The various authors writing these (hopefully) helpful articles every day are entering a new season. Instead of an assigned topic for the week, we are each free to write about whatever we want. My articles appear every Wednesday. So I thought instead of everything I write being completely random, I’d pick a theme for each month and write four or five thoughts on that topic. And, I’m not even gonna come up with cute titles; each article will simply be identified with the topic and number. Need an example? Check the top of this article.
For April, I’m gonna write about faith abandonment, and this is the first article thus the catchy title: Faith Abandonment Part 1.
For the past 5 years or so, nothing has been talked about more in youth ministry circles than the issue of faith abandonment; teenagers walking away from church (and sometimes faith altogether) upon graduating from high school. Why? What’s to blame? What can we do about it? All really good questions, and I’ll tackle them all over the next few weeks. But before I do, I want to pose a question and a thought that rarely come up in the conversation; stuff that, to me, needs to be part of an honest discussion about the issue.
Question: Is faith abandonment really a new problem?
It very well may be, and that’s what most authors and experts would have us believe. But we do have to acknowledge that teenage “drift” has existed for a long time. I drifted. My friends drifted. Adults I currently hang around now acknowledge their teenage drift. You may have drifted yourself. Perhaps we are just paying more attention to the issue now? Maybe nobody took the time to research and survey the issue twenty or thirty years ago? Could it be that our 24-hour youth ministry news cycle of tweets, facebook updates and blog posts makes an issue (and make no mistake…faith abandonment is an issue), out of something that has always existed?
“Why does this matter?” you may ask. It matters because if we believe it’s a new phenomenon we will look for current causes; more recent church and cultural contributors. But if we are open to the possibility that it’s an older problem, then we would need to expand our search radius when looking for causes.
Thought: Let’s differentiate between faith abandonment and church abandonment.
I think we should because they are vastly different, with vastly different consequences. Yet in most of what’s been written and talked about, they seem to be lumped together. The vast majority of teenagers who drift from church after high school will return at some point (usually when they get married and have children of their own), while those who truly abandon faith are much less likely to return.
Teenagers walking away from faith is scary stuff. Teenagers drifting from church for a season, while not good news, pales in comparison.
Share your thoughts and questions about the topic with the rest of us! I look forward to the conversation this month!
Kurt / @kurtjohnston