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31 August 2009

congrats on your graduation from christianity!

This morning I posted the following comment to Twitter: "[I'm] Considering why so many HS graduates wind up permanently 'graduating' from Christianity. Unanswered questions? Pharisaical adults?" (In case you don't use Twitter, you should know that it's essentially a glorified text message broadcasting/social networking thingy. Each update is limited to 140 characters.)

That comment generated some interesting feedback from several Twitter friends:

"I think they leave because we make Youth Ministry a 'Holy Grail' and then have crap or nothing available after they graduate! We taught HS students to expect to receive tons. We don't teach them to serve. But, then we require service as adults. They walk!" - @michaelrobison

"I would say yes to both of those... I think being being in unauthentic churches that show no relevance to life is biggest reason!" - @JasonPetermann

"Entertainment oriented youth groups?" - @barwal1

"I think it's a combination of a few things that include entertainment-driven youth groups, silo ministry, and parenting." - @ethaninscotland

"yea I was surprised at how not completely terrible Rocky Balboa was" - @Worshipcity (Oh, wait... never mind this one)

"The HS graduates leave church because church was nothing more than a social club and had no impact in their lives." - @charlesdvmiller

I remember what it was like when I graduated from high school. I remember thinking that the youth group "at church" was pretty lame, and was extremely happy to be out from under any obligation to it. For me there were really no theological overtones to it, like, "I don't know if I believe this whole 'God' bit" or "How do I know that the Bible is really the Word of God" or "If God is really good, why do bad things happen to good people?" I just wanted to have a good time.

There's no sane way to argue that teenagers and college-aged people are not leaving Christian beliefs behind. If you would like to hunt for such research and studies yourself, be my guest, but you'll find that they're leaving in droves. Here's a jump-start if you want to Google for it.

I attribute it primarily to some fundamental errors in what is taught within the Church. Not necessarily "taught" in lessons (though that's often a glaring problem), but "taught" in our lines of thought and in some principles we take for granted -- principles that are not Biblical but are so steeped in tradition that they're never questioned. (UPDATE: just so you'll know, I intend to elaborate on this in my next post)

What do you think? Why are so many teens and young adults are bidding farewell to the Church or to Christianity? (I'm intentionally not defining the terms "Church" and "Christianity" -- I'll leave that to you.)


Eileen said...

OK... You are going to have to forgive me on this one, but your comments make it sound like this is a new problem faced only by HS graduates at this present time. I beg to differ. I graduated from HS, dare I say, almost 25 years ago and was one of those teenagers who supposedly graduated from their Christianity. The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun and that includes people and their behavior towards Christian growth or lack there of, in this case. It's not about youth groups, parenting styles or cultural influences while they are all forms of planting seeds of christian growth. It has been and will be about the individual and their choices to follow God or not. I did not make the choice to follow God after HS. I could have chosed differently, but I did not. Everything in my life and all the bad decisions I made reflected that I was not walking with God, but you know even though I rejected him. God never rejected me and drew me towards him with all the seeds that had been planted throughout my life. He more than replaced what the locusts had eaten in my life and I will be eternally grateful for the Grace of God. But I want to reiterate that is is not something new, look at the prodigal son. He walked away from everything he had been taught... it wasn't due to poor parenting... it was a choice... just as he chose to come back...

Anonymous said...

Well, for me, when I graduated high school and moved on from the youth group, I had to find my own identity... my own group. It's not easy moving on to college and finding a place to fit in. Thankfully, I had Christian friends and found Campus Crusade for Christ to plug into. When I was a teenager, church and youth were right there. I didn't have to search for it. In college, I had to make a point to find a place to fit in.

I think some graduates either don't want to make the effort to find a new place to fit in or are afraid to do so. And, I agree with one of the people who talked about youth group being activity oriented. I was always there, always going places. It was right in front of me. After that, I didn't feel like I fit in with the adult crowd or the youth, so I had to find my own way.

Dean Lusk said...

Eileen, you'll get no argument from me on this. However, high school graduation (and college age-ness) is an observable milestone. Possibly it's just helpful for record-keeping, but it's an age at which personal choices like this are most apparent.

Our choices are based upon our own decisions, to be sure, but there are certainly outside influences on those choices. That's what I was getting at.

Anon, you're saying, then, that it may not matter so much what happened before graduation; that one primary drive is to carve out an identity for oneself? Don't want to put words in your mouth.

Preston N said...

Honestly Dean its because the "system" is broken (and no I am not about to lay the blame entirely on the church here). The issue in my opinion is lazy apathetic Christian parents. Just like our public school system, parents have been duped into thinking that they are not capable nor equipped to teach and build up their children theologically and spiritually (and sadly in most cases this is true!). As a result, the church youth group has ultimately fulfilled that role and as a result advertises the following:

"Hey! we have a really cool youth group, with a really hip youth pastor and you can drop your kids off at the church every weekend and a coupel of weeks in the summer and we'll take care of all your teens spiritual and theological upbringing. Meanwhile you can relax in our air conditioned Kid Free sanctuary for a couple of hours".

As a result, parents believe all this time that their kids are getting everything they need to be a Christian. Jr goes off to college and within the first week calls mom and dad from his 1st keg party and informs them he is an atheist. Mom and Dad are heartbroken and can't understand what's happen to their precious little angel.

So what's my point? The Church Youth Group isn't solely responsible for our kids spiritual development - We as parents are! Granted, the church youth group isn't helping matters much. As I told my own 14 yr old daughter - youth groups are typically some of the most theologically dangerous places. You know what? She actually agrees with me......

Anonymous said...

I believe the largest contributor is the lack of foundation that is being set in the home. There is no need to place the blame with the youth group, or church, as lame as either or both may be, the fact remains that it is not about what we "give" them for them to stay in the "church", but rather it is how they have been taught, and how JESUS has been modeled in the HOME, that in my opinion the main thrust of teens leaving. People are searching for authenticity and to be honest teens have a hard time finding TRUE examples of this from their parents. They are leaving the fake Jesus that is about rules and guilt in their homes and looking for something real in their lives to give their lives to.
The problem is that the first real time they get to experience anything on their own is when they leave home to go to college and then they are bombarded by false doctrines and catchy phrases that for some seem very real for a time. These teens so desperately wanting to BELIEVE something that they may take part in believing the lies because that is the environment they are in now.

Anonymous said...

Look you can blame it on the parents or the lack of Christian foundation at home, but it comes down to an individual's choice.

You can be the best parent and offer an outstanding Christian foundation and it still be rejected.

At some point the child/young adult can NOT fall back on the faith of their parents or their church/youth group, It has to become personal faith/walk.

It's not about knowing God/who Jesus is! I guarantee these kids know who Jesus/God is! - It's about Kingship and who/what principles you choose to incorporate in your walk and follow. It's about whether or not they choose to FOLLOW JESUS... and work out their own faith!

Dean Lusk said...

@Anon, I don't think that anyone was taking to task the idea that personal choice is the final factor in what happens here. Really. I'm certainly not disputing that and I don’t see that being said by any of the commenters. I’m just stating clearly that there are ingredients that influence each person’s choice. Someone is responsible for throwing ingredients into the mix. I'd like to know 1) what some of those ingredients are, 2) who the cooks are, and 3) if we need to use a little less paprika or if we need to just pour this batch out and start over. :-)

Please understand that I'm not arguing against your & Eileen's correct observations. I'm not out to assign blame. I’m just asking about influential factors – the building blocks that are apparently no longer laying a solid foundation.

You very aptly stated, "You can be the best parent and offer an outstanding Christian foundation and it still be rejected." Unfortunately that's deadly accurate. We need to be careful about how we treat the possible conclusions based upon that statement, though. Does it mean that we can throw out the ingredient of "solid, Biblical upbringing" because it doesn’t have a dependable outcome?

Of course not.

It wouldn't be responsible of any of us to see problems in a "system" and fail to correct those problems because, in the end, it comes down to a person's choice. Does that make sense? I would love to see if we can identify and correct some issues.

That being said, I don't think that Dean Lusk's blog is going to solve the Church's or the world's problems (if it does, maybe I can make a few bucks out of the deal!). However, I do believe that what we read here from you guys and from me will definitely influence the way we think and how we perceive the situation and our potential response.

Robby said...

Lots of good thoughts presented here about a very, very tough subject. No doubt, parents have the biggest influence with respect to how their children see the world, and especially Christianity. To be honest, in many ways I can’t imagine why anyone, given the choice, would choose to throw their heart and soul into the current ‘typical’ American church. And that’s what HS graduates finally have…a choice. So, you have tender seed (HS graduates) sown into very shallow soil (the typical American church). Why should we be surprised at the outcome???? Many other HS graduates aren’t even saved although they acted like such during their growing years. On a positive note, many are good seed in spite of all the above and are yielding good fruit for the King.
Yet, the church is the bride of Christ and we who claim his blood are compelled and constrained by the Holy Spirit to ‘keep on keeping on’ with respect to advancing the Kingdom...which also means advancing the church (I’m in no way condoning the typical church’s actions, budgets, or mindset).
I am saying that when people (especially pastors and other influencers in the Body) finally decide that abandoning their life to Christ beats all other alternatives, we will likely see HS graduates look upon the Church in a new light…one in which fewer will turn their back on. Many still will, but to their condemnation, not the church’s.

Leroy said...

I'm kind of short on time so I can't read all the comments. If I repeat something that's already said, sorry. :)

I think this is one area that is as much relative to life in general as it is the state of the church. When most any teen becomes a "grown up", there is the desire to excercise their new-found freedom. That usually results in going against pretty much everything they have been taught to some extent and that includes their faith.

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