The statistics are staggering. Anywhere between 70%-90% of churched students leave their faith upon graduating from high school. It is a statistic that is consistently on the rise. Why?
I would like to propose that we offer way too much cheese and not enough Jesus in our churches. Obviously an inane example, but one that simply demonstrates the issue in our culture.
Have you ever watched as a stubborn dog refused to take its medicine? The owner usually wraps the dog-saving medication in cheese for the dog to lick down with delight. It makes no sense why the dog would refuse the life saving medication or how it even knows to not want the pill; however, the owner is forced to trick the dog into swallowing what will effectively save its life.
No cheese, no medicine, no dog.
In exactly the same way, youth ministers and pastors have been stuck with congregations and students that stubbornly refuse the actual Gospel. In attempts to save them, we (as ministers) have introduced cheese into the equation.
So what is the cheese? Step into almost any youth experience, camp, service, gathering, party, class or Sunday School and you'll almost immediately be struck with the trickery that is their Gospel today.
"Come to church tonight and win a $20 gift card!" "Bring your Bible for a chance to win a free dinner!" "Whoever brings the most visitors gets a car!" "Raise your hand if you want to accept Jesus and not go to hell!" "Jesus is your homeboy!" "Enjoy the free dougnuts, Coke, candy, sugar!"
What happens when all this is gone and they are just left with Jesus? What happens when the emotions of loud music, fun games, crazy leaders and alternative parties are all gone and there is just them and Jesus.
Countless kids have been tricked into following a Jesus that gave them the best week of their life at a camp or a Jesus that was so much fun back in the day. They launch into college with very little substance for faith and a shaky foundation for the next four years. They don't want a Jesus that doesn't want them to have fun.
Whatever that looks like, we must start to unwrap the Gospel from all the layers of fancy we have thrown onto it. It is not our job to dress up the Gospel to be pretty enough for our culture. We are not meant to wrap it up in enough layers of cheese for our culture to swallow it.