Today’s teens and college students are busier than ever. In-between juggling part-time jobs, relationships and school work, many strive to maintain family ties, socialize with friends and still have time leftover to engage in personal hobbies.
It is no wonder that many recent demographical studies on teens (13-17) and young adults (18-29) have found the ideologies of faith and religion less important in shaping their lives. Church attendance and perception of church altogether continue to decline, despite the religious parental influences found in many families.
Although current American teens and young adults have long been considered one of the most spiritually active generations in history, several have begun to engage in frequent church hopping or have shunned church altogether.
Nearly half of the teen demographic (48 percent) admit to attending a regular, weekly worship service, according to a 2007 research analysis by the Barna Group. Of the same group, one-third (35 percent) attend Sunday school and only 33 percent participate in a church youth group program.
According to a 2003 piece published on Religion-Online.org by popular Christian speaker and Gallup Research Institute Consultant D. Michael Lindsay, “The current cohort of American teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 is lonely
What is at the heart of church and youth interaction? Is there is a correlation between this interaction and recent declines in youth attendance? Or, like Mr. Pat Howell from Part 1, are youth also becoming the unfortunate victims of church burning?
Justin Van Nguyen is a 22 year-old college student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. During his high school years, Justin attended a large Methodist church consisting of 700 to 800 people and formed a close friendship with a youth minister who he affectionately remembers as “one of the most influential people in my life.”
“I had a black youth pastor for a little while,” he recalled. “This was a very predominantly white Methodist church. When he was first hired, I heard a lot of parents saying things that were very racist, [such as] ‘I don’t need a guy like that around my daughter’, which was ridiculous. This man was an elementary school teacher and had been in schools all his life. Before that he worked in and ran daycares. He was a safe individual. There was nothing other than race backing the way they [certain people in the church] treated that man.”
After several subsequent meetings and unjustified accusations, the youth pastor was eventually run out of the church. Sometime later, similar action was taken against an elder within the church with whom Justin had also grown extremely close.
“He was a WWII Vet with amazing stories. He was in Pearl Harbor. This was a guy that I went to see movies with. How many 80 year old men do you just get to hang out with at that age? We could talk about anything. He was there as a grandfather figure.”
Before long, certain sects of powerful individuals within the church became angered at the elder’s outspokenness against specific functions within the church. This governing body soon placed a restraining order against the man, forbidding him to ever return to the church.
“If they had just opened their eyes and seen things like God sees them, I don’t think any of this would’ve had to happen,” said Justin. “They just let personal interests and personal biases come into play and it really just ruined everything for everybody.”
And we wonder what it is it that makes church so unappealing to the younger generation. Is there a problem with the teens? Or are an increasing number of churches failing to minister to this generation in ways that remain culturally relevant and align with Scriptural values?
Stay tuned for Part 3 and all subsequent pieces of Plastic Church when the elements of healthy church functionality will be dissected, along with more viewpoints from Pat, Justin and others who have been burned.
©2009 Joshua D. Givens & The Underground Christian E-Magazine
On the web at: www.theundergroundsite.com.
This article was originally published here: http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2009/10/plastic-church-part-2-youth-the-church/
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