Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's the matter with kids today?

Other notes/reactions from this lecture series ⇐click
The short answer is: Not as much as many (most?) of us think. Here are just a few findings from the National Study on Youth and Religion, from telephone interviews with 3370 teenagers (13-17) in 2002-2003: how many believe in God?

Any idea? Think about it and place your mouse here to read the answer. Different from what you thought, right? Here's another shocker: what percentage agreed that "There is an adult in my congregation, other than a family member, with whom I enjoy talking and who gave me lots of encouragement"? You are not going to believe the shocking truth. I really was shocked. This is great good news, and it shows that the Lord has not abandoned the current generation of youngsters. It also shows that the spirit of oversimplification and sensationalism has not abandoned the current generation of gurus and pundits.

Put less stridently, the key message I take away from all this is that if we are to make responsible decisions for the Church (of which your congregation and mine are parts) -- if we are to have understanding of the times, to know what the Church ought to do (1 Chronicles 12:32) -- then we need good data and solid analysis.

There are a lot more interesting facts, which you can read about from the horse's mouth, or pen as it were. A Google search also includes, some implications of the study for youth workers and others. This short (10 pages) paper is worth reading in its entirety. A striking excerpt:

Moreover, our findings suggest to us that religious leaders and communities should also stop presuming that U.S. teenagers are actively alienated by religion, are dropping out of their religious congregations in large numbers, cannot relate to adults in their congregations, and so need some radically new “post-modern” type of program or ministry. None of this seems to us to be particularly true.
a version of “Conclusive Unscientific Postscript,” from Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, copyright ©2005 by Oxford University Press, Inc.
I plan to read the whole book, once I get my hands on a copy. Youth ministry workers owe it to their congregations -- not to mention to the Great Shepherd -- to make wise decisions based on real data.

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