While I do not like to change the title of this article I want to state some clarifications. This is still part of our discussion on spiritual development. I certainly focus on young people because they are in the prime of their youth, and because of this they are so much more useful to the Church. But I do not exclude the older people. Certainly older people are also leaving the Church. It was the older people who left the church in mass in Europe, emptying their beautiful churches, now tourist spots. After all it is not only young people who need spiritual development, old people need it too, perhaps more so.
Secondly the word “Church” is ambiguous because it is here taken in two meanings. When this word “church” is used here and is not capitalized it refers to the church as an organization, as a denomination, as a group of people who call themselves Christians. The pronoun used to refer to this kind of church is “it”. On the other hand, this word “Church”, which is capitalized, is taken to mean the bride of Jesus, that reality transcending space and time, composed of all those who believe in him as God’s Son, and represented by 2 or 3 or more who gather in one place to worship God and to listen to him. The pronoun used to refer to this kind of Church is “She”.
And the meaning of the title is not how to keep the young people in their churches, in their organizations or denominations, but in the Church, the Bride of Christ, the universal all time Church expressed in a local community of 2 or more people. So, to restate the question we ask: How do we keep young people together with old people in the Church of Christ, that universal fellowship of those who believe in Christ?
The reason for taking this as the meaning of the question is because in a study by George Barna, it was found out that many of those who left the organizational churches did so because they wanted to be Church. In other words it was not their intention to leave the Church of Christ, the fellowship of all Christians, but only their denominational or organizational churches. So, how do we keep these young and old people in the universal Church of Christ? The answer may appear to be obvious, but in all the many studies on the solution to this problem of young people leaving their churches, it is not stated with clarity and emphasis.
The answer is by giving them Christ. If according to Giovanni Battista Montini in his address last February 3, 1965, Christ is the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings, then why not give him to our young people? Without being aware of this our young people are yearning for Christ. And our churches do not give him to them.
Give Christ to these young people and also to the old, and they will remain in the Church of Christ, his bride, unless they reject him outright. If they have Christ and live as Christ they will develop spiritually wherever they are. Their spiritual development will be assured.