Good New For Men About Their Teens!
Are teens alienated by religion, dropping out of church, disconnected from the adults in their churches, and searching for a “new religion”?
“Not so,” say Christian Smith, principal researcher for the recently completed National Study of Youth and Religion and a sociologist at UNC, along with his associate, Melinda Lundquist Denton, in their new scholarly book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford Press, 2005, p. 266).
It gets better. The telephone survey of 3,290 English and Spanish speaking teenagers, supplemented by over 250 in person interviews, found generally that…
- Religion is important to most teens
- Most teens want to attend church
- Most teens like the church they do attend
- They plan to stay connected
- They are not planning to become Buddhists
- They like and listen to the adults in their churches (and would like more time with adults)
- They like their parents
- There is no generation gap
- They adopt the faith of their parents
So what are the problems? According to the authors…
- Churches are not effectively engaging teens, even though the teens are willing
- Churches tend to age segregate teens away from family activities
- Church is satisfactory to teens but not an important part in forming their worldview
- Church doesn’t make enough sense to teens
- Teens are not in rebellion, but practice what Smith and Denton call “whateverism”
- Teens know all about drugs, AIDS, safe sex, and famous stars, but become tongue-tied when it comes to expressing even the most basic tenets of the faith to which they hold
And what, then, are the opportunities and solutions?
Smith and Denton say, “Leaders concerned with youth largely need simply to better engage and challenge the youth already at their disposal, to work better to help make faith a more active and important part of their lives” (p. 266). Among their recommendations…
- Disciple your teens (they are teachable)
- Help teens learn how to articulate their faith
- Help parents grow, and their teens will grow
- Consider bringing youth ministry under the umbrella of family ministry
- Encourage teens in the spiritual disciplines (like Bible reading, prayer, and service) because they really are correlated to spiritual growth and maturity
So where did all the myths about teens come from? Smith and Denton suggest we have been too quick to generalize from vague impressions we get from media and other sources. Also, we probably project impressions left over from our own youth onto today’s teens.
Bottom line: Today’s teens, by and large, are ready, willing, and able to adopt the faith of their fathers. So we need to help their fathers grow, and give their fathers a vision to pass on a legacy of authentic faith in Jesus Christ. This will address the systemic problems facing our teens. It’s another important war zone in what we call The Battle For Men’s Souls.
Together in the Battle for Men’s Souls,