Author Topic: Teens and Faith  (Read 9392 times)

Brian Hughes

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Teens and Faith
« on: November 27, 2007, 02:40:22 PM »
From the Barna Instutute:

http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=280

A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity

September 24, 2007

(Ventura, CA) - As the nation’s culture changes in diverse ways, one of the most significant shifts is the declining reputation of Christianity, especially among young Americans. A new study by The Barna Group conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago.

The study of Christianity’s slipping image is explored in a new book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, the president of The Barna Group. The study is a result of collaboration between Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project.

Rising Reactions

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity.

....

As pointed out in the Barna Update related to atheists and agnostics, this is not a passing fad wherein young people will become "more Christian" as they grow up. While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in America, a fundamental recalibration is occurring within the spiritual allegiance of America’s upcoming generations.

Yet, the research shows that millions of young outsiders have significant experience with Christians and Christian churches. The typical young outsider says they have five friends who are Christians; more than four out of five have attended a Christian church for a period of at least six months in the past; and half have previously considered becoming a Christian.

"Older generations more easily dismiss the criticism of those who are outsiders," Kinnaman said. "But we discovered that young leaders and young Christians are more aware of and concerned about the views of outsiders, because they are more likely to interact closely with such people. Their life is more deeply affected by the negative image of Christianity. For them, what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective has greater relevance, because outsiders are more likely to be schoolmates, colleagues, and friends."



peter_speckhard

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2007, 10:04:54 PM »
Polls don't do much for me because they depend too much upon the whims of the moment. Ever notice how a political candidate gets a 'boost" or a "bump" in the polls after the party convention, but then settles back down? Who are these people who decide which candidate to vote for based on such nonsense? They are the people answering the poll questions. I think young people react negatively to Christianity because of the all the press coverage of the president and his faith. Once Bush is out of the White House, our unpopular foreign policy will no longer be linked in the public's imagination with the president's religion. These poll numbers will, or at least can very easily, change drastically based on the news of the day.

Charles_Austin

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2007, 11:24:48 PM »
THere is a difference between a "poll" and a study. Barna book is, I believe, more than a poll. I'm getting it soon.


Brian Hughes

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2007, 08:17:08 AM »

  Everyone should read the entire article. I find the presenting issues for their contempt for Christianity to be rather daunting. IMHO, the Barna Group is probably one of the best Christian social trends organizations around.  They're usually out in front of everyone and, should this latest book prove accurate, the next generation of pastors is in for a really rough ride.  Or perhaps they'll usher in a new revival of historic proportions.

 My interest isn't so much, "OK, see ... this is why we're losing people - you should become more orthodox or progressive ...", but rather the continuing unfolding of the trends many of us saw back in the 70's.   When the Boomers didn't "come back to church" as they became parents,  we're now on the verge of a second generation (Boomer kids being the first) who have no background in what it means to be a Christian.  I too want to buy the book.  I'm curious if the hostility to Christianity extends to other  faith/religious/spiritual impulses equally.  I read (and I can't get my hands on it right this moment) a recent article concerning the rapid decline of Buddhism in the US as aging Boomers, who dabbled in it, are walking away and the younger generations never showed much interest to begin with.

Before this topic collapses into the only issue the church can debate ... I note that progressive denominations are declining even faster than orthodox ones.  Something else is going on and, IMHO, hospitality as a tool for evangelism isn't going to cut it with this generation.  If the research is accurate, they're not interested in even coming and seeing so they'll never experience what we might be doing inside a congregation.

Brian

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2007, 08:33:21 AM »
Brian,

I did read the article and this paragraph caught my eye:

The ‘UnChristian’ Label

When young people were asked to identify their impressions of Christianity, one of the common themes was "Christianity is changed from what it used to be" and "Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus." These comments were the most frequent unprompted images that young people called to mind, mentioned by one-quarter of both young non-Christians (23%) and born again Christians (22%).

Kinnaman explained, "That’s where the term 'unChristian' came from. Young people are very candid. In our interviews, we kept encountering young people - both those inside the church and outside of it - who said that something was broken in the present-day expression of Christianity. Their perceptions about Christianity were not always accurate, but what surprised me was not only the severity of their frustration with Christians, but also how frequently young born again Christians expressed some of the very same comments as young non-Christians.


I am confused: On what is the comment that CHristianity o longer looks like Jesus based?  It suggests that they know what Jesus was like or at least think they do.  Whence came this knowledge?  (Disclaimer: I agree with them; there are things happening in the name of Jesus that probably make him sit quietly and twist a whip again or at least make him cry.)  Does this not suggest that there is some knowledge of the Lord the content of which we would do well to discover?
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Dave Benke

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2007, 08:50:07 AM »
This from Barna is, I think, from a parish pastor/bishop point of view on one coast with a lifelong passion for youth work, an accurate read of the situation.  Christians are viewed by the young as too judgmental, hypocritical, old-fashioned, political, and hostile/uncaring to homosexuals.  Those were the stated reasons.  A lot of that speaks to the "evangelical" culture, which the kids see through to some degree albeit with the looking glass of the pre-eminent culture of "tolerance," because what they're catching is law, law and then, some law.  And the Gospel as a new form of law.  And missing sin and grace, or law and Gospel, or Jesus and the new life.  So the central message doesn't appear to be coming through.  

I have adult youth leaders at my own parish who have been through some tough stuff in their own lives, and they do not bring that judgmental spirit into the house but treat the kids with unconditional love that allows for the appropriate setting of boundaries and dialog about issues.  And of course there's basketball.  And it works.  

In the wider district on the down side, we had a youth leader who, with pastor's support, brought out a couple hundred kids mostly from the community for music, Bible, relationship development, and growth.  The parish wouldn't allow it.  Didn't want their "good" kids hanging out with the Goth-ish and on-the-edge types who were coming because they had never really heard about Jesus.  Both the pastor and the youth leader are no longer there.  

I think it would be illustrative to find out what's working to engage the kids who are just not involved.  We can't and won't give up our values, our soul, our Lutheran means of grace focus, but beyond catechizing the kids who are already there, or who are forced to be there by their parents, what's cooking with our interaction with the rest of the young world out there on the streets or at the mall, from our LCMS Youth Gathering type interaction to the Higher Things modality and counterparts in the ELCA?

Dave Benke

Gladfelteri

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2007, 10:44:55 AM »
Perhaps part of what is going on may involve two trends:  First, the desire of teens - and the 20-30 somethings as well to remake Jesus in their own image - in the image of their values, priorities, education and world-view;  Secondly, the rising influence of atheism being pushed not only by the current spate of tomes on the subject, but by their education in the hard sciences, especially Biology with the current version of "blind chance random mutation" evolution with any Divine influence on the process rigorously prohibited.

Along those lines, in my area there are a lot of well educated, affluent professionals who are making a point of raising their children with no exposure to religion in any way, shape, or form.  Further, many of those parents have moved from a contentious form of atheism to one which is characterized by complete indifference to religion and spirituality, whether theistic or not, and whether it is organized or not.  Personally, they refuse to even discuss the subject hypothetically.  For them it is all myth.   It is not worth arguing about or even considering.  Case closed.  Move on.
 
How do we cathetecize those people and the teens coming from those families?  That seems to call for a determined missionary effort which starts with such ultra basics as proving that God exists.  It is going to be (it is already) hard to reach teens who have those kinds of parents.  It is going to be hard to do that if the missionary says in effect: "Here is the Bible.  Of course we don't really believe it is really  true as written.  The history and science are wrong.  The History is heavily edited, much if not most of it is not supported by archeology:  and the text is heavily redacted - "the books cooked."   The science is, well, pre-scientific.  The psychology especially concerning sexuality for instance, is hopelessly out-dated.  But there are things of value in that Bible . . . somewhere . . . maybe . . .??  So lets study it . . ."   ???

One basic principle of marketing is that the salesman, in order to be really effective must really, enthusiastically believe in what he or she is selling.  This is a problem for a missionary who is theologically and socially liberal and has broad doubts about the faith (like the PECUSA priest who told Gene Robinson - then a college student - to just not say the elements of the Nicene Creed which he did not believe.)  That hardly builds confidence in a faith-system.  Would a rational person be willing to become a martyr for that kind of "faith?  Other people are not convinced with this sort of thing:  "Church is such marvelous theater. . . we should not deprive ourselves of it just we do not believe a word of it."  Now, someone will grouse taht an evangelist is not a salsman; that he or she is not involved in marketing.  But that is arguably splitting hairs.  The basic principles apply.

Granted that there are and have been two systematic theologies, two hermeneutics being taught in the mainline Church for a very long time, and they have coexisted comfortably.  Until now.  Granted, my concern is colored by the fact that I am a social and theological conservative who lives in a part of town in which virtually everyone is college educated and many have advanced degrees.  All my close friends are college graduates, most have advanced degrees, and they and I are all charter members of the "wine and cheese and chamber music at an art gallery" set.  Things are no doubt different in other parts of town, and among other people than those I usually hang out with.  But there are times when it feels like religiously and spiritually, Europe's present is our future unless we do something about it now.  Those teens are our future.   :-[
« Last Edit: November 28, 2007, 11:01:08 AM by Irl Gladfelter »

Gladfelteri

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2007, 10:52:15 AM »
Polls don't do much for me because they depend too much upon the whims of the moment.
Um . . . yeah. . . but polls are also dependent on who is doing the polling, the size of the sample, the parameters for inclusion in or exclusion from the sample, the demographics of the sample, what if any statistical analysis was used to evaluate the results, and why that statistical sample was chosen etc., etc.  Often this information is not readily  available for most readers.  So arguably there should be a huge question mark over the conclusions of many polls.

jrubyaz

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2007, 10:59:28 AM »

I think we are missing one major point here. That major point is that we are operating from a mentality of "gettting youth into our churches".

Why do we still have that mentality? Are we a club of some sort? I think we need to be out WHERE the youth are-coffee shops, concerts, movies, bars, wherever it may be.

And we have to do it intentionally-they won't often engage us on "our turf" ,  so do we  go to them?

I say this being a part of a church that has 250 active senior highs and about the same middle schoolers. Our youth ministry (which I have little or anything to do with)  is active and dynamic, but I do get concerned we are missing a whole mission field of kids that we are just ignoring, or overlooking.

Jeff Ruby       

Gladfelteri

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2007, 11:10:43 AM »
I think we are missing one major point here. That major point is that we are operating from a mentality of "gettting youth into our churches".

Why do we still have that mentality? Are we a club of some sort? I think we need to be out WHERE the youth are-coffee shops, concerts, movies, bars, wherever it may be.

And we have to do it intentionally-they won't often engage us on "our turf" ,  so do we  go to them?

I say this being a part of a church that has 250 active senior highs and about the same middle schoolers. Our youth ministry (which I have little or anything to do with)  is active and dynamic, but I do get concerned we are missing a whole mission field of kids that we are just ignoring, or overlooking.

Jeff Ruby       

  Jeff, it sounds like you are doing good things.   And you are rilght.  We need to face the fact that we are living in a "mission field,"  and need to operate as if we were foreign missionaries who are just starting their work in a foreign culture in which nobody is Christian.  We need to go where they are, and get their respect and trust even though we are obligate Theists. 

That done, we need to focus first on getting them to believe that a transcendent, sentient, self-aware God exists and that He is an entity "above nature" (a supernatural entity.)  Then that He is personal; then that he cares very much about our individual lives on this blue marble orbiting a 3rd rate star in one of an immense number of very average galaxies, and is willing and able to interfere in our individual lives across the dimensions of space-time.  Then we need to convince him that since there is such a God, there are realms above are "above nature" i.e. supernatural) beyond the dimensions of space/time which are every bit as objectively real as what is contained in the space/time continuum.  That there is a God who is a "rule maker" and everything we do in space/time has consequences not only in space and time but in the dimensions beyond and above space and time. 

With that foundation laid, they we can present Christ, and Christianity, and start focusing into getting the teens - and their parents - into Church.



« Last Edit: November 28, 2007, 11:13:06 AM by Irl Gladfelter »

John Dornheim

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2007, 11:20:27 AM »
There is, as the preacher said, nothing new under the sun.

John Dornheim

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2007, 11:58:30 AM »

I think we are missing one major point here. That major point is that we are operating from a mentality of "gettting youth into our churches".

Why do we still have that mentality? Are we a club of some sort? I think we need to be out WHERE the youth are-coffee shops, concerts, movies, bars, wherever it may be.

And we have to do it intentionally-they won't often engage us on "our turf" ,  so do we  go to them?

I say this being a part of a church that has 250 active senior highs and about the same middle schoolers. Our youth ministry (which I have little or anything to do with)  is active and dynamic, but I do get concerned we are missing a whole mission field of kids that we are just ignoring, or overlooking.

Jeff Ruby 

From my experience (involved over 20 years in youth ministry on various levels), the "active and dynamic" church youth ministries are the ones that are seeking to go where the kids are.  And you're right--if we wait for young people to walk through our church doors to minister to them, we are missing the opportunity to minister to the overwhelming number of teenagers who will never do that.

Pr. Jerry

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2007, 12:48:07 PM »

I think we are missing one major point here. That major point is that we are operating from a mentality of "gettting youth into our churches".

Why do we still have that mentality? Are we a club of some sort? I think we need to be out WHERE the youth are-coffee shops, concerts, movies, bars, wherever it may be.

And we have to do it intentionally-they won't often engage us on "our turf" ,  so do we  go to them?

I say this being a part of a church that has 250 active senior highs and about the same middle schoolers. Our youth ministry (which I have little or anything to do with)  is active and dynamic, but I do get concerned we are missing a whole mission field of kids that we are just ignoring, or overlooking.

From my experience (involved over 20 years in youth ministry on various levels), the "active and dynamic" church youth ministries are the ones that are seeking to go where the kids are.  And you're right--if we wait for young people to walk through our church doors to minister to them, we are missing the opportunity to minister to the overwhelming number of teenagers who will never do that.

I'm going to be the proverbial "stick-in-the-mud" in this discussion and ask a question that has not yet been asked of the proponents of "going out" to wherever.  My question is simple and straightforward on its face: "What are the limits to which the Church 'goes out,' and where do we then ask those 'out there' to 'come in' to a life of discipleship?"

Let me illustrate: A Church in Huntington, WV, held a "WrestleMania" style "worship drama" to reach out to the "unChurched" using a popular form of entertainment, complete with mock violence.  Is this acceptable?  Are there places the Church will not go in an effort to "reach out?"  What, exactly, are the limits to which the Faith can accomodate pop culture?

And further: What sorts of disciples are we growing when the Church is the only active seeker?  I have a similar question around "seeker" worship that is almost completely unlike the primary worship of the congregation; how does this help welcome the "outsider" and the "seeker" into the Faith and discipleship of Jesus who is unlike and bigger than ourselves?

I am not advocating the "passive" approach of "our doors are open, why aren't they coming in."  Nor am I advocating a "maintence" model of faith that simply seeks to maintain the status quo.  But I think this idea of taking the Church "out" to wherever has real limits and weaknesses.

But, as so many others have pointed out on other issues, I may not have a clue on what I speak.
Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

jrubyaz

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2007, 12:59:13 PM »

Jerry,

You raise a number of great questions. The similar questions have been raised in the NY Times recentley by churches that sponsor "Halo" nights to attract kids to the church. For the less than digerati, "Halo" has nothing to do with angels, but is a very , very violent game that a number  of young people play.

My answer to your question is no, we don't stoop to that level. It is not about gimmicks, or lowest common denominator. Nor is it about getting our "numbers up". IT is about discipleship, and I think face to face conversation, not downgrading doubt or skepticism, is the route to go.

I was asked a very pointed question at a recent national Outreach convention, "how many unchurched friends do you have? " I was sad to say only two. We live in a churched bubble, and need to move out of that.

So I would say your question of means and ends is very valid.  And I don't believe in seeker services either, to me that always means some sort of "dumbing" down..I figure if we offer a variety of worship opportunites, the "seeker" will find (hopefully) one that is meaningful.

Jeff Ruby

   


I think we are missing one major point here. That major point is that we are operating from a mentality of "gettting youth into our churches".

Why do we still have that mentality? Are we a club of some sort? I think we need to be out WHERE the youth are-coffee shops, concerts, movies, bars, wherever it may be.

And we have to do it intentionally-they won't often engage us on "our turf" ,  so do we  go to them?

I say this being a part of a church that has 250 active senior highs and about the same middle schoolers. Our youth ministry (which I have little or anything to do with)  is active and dynamic, but I do get concerned we are missing a whole mission field of kids that we are just ignoring, or overlooking.

From my experience (involved over 20 years in youth ministry on various levels), the "active and dynamic" church youth ministries are the ones that are seeking to go where the kids are.  And you're right--if we wait for young people to walk through our church doors to minister to them, we are missing the opportunity to minister to the overwhelming number of teenagers who will never do that.

I'm going to be the proverbial "stick-in-the-mud" in this discussion and ask a question that has not yet been asked of the proponents of "going out" to wherever.  My question is simple and straightforward on its face: "What are the limits to which the Church 'goes out,' and where do we then ask those 'out there' to 'come in' to a life of discipleship?"

Let me illustrate: A Church in Huntington, WV, held a "WrestleMania" style "worship drama" to reach out to the "unChurched" using a popular form of entertainment, complete with mock violence.  Is this acceptable?  Are there places the Church will not go in an effort to "reach out?"  What, exactly, are the limits to which the Faith can accomodate pop culture?

And further: What sorts of disciples are we growing when the Church is the only active seeker?  I have a similar question around "seeker" worship that is almost completely unlike the primary worship of the congregation; how does this help welcome the "outsider" and the "seeker" into the Faith and discipleship of Jesus who is unlike and bigger than ourselves?

I am not advocating the "passive" approach of "our doors are open, why aren't they coming in."  Nor am I advocating a "maintence" model of faith that simply seeks to maintain the status quo.  But I think this idea of taking the Church "out" to wherever has real limits and weaknesses.

But, as so many others have pointed out on other issues, I may not have a clue on what I speak.
Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS


jrubyaz

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Re: Teens and Faith
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2007, 01:02:05 PM »

Actually, not true at all. The evidence from Barna and many others suggest the generations Brian mentions have absolutely no family or corporate memory of the church at all. Unlike some boomers who returned, or others raised in the faith who quit for awhile, or those who switched denominations, these generations have no concept of church other than what media has told them.

I think it is a seismic shift. Certainly, every generation is concerned about those who follow, and can't fully understand the newer generations, but it is definetley stick your head in the sand time if no one sees that our youth today are FAR different than even the youth of just 20 years ago.

Jeff Ruby   


There is, as the preacher said, nothing new under the sun.

John Dornheim