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Training teens as true disciples of Christ

August 29th, 2012 at 10:22 am

Many congregations put much of their resources into reaching and serving young people in their respective communities. They offer lock-ins, youth group gatherings and parties. Youth participate in camps, events and mission trips.

Still, statistics tell us a large percentage of students walk away from their faith and church upon graduating high school.

In fact, the Barna Group published an article in 2006 stating six out of 10 “twentysomethings” who were involved in church during their teen years have failed to translate their faith into early adulthood. LifeWay Research puts the number at seven out of 10.

Why are they leaving? That depends on who you ask.

Some experts point to young people becoming disillusioned with the church after bad experiences. Some students are turned off by apparent hypocrisy. Other youth simply fade away from church.

David Kinnaman, Barna president, suggests the disengagement of teenagers from the church after graduation is because there is no substantial discipleship taking place with teenagers. In other words, teenagers are not given the opportunity to grow and form their faith.

An article published by Barna in 2011, stated that a shallow Christianity was a reason teens leave the church as young adults. According to the study, 20 percent of the young adults who attended church as a teenagers said “God seems missing from my experience of church.” Twenty-three percent stated, “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough.”

In Christian Smith’s National Study on Youth and Religion, Smith discovered what he calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (also referred to as M.T.D.) to be a common link among teenagers.

In a nutshell, most teenagers believe that Christianity is about being a good, kind person, in which the religion one holds will help one to feel better about oneself. God is creator but also distant and selectively available to take care the needs one may have.

Greg Bowman, minister to students at First Baptist Church Duncanville, says entire families and congregations should be involved in the lives of youth.

Bowman believes church is one of the few places teenagers have the chance to create intergenerational relationships. From small children to senior citizens, teenagers and churches should take advantage of this potential.

As a student minister, Bowman seeks to connect parents and adults with teens, providing resources to parents and teens who are new to the ministry with resources and a new parents fellowship night in which he talks through the ministry with both parent and student present.

Every fall, First Baptist Church in Duncanville has 30 days of prayer for the teenagers. Each day is lined out for specific topics to pray for such as, sexual purity, friends and spiritual foundation. The hope is not only that a spiritual habit would be formed of praying for teenagers, but also that adults in the church would realize there are teens that have nobody that continually prays for them.

“The whole church and parents need to be involved. Parents need to see themselves as the main disciplers of their teens,” Bowman said.

Courtney Wilmoth, News Intern

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