception than the norm.”
The failure to model beneficial Christian practices for today’s youth has resulted in a generation that has a shaky understanding of the Gospel and how Christ can impact their lives. To combat this concerning trend, Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net), a leader in missional youth outreach for more than seven decades, is dedicated to uncovering God’s story of hope in the next generation that desperately needs it. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement.
Pivotal Moments in Youth
“It’s no secret that there is a growing need among young people,” said YFC President and CEO Jake Bland. “The statistics are alarming. One third of young people report having no trusted adult in their lives. Over 50% of youth are not connected to a church. In America, we’re locking up more kids per capita than any other developed nation in the world. The reality is our kids in this nation are at a vulnerable tipping point — a pivotal moment. There’s a whole generation that could slip through the cracks.”
This is why Youth For Christ outlined three solid strategies to help bridge the gap between the Church and the younger generation.
Strategies to Bridge the Gap
“First, we will simplify our ministry by doing the things Jesus taught us to do. This means we will start by praying earnestly to the ‘Lord of the harvest’ to send more volunteer leaders who can help share the Gospel within the context of a loving relationship,” Bland explained. “God has given us a dream to recruit 200,000 volunteers across the country to engage 1 million spiritually lost young people in a relationship, every year. We’re growing every day through passionate and capable volunteers who are multiplying disciples who want to know and share God’s Word. We will prioritize the public reading of Scripture among our leadership nationally, and re-train all leaders in the clear articulation of the Good News. All of our strategies begin with prayer, recognizing in humility that this is not our work — it’s Christ’s work through us.
“Second, we will seek to exemplify relational evangelism among other faith-based, youth-serving organizations. Even beyond our local YFC ministry sites, it would seem that God is inviting us to help the local church learn new ways to come alongside young by giving away our 3Story® relational evangelism model to any Christian adult who cares about reaching lost kids.
“Thirdly, we are asking the Lord to help multiply ministry sites. This will mean more ministry at juvenile detention facilities, schools, on military bases, and in community centers. Recently, we’ve re-organized the way our local chapters meet together, gathering leaders together who share a common stage in ministry, size, and organizational development. It’s been really encouraging to watch leaders begin to spur each other on towards health and growth. As a result, we can now help our healthiest chapters multiply their ministry sites, and even leverage these groups to multiply new chapters into any community that wants to reach kids in tough places.
“It’s worth noting that we are remaining vigilant amidst a growing mental health crisis. We believe the Gospel of Jesus is part of the solution to the mental health crisis. We know we can do so much more to train YFC leaders to move into some of the darkest places in this country and to be the light. We remain ‘geared to the times and anchored to the Rock.’ What that means in this year of ministry is that we need to make sure all of our ministry models are relevant and sensitive to the needs of kids in post-pandemic youth ministry by enhancing our trauma-informed care services for kids and leaders.”
YFC’s mission to share the Gospel by building Christ-centered relationships with youth in need has already resulted in hundreds of thousands coming to know the Lord. In 2022, YFC celebrated that twice as many kids made first time decisions to follow Jesus when compared to the year prior — and Bland has no intention to slow that momentum down.
The Love of Christ
“I have never been more convinced that Christ is moving,” Bland said. “Right now, we are living in the kinds of cultural conditions that God often uses for His purpose. Despite the challenges kids face and a culture that confuses, it’s never been clearer that God is already uncovering His story of hope among this next generation, and I believe He’s preparing to do even more. The Gospel is as needed and as effective as ever, especially as the unfailing love of Christ meets today’s changing youth landscape.
“We at YFC know that all the anxiety, fear, and worry in today’s society stems from a deep-rooted need for identity, purpose, belonging that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ and the abundant and the eternal life that He brings. That’s why YFC exists — to bring the Gospel right to today’s youth by coming alongside them and building meaningful relationships during pivotal moments in their lives.”