Skip to comments.Survey: Churches Losing Youths Long Before College
Posted on 06/29/2009 6:37:35 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
The Bible calls the Church "the Body of Christ." Today, that body is bleeding profusely, says a Christian author and sought-out speaker.
"The next generation of believers is draining from the churches, and it causes me great personal and professional concern," said Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis and a Young Earth creationist.
Hoping to shed light on what he believes is a monumental problem, Ham enlisted the services of America's Research Group to study why young people were leaving. The results, published in Already Gone, will shake many churches to their very core, Ham states in the new book.
While previous surveys have shown that Christian students tend to quit church during their college years, the data collected by ARG found that most of them were already gone in middle school and high school.
According to ARG's survey, 95 percent of 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55 percent went to church during high school. And by college, only 11 percent were still attending church.
"They're sitting in our churches right now ... and they're already gone," Ham said during a "State of the Nation" address last week.
Delving deeper into some of the reasons for the exodus, the research group found that nearly 40 percent of the surveyed twentysomethings first had doubts about the Bible in middle school. Another 43.7 percent said they first doubted that all of the accounts and stories in the Bible are true during their high school years. Only around 10 percent said they first became doubtful about the Bible accounts during college.
Among those who said they do not believe all the biblical accounts are true, the top reasons they gave for doubting the scriptures were: "it was written by men" (24 percent), "it was not translated correctly" (18 percent), "the Bible contradicts itself" (15 percent), and "science shows the world is old" (14 percent).
In an even more alarming finding, attending Sunday school proved to be of no help in strengthening a young person's faith. In fact, the survey revealed that Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of children.
Recognizing that such data may not sit well with many Christians, Ham encouraged believers to consider the research before reacting.
He stressed, "We're not advocating getting rid of Sunday schools." Instead, we're advocating a revolution of them, he added.
Sixty-one percent of the surveyed young adults said they attended Sunday school while 39 percent said they didn't. When comparing the two groups, the survey revealed that those who attended Sunday school are actually more likely: not to believe that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true, to doubt the Bible because it was written by men, to defend keeping abortion legal, to accept the legalization of gay marriage, to believe in evolution, and to believe that good people don't need to go to church.
Part of the problem, Ham pointed out, is the curriculum. While Sunday school teachers teach "Bible stories," children are left to learn biology, anthropology, geology, astronomy and other science courses at public schools.
By merely calling it Bible "stories," churches end up communicating the biblical accounts as "fairytales" rather than history, Ham noted.
"To them, the Bible is not real," he said. "In churches we're teaching moral things, spiritual things, relationships, doctrine ... [but] we're not teaching those earthly things. We gave that up to the world."
"Who said that's not for the Church?" the Young Earth creationist asked, noting that the Bible deals with geology, biology and other sciences.
"We gave it up because we didn't know how to deal with it and now we're losing generations," he said.
Ham whose Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., displays dinosaurs next to humans finds many pastors and Sunday school teachers teaching what he believes are compromised positions, informing youths that they can believe in evolution and that the age of the earth is millions or billions of years, rather than 6,000 years, while still believing in Jesus.
But by being taught such views, students begin to question the first book of the Bible, particularly the creation account. Later they find themselves not trusting the entirety of the Bible and its authority.
"If we teach our children (or anyone) to take God's Word as written concerning the Resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, and the account of Jonah and the great fish ... but then tell them we don't need to take Genesis as written but can reinterpret it on the basis of the world's teaching about millions of years and evolution we have unlocked a door," Ham wrote in his book.
That door is the door to undermining biblical authority.
"When we undermine the word of God, the next generation undermines it more and more," Ham said.
The foundation of biblical authority and God's word is crumbling in America while human reasoning and man's word is being held high.
There's a spiritual problem in America, Ham said, and sadly it is Christians who have dropped the ball and allowed moral relativism and secular worldview to rise.
Churches have failed to raise the younger generation on the authority of God's word and to teach them how to defend their faith or give answers to secular attacks, Ham said.
"We let them (secular humanists) take generations of our kids and give them a different foundation," he lamented.
Christians have an epidemic on their hands and what they need now is a "complete renovation," not a mere remodel, Ham stressed.
It's time to call the Church back to the authority of the Word of God. And for the Young Earth creationist, that call begins with Genesis.
Must water down the message to appeal to the culture.
I have done youth programs for many years. In my experience, the last thing the kids want is “watered down”. If you try to give them Christianity Lite, they will tune you out in a heartbeat.
You have hit the nail on the head.
They come around to it later.
Faith, especially strong faith, is tough to cultivate and protect in youth in our age of guerilla, pop culture, feel good marketing.
But I think for those that choose a different path for a while, when they return to their Faith, they find it that much stronger for knowing how empty the “feel good” life is.
At some point every Christian parent has to let their children go their own way. If the parents did a good job, their child will find their way sooner or later. It is tragic when death finds someone before redemption, but unlike another religion that believes that redemption can be brought about through the sword, Christians can only find redemption through personal choice, true faith, and they shall be known through their actions that follow from their beliefs.
I would say maybe there is too much time spent teaching the bible as stories and not enough teaching the big picture of spirituality and the uniqueness of Gods creation. It’s like teaching history as a series of dates to remember rather than teaching about the significance of the events, the people who made those events happen and the philosophical importance of the results good or bad of the events.
What youth have to discover is their faith and that's not an easy thing. Once you have faith, beliefs such as creationism-vs-evolution are not as central to a spirit-filled life. But how does a child grow in faith if they aren't challenged to seek a relationship with the Godhead?
In some ways, it would be better for many of them if America was openly hostile to Christianity than giving it benign yet derisive looks. Those who go off into other cultures where their faith is openly challenged causes some to fall away but it causes many others to find a faith that will stay with them the rest of their lives.
It's a bit self-serving to say that more creationism needs to be taught. I think it is far more important to teach a relationship with Christ and evolving faith in Him which will result in experiences that will stay with a young Christian far more than reinforcing something in a book.
The strongest, most lasting faith can’t be taught.
Christian schools or Yeshiv are the answer.
That certainly was the case with me. My wife and I returned to church shortly after the birth of our daughter... just for her sake.
I pray with my baby each night when we put her down.
If we make young earth creationism the litmus test to determine someone’s salvation, we will lose more than just young people. (And for the record, I believe it was six days, so save the flames.)
The Bible is not a science text and was never meant to be. Nor is it a history text. And Genesis is impossible to be read literally as a scientific explanation of creation. Genesis 1:1 is the important verse and smart young people can be made to understand that.
I have no idea how many equivalent revolutions the Earth made while God was creating the Universe at large or Earth in particular. Nor do I care.
Nobody has driven more people away from the church than people like Ken Ham and those at Answers in Genesis.
It wouldn't surprise me if the people at Answers in Genesis were really Atheist pretending to be Christians in order to make them look bad.
If we make young earth creationism the litmus test to determine someones salvation, we will lose more than just young people. (And for the record, I believe it was six days, so save the flames.)***
I get what you are saying here. I think we put a lot of emphasis on culture in church and not enough on getting across the fundamentals. I know many churches who have their own culture in one way or the other, left or right, up or down, but they don’t except you if you don’t fit their mold.
I chalk it up mostly to government schools.
The secular humanists running our schools don’t even allow creationism to be presented as an alternate theory to Darwinism or the Big Bang theory. As soon as the ACLU gets wind of someone mentioning God in school they file a lawsuit.
The government wants kids to come out with just enough ‘education’ to read, but not to be critical thinkers. And they certainly don’t teach the meaning and value of our Constitution. Just look at the results of this last election. People now view elections as a way to vote themselves benefits without giving a thought to the dangers it presents to our republic.
Kids in government schools and private schools are raised by their peers, more so than by their parents. This is evidenced by the fact that by early adolescence nearly all of them value their peers’ opinion over the guidance of their parents. Drug and alcohol use, premarital sex, smoking, cursing, self-mutilation, bizarre dress and behaviors, etc. are all products of the socialization these kids get from their peers.
The answer is homeschooling, but not enough kids are doing it. Homeschoolers tend to come from religious families, and increasingly come from wealthy households in which the parents understand the dangers of the public and private schools.
I fully expect Obama/Pelosi/Reid to outlaw homeschooling, or at least make it extremely difficult by imposing arbitrary standards, in the near future.
I can count on one hand the Pastors I have known in my eight decades that I would walk across the street to endorse. Far too many men of the cloth are skating through life, detached from the reality of what is really going on this ugly world of ours. And, many are pie-in-the-sky flaming liberals, who have not a clue as to what it really takes to ensure the safety of our Republic !!!
On the other hand, I know of NO fellow naval aviators without a strong and abiding relationship with God (as they envision HIM).
Go figure. *S*
Kent Hovind, tax cheat, shares some responsibility as well.
On the other hand, I know of NO fellow naval aviators without a strong and abiding relationship with God (as they envision HIM).***
That’s another point that comes to mind. You have to walk the walk with younger adults and teens, not just talk talk talk. They want to see men of action, not some sentimental wuss or some irritating dictator.
bump for later read
Please read the book. It is well reasoned, and crucial!
I teach a group of upper elementary kids in Sunday School. I pour it on, talk to them about what the characters were thinking and why they were thinking, what motivated them, etc. The same character flaws they seen in their peers are usually found in the scripture lessons. What is too often ignored about the Bible is that the stories often reveal a lot about human nature,which is essentially the same now as it was thousands of years ago.
When you show that and relate it to the here and now, and how it is relevant to them, they listen and absorb it. They deal with complicated issues in school and everyday life. Why bore them with a simplistic, fairy-tale approach?
I have one thing to say about mass appeal. The masses are a$$e$.
You have just described Joel Osteen.
“You have hit the nail on the head.”
Or the palms and feet. (rimshot)
Young people yearn for knowledge, true knowledge, period. I am 24, a christian, and a computer scientist. I have a pretty decent pulse on both the mentality of youth, as well as liberal youths, as well as conservatives, as well as christians. I liken the detection of truth by youths today to the evolving eye of audiences of digital graphics. As you see newer animated scenes in the latest movies, the older graphics in the movies of yesterday, seem more obviously fake. In this way youths are processing the messages from churches;, old, out-dated, not “up-to-date”. How is a youth supposed to rationalize both a creationist museum, and the discovery of a monkey skeleton which directly links the evolution of tree monkeys to humans in the evolutionary tree in the same gasp? Isn’t it obvious why such a situation is almost pre-built for rejection by a bright, intellectually honest youth population? Simple arguments of “God created the earth with the bones there” is just too lacking, to much of a cop out, and frankly comes across as just plain lazy. As conservatives and Christians we should not be afraid to challenges our own beliefs, to be curious, and to act in such a way as to actually add to our faiths! Did not the writers of the bible originally have to do this same act? Are we so afraid of being used by God as a force of good? If we truly believe and have faith in God to guide us, why shouldn’t we move forward and open our minds to new ideas in terms of the real life application of the bible in a very literal sense. At some point children reach an age where they have grown up loving the “stories” and they are ready to learn what the “real” stories behind them actually are. If there are no “real” stories or intellectual dialog which juxtaposes the outside world with the text of the bible, then you can guess and are seeing exactly what happens.
Parents are the most important conveyors of the faith. And it is woven into the fabric of everyday life, as things come up in the news, in the textbooks, and in things that happen to friends and family. Maybe the ex-Christians in the survey did not have parents who spoke deeply with them about important things.
Also, a lot of parents just don’t care too much about how devout their kids are, “as long as they are a good person”. To paraphrase G.W. Bush, it’s the “soft bigotry of low expectations”. My kid’s never gonna be a priest/nun/pastor/rabbi, so let’s not overplay this religion stuff, ok?
As to the science vs. religion issue, in our family, we just keep pointing out how marvelous the universe is, and how humans know only a little. And the arrogance of thinking that one has “grown out of” God is to be met head-on, with plenty of historical perspective on the failed know-it-alls of the past.
As to non-belief, well, so far, we just point out that without God, we’re a pile of interesting chemicals, and that’s pretty much it. Not very inspiring.
Also, I think apologetics needs a lot more emphasis, because not only are many people, old or young, unable to defend their faith from outside attack, they have nothing to answer their own questions with. I don’t think you can argue yourself into faith, but you can sure talk your self out of it, if you aren’t well-fortified.
As to Sunday School, well, at some point everybody is tired of singing too many dorky songs and making too many hokey crafts. Actual information about Christ and his Church, and actual experience of reverent prayer might be given some more attention, while still maintaining some of the fun and energy.
>>>It wouldn’t surprise me if the people at Answers in Genesis were really Atheist pretending to be Christians in order to make them look bad.
>>>teaching “young earth” creationism will blow your credibility all to hell for the next fifty years. Anyone who wants to kill off Christianity for good would do well to show pictures of Alley Oop and his pet dinosaur walking around together, and pretending it is Biblical.
I’ve had similar suspicions about the people on FR pushing the “temple of dawrin” crap thread genre.
Sadly, it would be hard to say that the actions of those who call themselves Christian make them stand out as followers of Christ.