Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Church, Kids, and Numbers

A friend of mine quoted the following statistic, “85% of the people saved in the United States are under 17.” Okay, but what do we do with that? Often, we hear things like that when someone wants to encourage people to work in youth ministry. I see nothing wrong with that. I work with kids in Awana and I can say that I’ve seen far more of them accept Christ than the adults I’ve taught in Sunday school. What I don’t like is when people take that statistic and say, “If we don’t reach them when they are kids, we’ll never reach them.” Is that really what we should take from this statistic?

To answer that, let me ask you, what percentage of the people saved would we expect to be kids? Someone might mention that 18% of the population is between 5 and 17, while 76% of the population is adults, so anything over 18% is pretty good. But is it? Let’s use easy math and say we have an average church with 100 people in attendance. There are 6 children under age five. We’ll assume they aren’t saved, but we don’t expect they’ll accept Christ until they are at least five. There are 18 kids between 5 and 17. We don’t know how many are currently saved, but there were 18 lost at age five.

Now, how many lost adults does this church have in the services? Most of these people are church members, but perhaps there is a man who attends with his saved wife. There’s a girl who used to be in the youth group and still comes, but she isn’t saved. There’s a woman who thought she was saved as a child. And maybe one more. Three or four doesn’t sound like an unreasonable number.

By my count, that means there are 21 or 22 lost people in the service and 18 of them are kids. (It is more complicated than that, but statistically speaking it will do.) Divide 18 by 21 and you get 86%. Divide 18 by 22 and you get 81%. What that tells me is that 85% of the people who are saved in America being under 17 is right in the ballpark of what we would expect if the only people we are reaching are the people who come to church.

And I don’t know what to do with that. There are churches that are reaching people other than those who are in the families of church members, but most of the programs are geared toward reaching kids. So, that will tend to retain the “85% are kids” statistic. I’m glad churches are reaching kids, but when I realize that 76% of our population is adults, I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t failing to do enough to try to reach adults.