I told you so.
In an article entitled, “How Critical Thinking Saves Faith,” (link below) Nancy Pearcy relates exactly one of the things I have said and believed about ministry to youth in these difficult times. Distilling the report of an item by Drew Dyck in Christianity Today titled “The Leavers,” Pearcy notes:
“…when talking to someone who has left the faith (or is thinking about it), Christians rarely engage the person’s reasons for doubt. Typically they ‘have one of two opposite and equally harmful reactions’: Some ‘freeze in a defensive crouch and fail to engage at all.’ Others ‘go on the offensive, delivering a homespun, judgmental sermon.’” Pearcy relates the stories of two of her students whose parents refused to engage their questions, and who now no longer consider themselves Christans.
A study of teenagers who leave their faith, by Fuller Seminary, decided that “the single most significant factor in whether young people stand firm in their Christian convictions or leave them behind” is “whether students had a safe place to work through their doubts and questions before leaving home.” Inclusive of this is having adults who guide them through challenges to their faith.
In contrast: “Instead of addressing teens’ questions, most church youth groups focus on fun and food. The goal seems to be to create emotional attachment using loud music, silly skits, slapstick games -- and pizza. But the force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own.”
My local ministry partner and I knew all of this long ago. That’s why one of our primary projects is offering what we call “apologetics boot camps” for youth (see link below). These are designed to be the sort of “safe place” youth can ask questions. It’s also why I’m so disparaging of youth pastors and teachers who go the “pizza and fun” route and refuse to even let apologetics into the door.
Pearcy’s article here
Dyck's article here
Information on our “apologetics boot camps” here (Word document)