A large number of young people are leaving the Church after age 15, according to a 5-year study by the Barna Group. Nearly 3 out of 5 young people leave the church as teens, and while some return later as adults, a significant number never come back.
Too many young people are filled with pizza, without the necessary life transformation to carry them through the rough teen years in a world of cynicism. It isn’t that students don’t care about God, because they do, but they have found the church to be shallow and overprotective. They have also found the church irrelevant when dealing with the important issues that young people care about. Nearly one-fourth of those surveyed didn’t think the Bible is taught often enough or clearly enough, and one-fifth of those surveyed said, “God seems missing from my experience of church.”
They want deep, meaningful, personal touches from God. They want to know their faith is based on something real and well-researched and intellectually satisfying. They want to feel the love of God and their fellow Christians, to know they are safe to voice doubts and frustrations, to make mistakes and have confidence their church family has their back.
At the same time, young people are struggling through major battles without proper guidance to fight the influence of an ever-increasing tension between Biblical teachings and the culture. They struggle with the apparent antagonism of the church toward modern day science and sexual norms. While premarital sex and late marriage are considered normal these days, these young people struggle to remain chaste. They perceive the church as too narrow minded and judgmental of people who have made mistakes, a place where they are cannot find solid, intellectually satisfying answers.
What do we do to keep young adults engaged in a well-rooted, unshakable relationship with their God and Savior?
Former atheist-turned-Christ-apologist Anthony Horvath argues that one of the biggest issues is that Christian youth are not being taught to defend their faith. Kids have major questions;
- Why is there evil and suffering in the world if God is good?
- What is the evidence for God’s existence?
- What makes the Bible different from any other religious holy book?
- Are the events of the Bible historical?
Horvath argues that kids do not simply need to be taught what the Bible says, they need to know how to defend their faith, as 1 Peter 3:15 says:
”But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
Older Christians and Christian parents need to research and do their homework so that they can be ready to answer the questions of their young people. Churches should make sure that their youth groups do more than hang out, sing, and eat pizza. While youth ministries should be a lot of fun, they need to be places where kids are trained in the knowledge of God—not simply entertained.
Just as important, both Christian youth and Christian adults need to shun hypocrisy. The teen years can be the hardest years of a person’s life. They are often years of insecurity, filled with longings to be loved and accepted. If the Church fails to embrace these young people and demonstrate the true love and nurturing character of Christ, kids can be deeply hurt. It’s tragic when people feel safer and freer to be themselves in a tavern than they do in a body of believers.
Only by being filled with the Spirit and in touch with the true heart of God can we be the models of Christ that we need to be to the next lost and dying generation. Only by building up our young people to be warriors of the faith can they be prepared to battle the world’s philosophies as they grow into adults.
There are ministries available to teach young people how to defend the truth of their faith, to answer the hard questions, to lovingly help them deal with huge issues like sexual temptation, current events and arguments over science and new research, modern historical revisionism and the like. The links below can help you get started.
Above all, keep praying for the hearts and minds of our young people, that God will guide and protect them, that as they receive godly instruction, they will be taught by the Lord Himself.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
— Proverbs 22:6