In chapter one, Kenda lays out her thesis: the reason that youth ministry is failing to make disciples is because churches suck. She puts it a bit more softly:
Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issue, but ours. (4)
What she’s doing here is contradicting the common sociological interpretation of the National Study of Youth and Religion (and similar studies), which is that teenage religiosity is a reflection of teenagers, not a reflection of religion. That is, adolescence is a time in which commitment to a religious system is virtually impossible.
Kenda disagrees, and she points the finger at the American church, which has,
perfected a dicey codependence between consumer-driven therapeutic individualism and religious pragmatism. These theological proxies gnaw, termite-like, at our identity as the Body of Christ, eroding our ability to recognize that Jesus’ life of self-giving love directly challenges the American gospel of self-fulfillment and self-actualization. (5)
So, my question is this: Is Kenda right, that the NSYR is a “wake-up call for the church”(15)? Or are the results simply indicative of the nature of teenage religion, regardless of the epoch in which we live?