The Big Picture Podcast 57: Where’d the Kids Go?

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Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.

Today we’re going to check in again with the Back Row Baptist.  What’s on his radar this week is a problem that’s being discussed more and more in Christian circles, which is an alarming trend of young Christians abandoning their faith as they move out into college and young adulthood.

Six out of ten Christian teenagers will leave the church for at least an extended time. Some studies say that as many as nine out of ten boys will check out, most of them permanently.

Many families and youth ministries are just now starting to tackle this issue. Parents and church leaders are realizing that we’re raising and sending our children out into an overwhelmingly anti-Christian culture and world without passing on much of a solid foundation of faith – a faith that can hold up under the secular assaults that come at them. Which is interesting when you think about it, because this trend runs concurrent with the growing emphasis in evangelical and other Christian churches towards kid-friendly ministries and programs.  Youth ministry is bigger than ever in most successful churches today.

So why doesn’t it last? Why would it be that as we cater more and more to our children’s tastes and preferences, the less lasting impact we have on them?

I’ve run across more than a few articles and studies lately that are aimed at analyzing this problem among so-called ‘millennial’ Christians, the twenty-somethings. Most point to that generation’s narcissism and idealism and sense of entitlement as the culprits. I’ve been joking lately with Jana Stambaugh, who’s our youngest podcaster and the lone millennial representative here at the E-Squared Media Network, that all these studies either prove that her generation is totally hopeless or that my generation is hopelessly obsessed with analyzing her generation. We’ve concluded that it’s a little of both. Or maybe a lot of both.

And, if you want to hear some really good insights on young Christians and millennials, check out Jana’s podcast “Confessions Of  A Closet Christian”. She’s really got her hand on the pulse of her generation.

But this is an important issue to tackle, because no matter how narcissistic our children are or how entitled they feel, they’re the future of the church. And no matter how obsessed we are with identifying what’s wrong with them, they’re our children. We raised them selfish and entitled, apparently.

So what do we do? How do we keep our kids engaged and committed to their faith? What can we give them that will compete with or stand up to the attractions and assaults of our worldly culture?

Well, I’m going to borrow from another E-Squared podcaster, Pastor Matt Tague. In his “Ouxano” video podcast here on E-Squared, Matt tackles the question of why young people leave the church, and he offers some interesting solutions.

First off, he stresses that we need to stop viewing church youth groups as the main disciplers of our children. We need to return to the Biblical model of parents taking responsibility for their children’s spiritual upbringing, with church there only to support that process. If kids don’t see Christian faith lived out at home along with a commitment to attending church, they’ll rightly see it as shallow and not worth following.

Secondly, Matt stresses a key change in youth ministry models. We need to move away from peer-centered youth groups, where children are only with kids their own age. They need to see older peers, as well as adults, engaged in worship and serious teaching from the Word. If they’re never faced with adult interactions and expectations, then they’ll be unequipped to relate to adult worship services later on.

And finally Matt really nails it by saying that we belittle our kids when we make the youth group experience all about fun and fellowship, which usually means games. We need to give them good teaching on apologetics and arm them with the ability to defend their faith in hostile classroom and work place environments. If they only see Christianity as fun and games, then why would they hold on to it when life gets serious?

If you want to hear more from Matt check out his video on our web site at e2medianetwork.com under ‘video commentaries’. It’s worth a listen.

In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible).

Today’s story comes, as so many do, from the underground church of the former communist world:

Bible verses remain true, even if the devil quotes them. Originally, the idea was to ridicule the Christian Bible and make such a mockery of it that no self-respecting person would believe it.  To carry out the plan, millions of books were printed including The Comical Bible and The Bible for Believers and Unbelievers.
The books made fun of Jesus, called into question his miracles, and ridiculed other aspects of the Christian faith. But the criticisms were so outrageous that no one took them seriously. Countless verses of Scripture were inserted into the text as “proof” in the Communists’ minds of the fallacy of the book.
Members of the underground church snatched up copies of these ”comic” books as fast as they were printed. The verses that were quoted in the books were a smorgasbord of delights to those who were spiritually famished. And all of it was legal, printed by their own God-hating government. Just as the ravens fed Elijah when he was hungry, so God used government printing houses to feed his starving children in Communist nations.
The publishers were delighted to receive thousands of letters asking for reprints of the books. They quickly rolled the presses to print more copies. Little did they know those letters came from believers who wished to distribute the precious books full of God’s words to other underground church members.

So here’s the lesson learned and that should be passed on to today’s young Christians:  Even though the world is against us, the world has NOTHING that can stand against real, serious Christian faith and hope in the Gospel.  Our God is just plain bigger, stronger and smarter.  He is worthy of our lasting faith, trust and obedience.

If you enjoyed this week’s Big Picture Podcast, please go to my web site at gobigpicture.net and also check out our other podcasters like Matt and Jana on the E-Squared Media network at e2medianetwork.com. Wherever you go, leave a few comments and tell your friends, and even you pastor about us. See you next time on the Big Picture podcast. Be blessed!

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