USA (MNN) — You may have heard that U.S. young people are leaving the Church in droves. According to a 2012 report from the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project, the number of people who don’t identify with religion is growing at a rapid pace.
“One-fifth of the U.S. public — and a third of adults under 30 — are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling,” the October 9 report states. “In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults.
“Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”
But, Senior Vice President and Director of Collegiate Ministry Jim Lundgren says InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is seeing just the opposite.
Record levels of participation include 909 chapters on 590 campuses and more than 38,000 “core” students and faculty (those who participate in more than 50 percent of all activities). In the midst of growing numbers of students and faculty, more than half of InterVarsity’s participants report consistent church attendance.
Multiple thousands more are involved with investigative Bible studies and other outreach activities.
Lundgren says understanding Millennials — those born after 1980 and comprise the nation’s undergraduate demographic — is key to the Gospel growth they’re seeing.
“They’re very spiritually interested, but often times they get talked to, rather than talked with, and that’s what turns them off about the Church,” he explains. “They don’t want to be talked at, or preached at.”
By connecting with students at a peer level, InterVarsity can introduce the Gospel.
“They want to be involved; they want their questions taken seriously,” says Lundgren. “When you do that, they’re very interested.”
The process starts with ‘Hello’. InterVarsity staff and students discuss current issues with their classmates at so-called “Proxe Stations.”
“They’re very artistic; they deal with particular issues like, ‘Where in your life do you experience scars?’ and it gets you into a conversation about emotional scars, about spiritual scars, about physical scars,” Lundgren explains.
“Pretty soon you’re in a very deep conversation about real things with these students.”
These Proxe Stations are just one of the ways InterVarsity is getting Millennials plugged in to the Kingdom of God.
“Too often young people are not challenged with the understanding that the Gospel message addresses issues they care about, such as justice and compassion,” said Lundgren in a press release.
“InterVarsity has developed tools that help connect Millennials with the 2,000-year old mission of the church.”
One of those tools is the Price of Life Invitational, one of the largest outreaches in InterVarsity’s 72-year history. Five hundred students will be trained to engage their peers with the love of Christ through the lens of human trafficking.
“The question we ask, and will ask during that week in October, is ‘How much are people really worth?’,” says Lundgren. “Are people just a commodity to be sold for sex, or sold to work in a sweatshop somewhere?
“Are we both willing to talk about their value, but also deal with the real issues?”
Participants will learn more about human trafficking, and have an opportunity to engage in the battle through World Vision and International Justice Federation.
“In the course of that, we introduce them to the Jesus who cares about people’s physical lives, emotional lives and spiritual lives,” Lundgren says.
The Price of Life Invitational will be held October 1 – 12 in New York City, and will include over 80 events on 10 campuses. Click here to get connected.
InterVarsity continues to engage with public and private colleges and universities on the issue of religious qualifications for leadership of Christian campus organizations. They’ve also introduced a new ministry focusing on U.S. students who are studying abroad.
The decline of religious affiliation in America leads to an important question — have you shared the Gospel lately?
“The Scriptures tell us, ‘Be ready to share your explanation for the hope that you have in Jesus Christ’,” states Lundgren.
“We need to be ready to share the reason for our hope, and not just in theory, but how is Jesus Christ at work in our lives today.”