Youth Not Counted Out of Pentecostal Growth

Pentecostalism is on the rise around the world. But like in most Protestant groups, youth are falling out at alarming rates.
( [email protected] ) Jan 17, 2007 01:16 PM EST

Pentecostalism is on the rise around the world. But like in most Protestant groups, youth are falling out at alarming rates.

National Youth Director Jay Mooney for the Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States, does not hide research findings about the some 60 percent fallout in church attendance. Several years back, however, the loss rate had reached as high as 70 percent.

"We wish that we were doing better than we are," Mooney told The Christian Post.

But then again, a lower loss rate indicates the Pentecostal group is doing better.

In fact, the student base in the Assemblies of God in the United States has increased by tens of thousands of students annually over the last decade, Mooney pointed out. And there are 372,000 students who are plugged into the youth ministries in the Pentecostal churches across the country. If you factor in students who are of youth ministry age but not plugged into youth ministry, the number could eclipse the half million mark, the youth director said.

"That was under 300,000 10 years ago." And the number continues to increase.

On the other hand, the "keeping rate" of students draws a negative slope.

After high school graduation, especially, students are dropping out of the Pentecostal pews "immensely," according to Mooney.

"Is there a loss rate? Yes," Mooney answered simply, "there always has been one."

While Pentecostalism is winning converts faster than any other Christian denomination, according to The New York Times, it is also suffering a loss of young people from the faith – a loss that the Times described as "doubly distressing for Pentecostals."

Pentecostals are "zealous in seeking new members and rejecting the secular culture they feel is luring adolescents away from religion," the Times further reported.

For the young Pentecostal student, life is not as difficult on a public school campus today as it was in the past. They are more accepted among evangelical brothers and sisters, Mooney noted.

"But what is more difficult is being Christian in a secularized world, which is less friendly," he added. "People are less tolerant of Christian students, period."

Less tolerant, but not uninterested.

In a "risky" statement, as Mooney called it, explaining why Pentecostalism is growing, he said, "Pentecostal students are intriguing to the secular student because the secular student is interested in the testimony of the supernatural."

They are "intriguing to an increasingly secular world which is grappling, trying to find something to hold onto that is supernatural."

Some may call the Pentecostal testimony a hurdle for Christian students today and others may say it's a great springboard, Mooney went on.

"I would say it's a great vault," he said, "because the line of demarcation is no longer blurred.”

"In a pluralistic world, the lines of demarcation become clearer for those who testify to a singular faith in Christ. And the supernatural is a [visible] witness to that."

With that, Mooney remains optimistic despite dropping numbers in youth attendance.

Although keeping rates are not as high as he wants it, Mooney said, "I'm telling you that in the Assemblies of God, the numbers of our youth are growing."