Are you aware that the largest unreached people group on earth consists of preteens, teens, and twenties? We are used to thinking about unreached people groups in geographic terms, but now that half the world’s population is under the age of 25, we are faced with a demographic as the largest mission field. This group is between the age of 10 and 30 years old. Think about that for a moment. Our mission focus should no longer be looking at continents or countries but specifically young people! It only makes sense that when we plan our missions both domestic and abroad, we consider the reality that the largest unreached group is youth and young adults. Thinking domestically now, did you know that more than one third of the millennial generation is not affiliated with any religion at all? Most of the millennial generation are currently college age or in their twenties.
What happens when entire generations are lost? We read in Judges chapter 2 about the death of Joshua and subsequently the passing of those who served under his leadership. We suddenly come to a profound statement in verse 10. “There arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work he had done for Israel” We have a generation that has arisen where vast numbers do not know the Lord or the things he has done!
How is this unreached generation unique? Chap Clark, professor at Fuller Seminary and head of the Fuller Youth Institute believes that the defining issue of adolescents today is systemic abandonment. By that he means the systems that youth grow up within such as schools, sports, clubs, and family are no longer working together to serve them. Each system that a young person experiences has it’s own set of expectations to live up to, and at times that is at the expense of the needs of the student. This lack of cooperative work has left teens feeling abandoned to understand the world and navigate it. The end result is that all youth can now be considered “at risk”. And this generation is trying to grow up in the most confusing world we could imagine. It’s a world where truth is up for grabs, honesty is a notion from the past, and integrity is a foreign concept. Things once considered wrong are now admired and even celebrated. Further, it’s a world where relationships are more virtual than real, leaving a hunger for more and a profound sense of abandonment. We think today’s youth are the most connected generation via social media and smart phones, but those connections are a facade. Contrary to what many adults think, teens want relationships with adults who care about them.
So, not only are we looking at a massively unreached generation, but one that feels abandoned as well. The good news is that we have what they need! The question is, are we willing to reach out and share it? The proclamation of the gospel is not only essential it is timely. The gospel introduces young people to a God who will not abandon them! 85% of people who make a decision for Christ do so by the age of 18. That makes this unreached generation a ripe harvest field! What Clark’s research tells us is that today’s teens and young adults need deep and significant relationships with people from other generations. Notice the word relationships here. This is not about programs! Today’s teens have been entertained to death. They have more programs available to them than any generation before. They hunger for real relationships, a sense of belonging, and for truth. What we need to do is reach out, care for them, and there is one more vital element.
A recent study by The American Bible Society revealed that among teens that attend church at least once a month, 96% of them want to read the Bible more often. Did you hear that? 96% of teens that are at least loosely involved in the church want to read the Bible more often. So, what we need to do is reach out, care for them, and open the Bible with them! This generation of young people wants something they can believe in. They are not looking for programs or institutions. They seek people who will share Jesus with them and walk with them into a faith that is authentic and transforms lives. Studying scripture with young people is how we can share the gospel and introduce them to the God who loves them and will never leave them.
Any Christian adult is capable of ministering to younger generations. We merely need to build relationships and study scripture together. If your church does not have a ministry to youth because there is only one or two teens in the church, you can change that simply by engaging those students with regular time in the Bible with another person. It’s about relationships and God’s word. Together we can engage every generation and we can reach the world’s largest unreached people group.