• Do youth groups drive teens away from church?


    An interesting article from Charisma asks whether youth groups are responsible for the rise of the “nones” amongst the teen population. Here’s what they say:

    A new study might reveal why a majority of Christian teens abandon their faith upon high school graduation. Some time ago, Christian pollster George Barna documented that 61 percent of today’s 20-somethings who had been churched at one point during their teen years are now spiritually disengaged. They do not attend church, read their Bible or pray.

    Wowzer. That’s a high stat. Let’s break it down, eh?

    First, this was a five week, three question survey. The questions consisted of:

    1. Are church “youth group” programs a biblical way to reach young people?

    (Yes, no, it’s complicated)

    2. Does modern youth ministry concern you?

    (Yes, we’re losing our kids and it’s clearly not working to to train mature believers; Yes, it’s too shallow and entertainment focused; Yes, because of both a and b; No, it’s not perfect, but it’s striving to relevantly communicate the gospel)

    3. Does the Bible give clear direction and boundaries for disciplining youth in the church?

    (No. The Bible gives us the gospel, but how to reach youth with it is up to us to figure out in each generation; Yes, but there is a lot of flexibility since the Bible doesn’t say much about specific methods; Yes, the Bible gives us all the direction we need to disciple youth and constrains us from using worldly innovations.)

    Okey dokey smokey. Something rather large jumps out at me just from reading the multiple choice answers: it appears they didn’t ask actual kids these questions. They’re apparently formulated for adults to answer, conjuring answers based one… I don’t know what.

    But Charisma reports this:

    “Today’s church has created peer dependency,” McManus says. “The inherent result of youth groups is that teenagers in the church are focused on their peers, not their parents or their pastors. It’s a foreign sociology that leads to immaturity, a greater likelihood of sexual activity, drug experimentation and a rejection of the authority of the Word of God.

    Holy cow. What church does this guy attend? I can’t recall people in my youth group engaging in those activities. I asked my son if his group did these things and his response was, “I have no f-ing clue. What on earth are you doing over there anyway?”

    I guess I’ll quit drilling him on his youth group experiences…

    Back to the article:

    Cameron Cole, youth director at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Ala., says, “There is a propensity in our culture to outsource the development of our children. For intellectual development, we send them to school. For athletic development, we send them to Little League. And for spiritual formation, we send them to youth group. The church has done a poor job of communicating to the parents that they are the primary disciplers of their children. Parents don’t believe this, but the reality is that kids listen to their parents far more than they’re going to listen to a youth minister.”

    I guess I was a bad mom. I’m not an expert scholar so I sent my son to public school. I wasn’t a fabulous athlete so I sent him to the soccer team. I don’t know squat about computers so I allowed the local college to grant him a degree. He didn’t have any siblings so he signed up for after school activities. I pretty much suck at outdoor stuff so he became an Eagle Scout, all without my fingers in his pie.

    Despite all that outside influence, I think he turned out super. Poor kid. 🙁

    As for that survey… perhaps they’re asking the wrong questions to the wrong people. If you want to find out why kids quit church, perhaps you should do something crazy like… ask them. Now, wouldn’t that be novel.


    Category: Interesting


    Article by: Beth Erickson

    I'm Beth Ann Erickson, a freelance writer, publisher, and skeptic. I live in Central Minnesota with my husband, son, and two rescue pups. Life is flippin' good. :)


    1. This youthful disenchantment is not just in the religious areas. This malaise affecting youth, and twenty-something’s, is universal, and has a lot to do with capitalism. In Europe, for instance, the unemployment rate amount among semi-skilled and college graduates is staggering, something in the order of 20-25 %. In a parallel development it’s seen the rise of neo-Nazi/fascist groups in every EU country with their empty promises of a return to prosperity. In France, for instance, the neo-fascist National France leads the polls with 25% support and in the upcoming EU elections commentators predict these groups will win a significant number of seats. Neo-Marxism is also on the rise. History does repeat itself. But this malaise isn’t confined to Europe or China, the rot is creeping into NA also. Thousands of kids graduate with a load of student debt and can’t find positions in their chosen profession; you can find them at WalMart. My oldest went back to college (dental hygienist)
      and I asked her if there was anything out there? Her answer was: “Oh, there must be!” Now, $33,000 later, she’s lucky if she gets two days a week the rest are minimum wage jobs. Saw an interesting stat the other day from Pew. In 2001, 31% of grads still lived at home, today it’s 45%. No wonder more and more are disillusioned with capitalism, witness Occupy. It’s conceivable we could see the rise of a neo-nazi/Marxist third party. Gallup reports 70% of Americans would favour or consider a third party. Sorry, I’ve gone on so long but this is theme I’m working on to pitch to a liberal/left-wing mag.
      I’m sure you were a wonderful mother. I hope you weathered the big freeze okay. How’s your health?

      1. Hey Peter,

        Thanks for sharing your perspective. I hadn’t thought of that. You’ve presented much to ponder.

        Big freeze. Ugh. I’m ready for summer. We keep my fruity beer in the garage to keep it chilled and they FROZE. Popped the tops right off. Dang. I figured you’d find that amusing.

        Take care, I hope all is well with you and yours.

        1. BethAnn, BethAnn, what were you thinking! Of course, beer unlike liquor will freeze. Kidding, its happened to me also. This is shaping up to be a winter to remember. Deep freezes (my pipes froze), ice storms and after that we got hit with a massive snowstorm.In fact, it snowed for two days and we had 40-50 mph winds. Without a word of a lie, it got so bad just north of me the provincial police closed 120 miles of the two major highways going north, including all secondary roads in the townships around Georgian Bay. They pulled the snowplows, paramedics and in some cases the police cars off the road.
          We’re somewhat well. I have a medical condition no one has diagnosed (severe bloating). Starting in April I begin another round of tests. But the big worry is my wife. Her mother (87) is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s and Darlene has been worried sick she’ll get it. Well, her memory is deteriorating rapidly and she is in the same stage as her mother was 12-13 years ago. Kind of makes my problem pale in comparison. As does your condition.
          Hopefully, 2014 will see you getting a clean bill of health.

          1. I’m sad to hear about your health. As for your weather, please don’t send it to Minnesota. We’ve got to clean up after the last Canadian cold front! 🙂

            Take care of yourself. I know you’re worried about your wife, but please don’t neglect your own health. I’m glad you have plans to find out what’s going on with your body. 🙂

            1. TY. I think the problem is my body is sagging. “What a drag it is getting old.” You take care of yourself, BethAnn

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