Barna released a new study on where teenagers see themselves in five years. They were specifically asked what they would like to accomplish by 25. A few points of interest:
- 29% believed that at age 25 they would be actively involved in a community of faith
- 20% of Catholic teens definitely expect to be involved in a community of faith
- 25% of mainline Christian teens definitely expect to be involved in a community of faith
- 60% of regular church attenders believed they would still be actively involved in a community of faith by 25
- 22% of teens infrequent in their church attendance believed they would be actively involved
- 14% of non-attenders believed they would be involved
- 39% said they would definitely have a close/personal relationship with God. That goes up to 72% if you add in those who believe they will probably or definitely have a close relationship with God
- 7% said they would definitely be active in regularly serving the poor
- Click here for more from Barna on this study
I would say those numbers are surprising but they really aren’t. What is most interesting to me is that our young people haven’t gotten the message. These number point to a rejection of organized religion. Young people today are not getting the connection of what faith is all about and the importance of tying that faith to a community of believers. This is going to be THE challenge of the next several decades. It is up to church leaders today to reconceptualize several things including: our identity and how to communicate our faith in a way that is relevant. This does not mean we have to compromise our belief system to reach outsiders (or even our own kids!). It does mean we have some traditions that may need to be scrapped and some real reflection to do on the core of who we are and how what we are doing has anything to do with what God really wants from his church.
I firmly believe if we just sit back and don’t make the correct adjustments to what we are doing we will lose the vast majority of a generation. Sadly, I am not talking about losing a generation of the lost but even our own children who have grown up in the church. They go into adulthood ill-prepared to face the world and unable to think for themselves. So when any challenge to their faith arises they don’t have a leg to stand on. We have to take action on this one. We really do. And our kids are the first to tell us there are real problems here. This is not just some group of Barna kids. These kids are in the congregation where you worship (or at least used to be!).