Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Church "Dropouts" Dialogue

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a survey that talked about "church dropouts" (the phrase used by the surveyors). Below are some responses to that blog.

In between their responses I have some thoughts of my own.

(Julia writes)
"As far as I can try to answer:
-- I think that in the search for what is truly "real" and "genuine" and "fulfilling"... young people get distracted by what is observed on the surface at church, with Christians in general, or through heresay and assumption...it is easy to paint wide and call organized religion a waste of time. In my observation, when young people are left alone to teach themselves theology, to mature themselves in the faith... what else can they possibly see besides what those around them are like? I've seen more young adults fall away from the faith because of fellow Christians than any other reason."

-- "I would say that when I was challenged to look deeper and think critically, my faith abounded."

(My thoughts) Julia, I agree that just as it is unfair to "leave kids alone" on subjects such as driving or math, it is equally unwise to expect them to figure it all out on their own when it comes to sex, religion, or politics. While they have to decide on their own way eventually, I find that often my retreat from such issues with my own child is due to a lack of having anything of value to contribute. (If I don't know how to do Trigonometry, how can I help them?)

Maybe there is an onus on adults to seek out the answers on some of these issues, such as faith, and have a story or journey worth sharing with young people.


(Joshua writes)
I was raised in church my whole childhood. Ill have to agree with Manny. My experience with God has been more meaningful outside of church. in fact, it wasnt until i "dropped out" of church that I truly got to know God. I know it shouldnt be this way, but i have yet to attend a church that has had something more to offer than "moral support".

Show me a pastor who TRULY walks with God in a Christ-like sense and has the power that i see in the Bible and I will gladly attend his church. I want to grow as a person, not just be a church goer.

(My thoughts) Joshua, I had a very similar experience. I was so disillusioned over my "home church" and the minister there that I left organized religion and had essentially given up on that part of my spiritual life.

As you may have seen from my blog, I'm a "professional pastor" so something happened to change me, my life, and my mind. I'm determined to do my best to be the type of pastor, helping to create the type of church you would attend.

One question I HAD TO ASK MYSELF: Are you willing to be part of such a community of faith (you know, "be the change in the world you want to see") or are you simply going to spend your life as a nay-sayer?

In my continued quest, I have found that while no church/group of people are perfect, amazing things happen when I invest myself with people who also want to "grow as a person"; we work together to build homes w/ Habitat for Humanity, work through divorces, celebrate recovery from addictions, and seek God's power in our lives, as you mentioned. I think God honors such a commitment to community in His name.


(Another reader wrote) I'm looking for a church that doesn't damn homosexuals to hell... I feel like I'm writing an ad or something...

(My response) I wonder how many of us are:
1.) Able to state so succinctly what we're looking for in our church search.
2.) Really looking. I spent a lot of time in my life lamenting or complaining. I was talking about looking, but did little true looking during that time.

My prayer for you is that God will be with you on your journey, speaking to you along the way.


Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.
Grace & peace.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Gettin' Jiggy & The Creator

I was recently watching "The Actor's Studio" on Bravo. (I go back and forth between that show. Am I being interested in people who analyze their craft or amused at people who take what they do [acting is just pretending] way too seriously?)

On one particular episode, Will Smith was being interviewed. The host, James Lipton, asked Smith to define the word "jiggy". A word, I believe, Smith helped make famous. (Lipton said the word has made certain dictionaries.)

Later in the discussion, Smith said something that I found fascinating. He was asked about being an artist who helps to create things, words, characters, and stories and he referenced The Creator.

Smith mentioned that what he did was simply an extension of that One who is First Cause. And he attributed his talent and work as a natural outgrowth of a creative person made by a Creative Being.

I found that self-understanding thoroughly consistent with a God who made the world, made people in the world, and then gave them the ability to create things on their own. Not that I'm blaming God for all of our choices and how we choose to use our creative freedom.

But scripture says, "Every good and perfect gift comes from God." And that "Fullness of the earth" and all that is in it come from God.

So maybe next time I watch "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" or "Men In Black" I'm mixing theology with entertainment?

Or maybe I'm just looking for a way to kill an hour or two.

Grace & peace.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Are You a Church Dropout?

A recent study by the Barna Group says that 81% of twentysomethings spent a significant amount of time in their teen years at church or church-related activities.

They went on to say that 75% of teens discuss religion or spiritual things with their peers and more than 50% have attended a religious activity or group event within the last quarter.

But the same study says that disengagement happens between the end of the teen years and age 30.

While 20% maintained the same level of spiritual involvement as when they were teens, 80% said there was a significant decline or complete absence of spiritual activity.

It got me to thinking:

- Has the Church failed to provide meaningful interactions for people in the realm of faith?

- Have young people given up on "organized religion" because they were turned off by something/someone they encountered?

- What role does the family influence play? (I know teachers who bemoan the fact that 5 days a week, 6 hrs. a day is NOT enough to educate young people in the area of academics. Imagine what just how hopeless 1 HOUR A WEEK seems to those who are expected to do spiritual formation in the lives of those same teens.

- What's your story? Were you part of the 80% who had some relgious training or experience in your teens? If so, have you maintained that level of attention to your spiritual life? If not, what would it take for you to recover that part of your life?

- If you have never spent a significant part of your life in a faith community, what would it take for you to investigate and search one out?

Grace & Peace.


The following is from the Barna Research Group:

Image courtesy of BarnaFilms. click for info
Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years
September 11, 2006

(Ventura, CA) - Transitions in life are rarely simple. Some of the most significant and complex shifts that people undergo occur during the transition from adolescence to early adulthood. An important part of that maturation is the refinement of people's spiritual commitment and behavior.

A new study by The Barna Group (Ventura, California) shows that despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years - and often beyond that. In total, six out of ten twentysomethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood.

Teens Embrace Spirituality.
Teenagers thrive on fresh experiences and new perspectives. The spiritual dimension gives teens a fertile ground for their explorations.

50% of teens attend a church-related service or activity in a typical week.

More than75% discuss matters of faith with peers and 60% teens attend at least one youth group meeting at a church during a typical three month period.

33% of teenagers say they participate in a Christian club on campus at some point during a typical school year. There is also a substantial amount of unorthodox spiritual activity: three-quarters of America's teenaged youths have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity during their teen years (not including reading horoscopes).

Still, one of the most striking findings from the research is the broad base of opportunities that Christian churches in America have with to work with teenagers.

81% teens say they have attended a church for a period of at least two months during their teenage years. This represents substantial penetration and significant prospects for influencing the nation's 24 million teens.

But Disengagement Happens
At the same time, the Barna research underscores how fleeting that influence may be: twentysomethings continue to be the most spiritually independent and resistant age group in America. Most of them pull away from participation and engagement in Christian churches, particularly during the "college years." The research shows that, compared to older adults, twentysomethings have significantly lower levels of church attendance, time spent alone studying and reading the Bible, volunteering to help churches, donations to churches, Sunday school and small group involvement, and use of Christian media (including television, radio and magazines).

In fact, the most potent data regarding disengagement is that a majority of twentysomethings - 61% of today's young adults - had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying).

Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences. Another one-fifth of teens (19%) were never significantly reached by a Christian community of faith during their teens and have remained disconnected from the Christian faith.

So based on the above data from Barna, I wonder:

- Has the Church (whatever denomination or persuasion you may come from, if you're part of the 80% who were "churched" as a teen) failed to bring you to a place where interaction with others in this area of your life is relevant and exciting?

- How many of that 80% had little/no support at home? We often hear teachers bemoan the fact that they need parental help to get the educational job done because 6-7 hrs. at school each day isn't enough. Compare that with the 1 hr we often give the church and expect them to do the job of helping to shape our young people

- What is your story? Were you raised in church? Was it a significant part of your life? Is it still today? What would it take for you to consider heading back to a faith community?

Grace & peace.