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Reach & teach

  • Ricardo Miller, a New Providence native who heads Ricardo Miller Children’s Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, and who is at home to speak at a number of graduation ceremonies, said the church has a small window of time that it cannot miss in which to do what it needs to do to share the Gospel. RICARDO MILLER

SHAVAUGHN MOSS
Guardian Lifestyles Editor
shavaughn@nasguard.com

Published: Jun 15, 2017

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Churches must make the next generation a top priority, according to children’s youth ministry pastor Ricardo Miller. He said believers have a biblical mandate to reach and teach.

“Ministry for the next generation must be brought out of the shadows and into the spotlight in churches,” said Miller, a New Providence native who heads Ricardo Miller Children’s Ministries in Fort Worth Texas; and as family ministry pastor at Pathway of Life Church in Dallas where he oversees the nursery, preschool, children’s youth and young adult ministries.

The children’s youth ministry pastor, who is at home to speak at a number of graduation ceremonies, said the church has a small window of time that it cannot miss in which to do what it needs to do to share the gospel.

“The next generation of Bahamians needs the Gospel to be shared with them. They need to be taught how to be passionate followers of Jesus. Like never before, the next generation needs to be shown that you care about them.”

Miller can recall growing up in Acklins more than three decades ago, and the faith foundation that was built into his family.

“As a young person then, the Word was poured into my heart because we were required to go to church weekly. But today’s young people have choices.”

He said his research, after 21 years of working with churches and ministries around the world, is that the number of young people today between the ages of 17 and 19 that have no religious affiliation tripled from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016. And that mainstream denominations, including Baptists, went from 17 percent to seven percent; with a reduction in Methodism from nine percent to three percent.

Over the same period, he said, the number of people who attended religious services dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent.

“These trends provide a snapshot of the current generation of young adults. They also provide a preview of the rapid move from religion over the next 30 years. If this holds true, we are in danger of losing a generation.The church is struggling to reach young people ages 18-22.”

While he said there are bright pockets of churches in The Bahamas that are being effective and keeping the youth engaged, as a whole, he said, the church is floundering. And he said church leaders need to do what needs to be done to reverse the trend and see kids and families walk to Jesus rather than away from Him.

And while children are being born daily, he said the church leaders need to ask themselves whether they are effectively reaching them.

“Are we successfully seeing them develop a faith foundation that will last for a lifetime? Are we truly equipping their parents to influence them spiritually? In some cases we are, but if you look at the big picture you’ll see we have a lot of work to do in reaching young Bahamians and building a strong faith foundation.”

Miller said churches must be willing to change what’s not working.

“The average five to 12-year-old is not the same as generations past. Carrying on like it’s still 1980 will not work. Playing music from the 1980s won't work. Continuing to use flannel-graph in a virtual reality world won’t work. Churches that bury their heads in the sand and continue to do ministry like they’ve always done it will continue to see their congregations fade away. We must take a hard, honest look at our methods and be willing to adjust what needs adjusting.”

He said they should then be willing to work what never changes — the message.

“Though methods must change, the message must not. The Gospel still works. We must renew our passion for sharing the Gospel with those inside and outside of the walls of the church. It’s time to stop arguing over the less important matters and start getting back to the basics of our faith. It’s time to make the main thing the main thing — sharing the Gospel.”

The young ministry pastor said they must be willing to learn from churches that are reaching young people effectively and disciplining kids and families, and find out what they are doing and how they are doing it. He encourages them to visit those churches. It doesn’t mean they have to copy everything they are doing, but it means they can study the principles they are using and adapt and tweak what will work for their church.

“We must help kids develop a deep faith foundation that can stand strong in the midst of a culture that diminishes faith. The sad fact is 78 percent of people who now claim no religion actually grew up in church. And a big percentage of them say they simply don’t believe anymore. We have taught kids a shallow faith that simply can’t stand in today’s secular culture. We must be strategic in what we teach kids. We must make the next generation a top priority in our churches. We have a biblical mandate to reach and teach them. The next generation of Bahamians needs you to share the Gospel with them. They need you to teach them how to be passionate followers of Jesus. Like never before, the next generation needs you to show them you care about them,” said Miller.

 

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