USA (MNN/Christian News Wire) — 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% 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.
According to a new 5-week, 3-question national survey sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), the youth group itself is the problem. 55% of American Christians are concerned about modern youth ministry because it’s too shallow, too entertainment-focused, resulting in an inability to train mature believers. But, even if church youth groups had the gravitas of Dallas Theological Seminary, 36% of today’s believers are convinced that youth groups themselves are not even Biblical.
The survey participants were among the 4 million believers who saw the web banner on America’s top 14 Christian Web sites, including ChristianPost.com, WorldMag.com, BibleStudyTools.com, ChristianRadio.com, Christianity.com, Crosscards.com, Crosswalk.com, Godtube.com, GodVine.com, iBelieve.com, Jesus.org, OnePlace.com, LightSource.com, and ReligionToday.com. Plus, an additional 290,000 Christians received a direct e-mail invitation to participate.
After answering the 3-questions at www.YouthGroupSurvey.com, each survey participant received NCFIC Director Scott Brown’s e-book entitled, “Weed in the Church: How A Culture of Age Segregation is Destroying the Younger Generation, Fragmenting the Family and Harming Church,” as well as access to the 50-minute-long documentary entitled “Divided: Is Modern Youth Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church?” (“Divided” has been viewed by 200,000 people.)
The survey is still active on-line through Friday, November 8, 2013.
Adam McManus, a spokesman for the NCFIC, is not surprised by the church’s deep concerns about youth groups.
“Today’s church has created peer dependency,” said McManus. “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. Proverbs 13:20 says, ‘He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.’ The result is that the youth stumble, they can’t see beyond their noses, and spiritual adolescence is prolonged well into adulthood. It’s crippling the Body of Christ. That’s why it’s time to return to the Biblical paradigm and throw out the youth group structure entirely.”
Here are the results:
1. Are church “youth group” programs a Biblical way to reach young people?
• 37% said “No”
• 36% said “Yes”
• 26% said “It’s complicated.”
2. Does modern youth ministry concern you?
• 14% said “Yes, we are losing our kids and it’s clearly not working to train mature believers.”
• 9% said “Yes, it’s too shallow and entertainment focused.”
• 55% said “Yes, because of both A and B.”
• 22% said “No. It’s not perfect, but it’s striving to relevantly communicate the Gospel.”
3. Does the Bible give clear direction and boundaries for discipling youth in the church?
• 15% said “No, The Bible gives us the Gospel, but how to reach youth with it is up to us.”
• 28% said, “Yes, but there is a lot of flexibility since it doesn’t say much.”
• 57% said “Yes, the Bible gives us all the direction we need to disciple youth and constrains us from using worldly innovations.”
“I am greatly encouraged by the results of our survey,” said McManus. “American Christians are finally waking up to the disconnect between the clear teaching in Scripture in favor of family-integration and the modern-day church’s obsession with dividing the family at every turn. Age segregation, especially during the tender and impactful teenage years, not only hasn’t worked, it’s been detrimental. Even worse, it is contrary to the Bible. But the good news is that practices in the churches related to youth groups are changing dramatically. Twenty years ago, no one was even asking this question.”
McManus cited the following Scriptures to document his contention that it’s God’s will for the church to embrace the Biblical model of families staying together in the service as the Word of God is preached: Deuteronomy 16:9-14, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, 2 Chronicles.20:13, Nehemiah 12:43 and Joel 2:15-16
“Our fervent prayer is that God will raise up Spirit-filled, Bible preaching, Christ-centered, family-integrated assemblies from the ashes of our man-centered, family-fragmenting churches,” said McManus.
“Plus, the church needs to begin to equip Christian fathers to communicate the Gospel to their families,” said McManus. “Today, Christian parents are beginning to realize that they have not fulfilled their spiritual duties by simply dropping off their kiddos to Sunday School and youth group, allowing other parents to disciple their children by proxy. Let’s not forget the powerful words spoken by Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’ It is the parents’ primary obligation to disciple their own children, impressing God’s commandments upon them in the home on a daily basis.”
Cameron Cole, the youth group director at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, said, “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 discipler 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.”
“It’s time for the Christian father to take the central role which God has ordained,” said McManus. “Gathered around the dining room table, the father needs to lead Family Worship once again which had been standard behavior for a vibrant American Christian family for hundreds of years dating back to the Plymouth, Massachusetts colony of 1620. Dad needs to read from and discuss the Bible, sing Christian songs, and pray with his family, his little flock over which God has appointed him shepherd. Frankly, I’m not as concerned about what happens in Sunday School in church, as I am with what happens in ‘Monday School’ and ‘Tuesday School’ at home with the family.”