Saturday, 21 April 2012
[This is reposted as part of our Best-Of Revelife Week. It was originally posted on August 28, 2010.]
Are you a Christian teenager? If you are, according to a recent CNN article, there's a good chance you're following a “mutant” Christianity that features a “watered-down faith” with a God “whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.”
The article comes on the coattails of the recently released book Almost Christian, by Kenda Creasy Dean. Dean was inspired to write her book after interviewing Christian teenagers for a controversial research study. What she discovered, the article says, is that “most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.”
Dean cites a number of reasons for this Christian apathy, focusing mostly on the faults of adults. “If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,” Dean writes.
I have to say, I kind of agree.
When I was in high school, I found myself in the midst of a spiritual crisis. I had always had questions about my faith, and while my parents did a great job of raising me in a Christian home, I found myself wondering more and more if I only believed because that's what I was told to do.
I became friends with a bunch of youth group kids and eventually began attending their youth service. At first, I was like a spiritual sponge. Even today, I look back on those first few months of youth group as some of the most challenging and most spiritually growing times of my life. I dove head-first into sermons, devotionals and scripture, but before long, I got bored.
Youth group had always been about being flashy and enticing. The day we got yelled at for playing “Jesus Freak” too loud during youth group was a day we secretly celebrated. We held concerts and parties after football games, and we lived to draw crowds. I had been one of those drawn in by the initial splendor and spectacle, but I found myself wanting more. I knew the faith of Christianity, but I still didn't know how to live it, and that fact bothered me.
Over time, the youth group dwindled. Many of my best friends – the very people who had encouraged me to attend in the first place – stopped coming around. I felt a distance between myself and them. They had convinced me of my faith, but I saw many of them abandoning it.
In the end, I got out. I moved to college and attended a great church that did challenge me, did provide the spiritual guidance I desired, and did teach me about the spiritual disciplines that have sustained my faith into adulthood, but I wonder what would have been different if I hadn't had that opportunity.
I don't know if this Christian apathy I saw and felt is the same thing Dean writes about in her book, but I have to say, I saw the same symptoms she describes. Perhaps my experience is not an isolated incident; perhaps we misunderstand what it means to teach teenagers. Maybe we put too much emphasis on the being relevant and edgy part of ministry and forget to teach kids how to be Christians.
Did you or do you attend youth group in high school? Or are you involved in youth ministry? What has your experience been? Do you see many people getting bored and leaving the faith? What could we do differently to keep kids involved in Christianity?