Many studies have been conducted, but all conclude, we are losing a generation of students to the false religions of this world, including the religion of “religiously unaffiliated,” and the only people we can point a finger at is ourselves.
We could of course get into 1 John 2:19, but the focus today is not on why so-called believers “fall away,” but instead, lets look at where we lose our students. What is the main contributing factor to our kids deciding to forsake their beliefs and go a different way?
A major factor, that in no way helps the overall mission is, Christian teenagers today are much less inclined to have spiritual conversations about their faith in Christ with non-believers. In a 2009 Barna Group research study, a survey question specifically asked if the respondents had “explained your religious beliefs to someone else who had different beliefs, in the hope that they might accept Jesus Christ as their savior.” Among born again Christian teenagers, the proportion who said they had explained their beliefs to someone else with different faith views in the last year had declined from nearly two-thirds of teenagers in 1997 (63%) to less than half of Christian teens in the December 2009 study (45%).
Christian teenagers are obviously taking cues from a culture that has made it unpopular to make bold assertions about faith or be too aggressively evangelistic. Some of the Barna Group’s other research shows that the vast majority of these students agree with the statement it is ‘cool to be a Christian,’ yet fewer young Christians apparently believe it is worthwhile to talk about their faith in Jesus with others.
It’s cool, just not important.
Other spiritual changes in teen lives were less dramatic, although statistically significant:
- Sunday school participation has declined from 35% of all teenagers in 1997 to 30% of teens today.
- Small group attendance is down from 30% to 21%.
- The proportion of teens who reported donating any of their own money to church has softened from 35% to 26% over the last dozen years.
- And even the typically ubiquitous practice of prayer has dropped from 81% to 71% among teens since 1997.
These statistics beg the question, where is the disconnect? Where are we losing our kids?
Is it the fact that once our students go off to college they’re just too busy and overwhelmed with studies and work to find any time to belong to a local body of believers? We as a culture place so much emphasis on furthering our educations, intellectually and vocationally, that it seems as if the church is left as a last resort… not first priority.
We have to make a commitment to our church. The Bride of Christ. If The church is important enough that Christ died for her, shouldn’t the church be first on our list? I love how believers pray for their favorite football teams to win games and for their sick pets to get better and go on to defend these nugatory prayers by saying, “God cares about what we care about, right?”
I have never heard the phrase…”If God knew what we know, He would want what we want.”
There are so many things vying for our family’s attention today. Soccer, dance lessons, school activities—involvement options for families today seem to have no end. But how do all those “family” commitments affect local church ministry? How do they equip our children to defend their faith?
I am not saying high school sports and extracurricular’s are bad or sacrilegious. I had plenty of christian friends in school who played on ball teams that were instrumental in seeing the lives of their teammates transformed all because they were put on a bench to be a light in a dark place. What I am saying though is those extras, in and of themselves, have no eternal value or worth. We have to give our children the firm foundation of God’s word to stand on BEFORE they even get into middle school or else their friend’s and our pagan school systems will create a foundation for them filled with evolution, psychology, tolerance, and worldly philosophy.
Youth groups are great. I love youth ministry. I’ve led worship, taught, and helped lead in youth ministries for over 14 years now. I fear though that there are many parents out there that strongly depend on the local youth pastor to train up their children in the way they should go instead of doing it themselves. Youth ministry is so valuable, but there is no youth group in the world that can affect our children more than we can.
If we as parents are not fueling up our students on a daily basis, they will run out of gas and those weekly additives at youth group aren’t going to do much. If we don’t take responsibility for filling them up and training them how to be filled, the world will take that role with pleasure.
Alas, we cannot teach what we do not know.
Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
We parents have a such a heavy responsibility to train up this generation of children so they grow up to be God-fearing adults who ultimately become fearless disciples that know first and foremost, the key to finding life is losing this one.
Matthew 10:39 – “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
However, if children don’t see life changing faith in the lives of their parents, we have no reason to be surprised when our college students tell us, “Mom, Dad, I’m just too busy for church right now.” Or worse, “I don’t do the ‘God thing’ anymore.”
Live Love. (Especially to your kids.)