There is a mass exodus of teenagers and young adults drifting from the church; Jessica's story is one of many. If the church's mission includes helping youth (ages 12-29) to have a faith that sticks, we need to walk alongside young people and help them grow in faith, leadership, and mission. We have an opportunity to step up to the plate and take our place of engaging in mission.
For the first 18 years of my life, almost every church event I went to was attended by me and people my own age, many of whom had gone through similar experiences to my own. We were teenagers looking for our place in this world. High school ended and that place had become foggy and unclear. My parents' divorce, among other family issues, resulted in many of the beliefs I was raised on coming into question. I didn't know what I believed; I didn't know who I was. Even though I began attending a Christian college, I stopped going to church and looked for my self-worth in parties and guys. These unhealthy relationships enabled me to invest in activities that hindered my relationship with God until I found myself subconsciously pushing him further away until I lost all confidence in him and myself.
The summer before my junior year, God put it on my heart to join a church body in Orange City, Iowa. The first Sunday, I reluctantly went alone. Like many Christians, I had mastered church small talk over the years and had made it through countless unmemorable conversations.
But God was working through the small talk that Sunday morning when one of the church members invited me to Monday night Bible study.
I walked into a stranger's house that next evening with an open mind and a full heart. Much to my surprise, there were people of all ages—young couples with children, a couple in their 40s, a single college graduate, and me.
Throughout the next couple hours, we—people of all ages walking various paths of life—shared with one another and laughed, and I began to build healthy, Christ-centered relationships. I have continued to go back and as I grow with this group I am gaining back my confidence and continuing to develop into the woman God created me to be.
Jessica Schuldt is a junior at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.