Christianity Isn't Kids' Stuff
This post is going to be rather stream of consciousness in style, but go with me a minute. I do have a point.
It all started when I saw a recent Barna Group study on why young Christians leave the church. The study identified six reasons for this:
- Churches seem overprotective.
- Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
- Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
- Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
- They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
- The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
You can read more the about the study on the Barna website.
This study has basically the same results as a Britt Beemer study that is the basis for the book, Already Gone.
The results of this study reminded me of an experience I had about a year ago. I was putting together a new magic routine, but was stuck coming up with a way to illustrate one critical point. So I turned to an online Magic forum that has a section dealing with Gospel magic. While I did receive some helpful replies, I was surprised by the opposition I encountered. I was told quite adamantly that gospel magic should be limited to simple object lessons for kids. Some on the forum thought it was entirely inappropriate to deal with "theology."
While the attitude of Christian magicians is of interest to me, in the big scheme of things, it's really not all that important. What is important is the state of the church. Sadly, the same attitude is commonplace in the modern church. "Theology" is scary, so we present a watered down, simplified version of the gospel. This is especially true in kid's ministry, where we tend to just teach simple Bible stories. This approach is simply not working. In fact, the more regularly kids attend Sunday School, the more likely they are to leave the church when they grow up. That's right, Sunday School, as it is typically done, is actually driving people away from church! (You can read more about this in the Already Gone book I mentioned above.)
Kids need more than just childish Bible stories. They need reasons to believe. They need to learn how Christianity finds application in the real world. They need to be allowed to ask the tough questions and be given real answers. We need to do better.