.::Disconnection & the STRENGTHS of Teen Faith

As we watch young people leave church in record numbers, there is a lot of despair and worry over losing the next generation in the faith.  Dave Kinnaman’s latest book, You Lost Me, sheds light on six different areas in church community that shows where young people are either disillusioned or underserved in their search for faith by faith communities.  Rather than being dismayed over the statistics, perhaps we might actually be encouraged by what their exodus teach us.

For example, one of the reasons the Barna research shows why young adults are leaving church is that faith communities are OVERPROTECTIVE.  One student notes that churches “demonize everything outside the church.”  The problem with this is that our teens are called to live IN this world.  There’s plenty in culture that points to God, if we’re we have the courage to look at it.  Many use lyrics from bands, movie clips, and references to sport in teaching.  This ought to help our students develop discernment rather than separation, and enjoyment rather than fear.  Didn’t Paul even quote the philosophers of his age that had pointed to Truth in some of their teachings?  I hear young people simply saying, “TRUST US.”  They are saying, Give us some credit to recognize what is good and what isn’t. Trust that you have done a good enough job raising us.” Another way of saying this is perhaps we need to let our young people become “free range Christians.”

Second, young people are saying what is being offered in our faith communities, youth groups, churches is simply TOO SHALLOW.  Early in my youth ministry I grew more and more frustrated and youth curriculum that dealt very little with the text and have an abundance of games, ice breakers and time wasters.  What I hear young people saying in this area is that they want DEPTH.  They KNOW the church has something powerful, true and deep to offer and they WANT it!  They want to dive into the depths of scripture and not just play silly games on Sunday morning.  This is GOOD NEWS!  Young people want depth & authenticity over façades & shallowness.

Third, they see faith communities as ANTISCIENCE.  We often forget that today’s young person is a digital native.  They never knew of a world without cell phones, the internet, video games, and most things digital.  Many of our faith communities have often looked to the Bible as a science text and placed upon the text claims it never makes for itself.  Rather than using the Bible to attack science, creation, physics, etc., perhaps we can even LEARN FROM THEM as to how to look at science through the lens of faith.

Fourth, they see the church as REPRESSIVE.  I was raised Catholic and went to church all through high school.  I switched to a Restoration Mvmt church when I was 18.  I don’t remember ANY sermons, Bible classes, or lessons on sex, sexuality or anything in that arena in a church setting.  However, we read in Genesis 2 that God commands Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.”  We condemn people when they have premarital sex or extramarital sex.  But isn’t it ironic that we don’t teach them God original intent for sex beyond, “Don’t do it out of marriage.”  What I hear students saying is “Teach me what God’s designe for sex and sexuality is!”  I believe that young people are begging for this teaching because the sex messages they are being inundated with through the media and the halls of school doesn’t ring as truth and they want to know the Truth about sex and sexuality.  This is GOOD NEWS!

Fifth, they are leaving because they see the church as EXCLUSIVE.  They read about Jesus being welcoming to the lepers, tax collectors, Samaritan woman, prostitutes, etc. and then watch and listen the way some of our communities talk about or treat people of a different political belief, denomination, socio-ethnic background, etc.  I hear that students want to SHARE GOSPEL with those Jesus would want to share it with.

Lastly, they leave because the church communities they are a part of are DOUBTLESS.  In other words, they are so sure of their faith there is no room for doubt.  Study after study has confirmed that if a young person has a space where they are free to present doubt and allow themselves to ask questions of doubt, then their chances for staying in faith rise significantly.  In those churches where they are not free to explore doubt this kills their desire to stay in that community.  Today’s teens live in such a complex and complicated world that doubt is perhaps a daily occurrence.  There are so many situations where teens must have a place to be free to ask, “Is God real?”  When I look at Romans 7, I see Paul wrestling with doubt for everyone in the Roman church to see.  I hear young people saying, they want a real, authentic, forged, smelted, tested and tried faith.  A faith that is small/big enough to ask the difficult questions.  They are striving towards a faith than can ENDURE.

So let us see the cup as half full as we hear these reasons why young people are leaving organized faith communities.  Let us not think they are all going to hell in a hand basket.  Perhaps many of them continue to live out their faith absent from traditional faith communities.  But let us also use these as a wake up call for our faith communities that have played it too safe or presented a gospel that is too small.


2 Responses to “.::Disconnection & the STRENGTHS of Teen Faith”

  1. Lonnie Peddle Says:

    Thank you very much for caring about our children and helping us to understand their thinking.

    Lonnie, a 75 year old grandmother

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for your kind words!

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