20/20 Vision Goal for Youth Ministry Requires Kids

20/20 Vision Goal: Invest in our Kid’s Faith Foundation, but where are the Kids?

A key goal in our 20/20 Vision process is to “invest in Our Kid’s Faith Foundation.” But the 2010 Census results tell us that families with young children are moving to areas where housing is cheaper, streets are safer and there are better job opportunities.

At the same time the diversity of the population is increasing as there are more Latino and Asians in the population mix and fewer whites and blacks.  OK, we sense that is true and diversity is good for our community.  But that growth in Latino and Asian youth is not enough to prevent a drop in kids under 18 in the Bay area.

 

1 Timothy 4:17

Where did all the kids go?

Contra Costa County census 2010 results show 27,000 fewer white and 3,000 fewer black children, but 27,000 more Latinos and 7,800 more Asians. Napa County also saw a swing losing 4,600 white kids but gaining 4,500 Latinos and 1,300 Asians for a net gain of 5 percent in their under-18 population.

Alameda County lost 30,000 white and 17,300 black kids replaced by an increase of 14,000 Asian and 16,000 Latino kids. Alameda County’s net 4 percent loss overall in its child-age population masks the changing demographics under way.

More chilling is the implication for California overall by these numbers since California lost kids in every county except San Francisco County where the number turned positive because 3,000 more white kids than expected followed their parents moving into the City and Placer County at the edge of the Sacramento housing market and the Northern end of the Great Central Valley.

The Bay Area and LA Area are still big but not the growth engine they once were.  Today the fastest growth is in the Central Valley and Inland Empire.  California is no longer a magnet for people looking for jobs and new opportunity.  The Golden State has lost its luster according the economists.  For individuals it is the high cost of housing and a perceived lack of job opportunities.  For business it is the high cost of doing business and the hassle factors of California’s perceived regulatory process.  And if people do move to California they are more likely to look at Fresno or elsewhere in the Great Central Valley which explains the rapid growth of that area.

You can find more data at the US2010 Project, an online site digesting census data and its implications across the country as the results are released.

Implications for Youth Ministry

I admit I am still adjusting to the very idea of a drop in kids under 18.  It is almost unthinkable.  For the church the idea of youth ministry never seems more important yet the reality is many congregations including St. Timothy’s struggles to bring together a critical mass of kids at each age cohort to have a vibrant, thriving youth ministry program.

Maybe this idea of area ministry collaboration across congregations in the Diocese of California is a good idea.  If we can partner with St. Paul’s Walnut Creek, St Stephens Orinda, or other parishes in the Contra Costa Deanery we could put something together.

You see where this is headed?

If our 20/20 Vision goal is to invest in our kid’s faith foundation then we must either get ‘in the mood’ and have more babies of our own, get serious about our other goal of broadening the base of the parish to attract more people to be part of our faith family, or collaborate more broadly across the church to meet the needs of kids.

This isn’t just St. Timothy’s problem—this is a problem for the entire state and nation as our demographics change.  It is also a problem for the whole church in North America.

When Bishop Marc talks about a “post parish” environment one of the implications of that is the reality that there may not be enough kids in each congregation to have a “cool” youth ministry program and works.  We may need to combine efforts across several congregations or across the diocese to achieve critical mass.

This does not mean our parish is failing, but it does mean the way “we’ve always done it” may not work for the demographics of our future. But in our minds we still see the church the same way today as we lived in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s when our kids were young. Our goals in life, in our work and in the church need to reflect the realities of our future.

Our kids are not kids anymore and are focused on trying to find jobs and find partners and yes make babies.  But they may not be able to afford to live here in the Bay Area so they move to Fresno or Frisco, Texas where housing is cheaper and they hope job opportunities will be better.

Our 20/20 Vision reflects our aspirations of the American Dream Danville Style. The 2010 Census reminds us that Danville is changing, the church is changing, the entire nation is changing—and so must we.

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