(By Rev. Nicole Grant Yonkman. First published on www.ucc.org.) This past Sunday, three of our confirmation class kids assisted in worship by leading prayers and reading scripture. Each child’s reaction ranged from petrified to resigned determination. For all of these kids, this was their first time speaking in front of a group of people that was not their class from school. In the look on their faces, I was reminded that being a church leader does not just happen, it is a skill that must be carefully nurtured and developed.

I am in the small minority of UCC pastors – just four percent – who are under 40 years old. I went to seminary right out of college and ministry has been my career for the last 14 years. While I was marginally involved in church as a child, my call was really nurtured and encouraged through a campus ministry program at college.

While I feel fortunate to have had strong role models in college who pointed me in the direction of seminary and ministry, I don’t see a lot of pathways for young people. I’m not just talking about young people who might want to become ministers. I’m talking about young people that want to be Christians; to live a life of faith and walk the Jesus walk. Although our country faces the toughest financial crisis since the Great Depression, our churches have been declining and struggling financially and numerically for years.

The truth is, many children, youth and young adult programs in local churches, denominations, and colleges were cut years ago. We are now reaping what we sowed a generation ago: a majority aging and aged congregations that have few or no children whatsoever. It’s now not just one lost generation, but two lost generations. Generation X has come of age and given birth to children who have no idea what church is.

So what is a church to do? Read more . . .