Like most mainline churches, the ELCA is having trouble keeping its young people in church. How can we reverse this trend?
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Youth of St. Paul Lutheran in Dectaur, Ga., wanted to help working parents by offering low-cost summer camps for area schoolkids. They didn’t expect that their work as counselors would benefit them, as well.
“It’s helped them rediscover their spirituality and their discipleship in a new and invigorating manner,” says Charles Newman, pastor of 225-member church. “There’s a new sense of evangelism within our congregation.”
St. Paul hadn’t hosted summer camps for more than 20 years. When the congregation decided to bring back those programs, the teenagers planned to serve about 30 children. But by the time the camps kicked into action, more than 175 kids were on the roster.
The counselors—who include high school- and college-aged members—organized Bible study and competitions, games and programs for the kids. The positions propelled them into roles as congregation leaders. What’s more, they forged deeper relationships with their church peers, Newman says.
“What we’re seeing is that they’re staying,” he adds. “They’re invested and committed.”
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