The Christian Broadcasting Network


The Spiritual Pulse of Teens

By Andy Butcher
Charisma Magazine -- Churches and parents face a ‘major challenge’ in nurturing young believers.

Most American teen-agers claim to be Christians, but their beliefs are confused according to a report that says they are theologically complacent and arrogant, and urges a radical new approach to nurturing faith from parents and churches.

Although 86 percent of teen-agers interviewed by Christian pollsters the Barna Research Group (BRG) said that they were Christian, 60 percent believed that salvation can be earned through good deeds and 53 percent thought that Jesus sinned while on earth.

These and other findings point to “major challenges” for the church, said BRG president George Barna. Many teen-agers had “well-intentioned but misinformed faith perspectives that lead to bad choices and spiritual confusion,” he said. “[Because they are] the future leaders of the church, we must be concerned about the substance of the faith that will be communicated and practiced in the long-term.”

Only 34 percent of those polled were identified as being born again, according to researchers’ questions about salvation. But 80 percent of all those interviewed said their faith had helped give them greater peace and was very important in their life. At the same time, 33 percent believed “most adult Christians are hypocrites.”

Regarding the Bible, 60 percent thought that it was totally accurate in is teachings. Yet 66 percent stated that Satan was merely a symbol of evil, rather than a living being. Eighty-two percent also said that their parents had been good role models of how to be a person of faith. Seventy-five percent of all those questioned said that their religious beliefs were not likely to change in the future.

The sometimes contradictory findings question teen-agers’ beliefs that they are “very familiar” with the major teachings and principles of the Christian faith, said Barna. They are not alone in this, for previous Barna studies have revealed many Christian adults holding theological beliefs that conflict with biblical teaching. Barna said that parents, friends, music and pop entertainment were largely responsible for teens' “errant theological views…and cannot be counted on to restore biblical clarity.”

He added: “The unintentional yet constant reinforcement of their inappropriate beliefs by the people and institutions [teens] trust is making the job tougher and tougher for the church. If biblical truth is going to prevail in American society, it will require a strategic, long-term, coordinated effort to convey God’s truth in ways that shake young people from their theological complacency and arrogance.”

Churches and individuals could not continue to minister in the same way they had done for the past decade. “Families must become more diligent and reliable in the religious training they provide to their children. The depth of the problem is beyond what churches, by themselves can address. To overcome the spiritual distortions so common in our society requires a more comprehensive and long-term solution.”

Twenty-two percent of the 605 13- to 18-year-olds questioned for the survey were affiliated with the Catholic Church. Sixteen percent said they attended Baptist churches, and 19 percent mainline Protestant churches. Only 4 percent were part of a charismatic or Pentecostal congregation.

Copyright (c) 2000 Charisma News Service. Used by permission. For news, features, and inspirational stories from a Christian perspecitve, log on to Charisma & Christian Life.

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