No Go Zone

No Go Zone

Mary-Jane Konings

“ Life in the no – go zone: what happens to young adults when they leave youth group? 

Mary-Jane Konings looks into it…

I’ve watched them disappear. Actually, I’ve ignored the young adults disappearing because I was busy but when I stop and think about it, lots of people that used to be in youth group just aren’t around anymore. The more I think about it, the angrier I get. Teenagers have countless hours poured into them, hours spent organising events, counselling, building relationships, training, nurturing and having fun together. But what happens to all those teenagers in youth group who become young adults and leave the church?Their friends are still there. There’s Barry, who developed into a pretty good worship leader and Jamie who plays drums and of course Jenny and Liz who help out with youth group, not to mention Peter who is part of my homegroup. But the rest of their year? They were all pretty keen and had a neat group that went together through youth group.

What happened? Shari drifted away from church. There was no real place for her. The evening service was hot but didn’t meet her need for meaningful relationships or provide a place to challenge and deepen her walk with God.”The morning services, I just couldn’t get up in time and when I did go, I didn’t really fit in. I couldn’t go to any of the daytime woman’s groups so I didn’t really know anyone. “

Currently Shari is living with an older man, playing mum to his two children from a previous marriage.

“I still believe and that but it’s kind of awkward to come to church. And when you don’t get much from the service, and my partner doesn’t care, it’s just too hard.”

From where I sit, the only young people who stay in church are those who become youth leaders or join the worship team or get dragged into a happening homegroup. Even then, not all stay.

Greg went from youth group into both worship ministry and working with teenagers. Of course, once he finished his degree and started working he had to cut back and now we hardly see him.

“I s’pose I’m working too hard but it’s that kind of job. Plus the firm sends me overseas from time to time and I just can’t make the kind of commitment you can when you are young. Work seems to have taken over. I guess that’s not a good thing but what can you do?”

For some young adults, relationships pull them away from the church. “Katya didn’t really like my old church or any of my old friends” says Bill, an accountant. “I just avoided the conflict by dropping out.” For others, leaving home for work or education allows them to choose. “I moved to Christchurch for the second year of my art degree” says Anna. “Church wasn’t important to the people I hung out with and I decided not to get involved. I kinda got burnt out doing heaps of stuff and I was hurt in a way by various people. So it was easier not to bother”. And of course there was a whole crowd who joined other churches. The Baptist church down the road ran a cool program just for young adults that we couldn’t compete with, having neither the time nor the passion to work in that area. Some went to a charismatic church off and on because the experiential, emotional nature of their worship intrigued them. Finally, some leave because they get upset. They don’t like the minister, they don’t like the way things are run, they don’t like the services, they have a run in with someone – there are as many reasons as there are individuals. But at the end of the day they are gone.There are plenty more stories and as I listen to them I have some questions. The answers? God knows.

Mary-Jane has recently shifted to Lower Hutt with her library of theology books. Her preferred caffeine source is chocolate coated coffee beans.