Why are so many young people falling away from the faith?
A recent survey conducted by the Barna Group, a leading research organization whose focus is on the relationship of faith and culture, found that less than one percent of the young adult population in the United States has a biblical worldview. Even more startling, the data shows that less than one half of one percent of Christians between the ages of 18 and 23 has a biblical worldview.
The Barna Group defined those as having a biblical worldview if they believed:
• that absolute moral truth exists, • that the Bible is completely inerrant, • that Satan is a real being, not symbolic, • that a person cannot earn their way into the kingdom of God though good works, • that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth, and • that God is the supreme Creator of the heavens and the earth and reigns over the whole universe today.
Another study by Fuller Seminary determined that the most important factor in whether young people leave the church or remain steadfast in their faith was whether they have a safe haven to express their doubts and concerns regarding the Scriptures and their faith before leaving home. What is critical is that our youth have adults to provide them direction and guidance regarding the apprehensions they may have about their faith. Such a refuge is found in two places: in their parents and in their church youth ministry programs.
However, the Fuller study also found that most church youth programs tended to focus their energies on providing entertainment and pizza rather focusing on building up the young people in their faith. As a result, our teens are ill-equipped to face the challenges they will encounter in the world upon leaving home.
Additionally, two studies conducted by both the Barna Group and USA Today, found that nearly 75 percent of Christian young people leave the church after high school. One of the key reasons they do so is intellectual skepticism. This is a result of our youth not being taught the Bible in their homes or in church. Statistics show that our kids today spend an average of 30 hours per week in public schools where they are being taught ideas that are diametrically opposed to biblical truths, e.g., evolution, the acceptance of homosexuality, etc. Then they come home to another 30 hours per week in front of a TV bombarded by lewd commercials and raunchy sitcoms or “connecting” with friends on Facebook, staying online for hours, chatting with one another, or playing games. Whereas the time spent weekly in the church Bible classroom is 45 minutes. It’s no wonder that our young people leave the home without a Christian worldview. Not only are they not being well-grounded in the faith, but they’re also not being taught to intelligently examine the views of the skeptics who will inevitably challenge their faith. Most of these students are not prepared to enter the college classroom where more than half of all college professors view Christians with hostility and take every opportunity to belittle them and their faith.
There’s no question that a key factor in whether young people remain resolute in their Christian faith or walk away from it is the influence of their parents. It’s as the Proverb says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). One particular study found that when both parents were faithful and active in the church, 93 percent of their children remained faithful. When just one parent was faithful, 73 percent of their children remained faithful. When neither parent was particularly active, only 53 percent of their children stayed faithful. In those instances where both parents were not active at all and only attended church now and then, the percentage dropped to a mere 6 percent.
Today’s teens are debating within themselves how Christianity compares against the world’s competing beliefs. Relativistic statements such as, “You’ve got your truth and I’ve got mine,” or “Jesus was just one of many great spiritual leaders,” are becoming accepted in our society. Our teens should be able to walk away from the home fully trained in how to respond to their secular friends. They should be fully prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within them (1 Peter 3:15): Does God really exist? Why does He allow pain and suffering to go on in the world? Is the Bible really true? Is there absolute truth?
Our young people must be better equipped in knowing why they believe the claims of Christianity rather than those of some other belief system. And this is not just for themselves alone, but for those who inquire of their faith. Christianity is real; it is true. And its truths should be engrained in the minds of our youth. Our youth need to be prepared for the intellectually challenging questions and spiritual confrontations that they will meet upon leaving home. A solid program of apologetics, the study of defending the truth, is vital in preparing youth to know and defend the veracity of the Scriptures and the authenticity of their Christian faith.
The church needs to take a hard look its youth programs. Instead of entertaining them with skits, bands and videos, we need to teach them the Scriptures with logic, truth and a Christian worldview. Frank Turek, well-known Christian author and lecturer on apologetics, in addressing the problem of our youth falling away from the faith, put it this way: “We’ve failed to recognize that what we win them with… we win them to.”
Christian parents and our churches need to do a better job of developing the hearts and minds of our youth with the Word of God (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Corinthians 10:5).