Tuesday, April 12, 2005

What Our Teens Believe (Or Don't)

Christianity Today posted an article about a book I mentioned in a previous post - Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Here's a quote:
In spite of their generally positive attitude toward religion, almost no teenagers, from any religious background, can articulate the most basic beliefs of their faith. This interview excerpt, with a 15-year-old who "attends two church services every Sunday, Sunday school, church youth group, and Wednesday-night Bible study," illustrates how vaguely most teenagers answered a question about their personal beliefs:
"[Pause] I don't really know how to answer that. ['Are there any beliefs at all that are important to you? Really generally.'] [Pause] I don't know. ['Take your time if you want.'] I think that you should just, if you're gonna do something wrong then you should always ask for forgiveness and he's gonna forgive you no matter what, cause he gave up his only Son to take all the sins for you, so…"
According to the article, the above was "one of the more articulate answers" the authors reported.

4 comments:

Rosemarie said...

In my experience working with college students I found the vast majority were not able to articulate their beliefs. This was especially disconcerting because as I was employed at a Christian college and many of the students were their to receive degrees in youth ministry.

Student of History said...

Your blog is a plethora of great writing. I have five children, ages 10 to 2. Four of them can answer specific doctrinal questions - the 10 yo and the 8 yo - up to 100 of them. We did this with the Westminster Catechism for children and are working through it. (Many of the various catechisms can be found here: http://opc.org/documents/standards.html)

We do this because it is imperative they understand what they are being taughtl, who God is, what He asks of us, how we are to live, what the Bible says and why. What is the point if they don't? Jesus isn't a great big nothing in the sky and theology isn't just for pastors.

One of the huge problems with the church today is that they preach to amuse. This has been happening for years and years - it is nothing new. I am thankful more than ever for our church (www.opc.org) because they are committed to doctrinal truth and the teaching of it to everyone from the time they can talk to the time they die.

Scripture clearly shows that Paul and the apostles weren't preaching for the amusement of the masses, but to teach and train. Would that there were more men like that in the churches today and we would not be so saltless.

Warmly,
Kate

Mike said...

Kate, I completely agree.

I know of too many churches (and yes, I'm going to pick on the urban non-denomintional "mega-churches' here) whose idea of a "youth group" is a bunch of kids in t-shirts and torn jeans coming on Wednesday nights to watch Christian music videos, play arcade games, ride skateboards, listen to a rock band play praise choruses, and then hear a 15-minute pep talk from the "youth pastor" before they head out the door. ("King of the Hill" has a good episode where they spoof these youth groups.)

Unfortunately, a misguided effort to appeal to everyone has been undertaken by many churches, and as a result they have failed to educate their members on even the most basic concepts of Christian doctrine or Christian thought. I think that this is the root of the problems outlined in the Christianity Today story.

"Teaching the Bible" is fine, but doctrine is essential if you want to grow intellectually in your faith. And I can say that I personally experienced a profound spiritual maturity when I began earnestly studying Christian doctrine and began reading deeper theological works by people like C.S. Lewis, Niebuhr, and Bonhoeffer.

Stephen Bolin said...

I agree, to combat this problem, our FISH club is going through Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome.