Teens Crave Steak and Potato Faith
According to Kenda Creasy Dean, professor at Princeton, teens are becoming “fake” Christians. In a study called the National Study of Youth and Religion, it was revealed that, although 75 percent of teens claim to be Christian, only half actively exercise their beliefs. Dean says many teens have lackadaisical attitudes toward their faith because of lukewarm teaching from churches and parents. “If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversion”, said Dean.
There seems to be a widening gap between the desires of teens and the teaching they receive. Elizabeth Corrie, professor at Emory, says that teens want to be challenged. She observed, “We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake.” This puts the role of teaching our teens squarely on our shoulders.
The problem is that, if we do not teach teens to “live out” their faith, it is probable that the gospel message will be in danger of becoming more watered-down and irrelevant with each subsequent generation.
What can we do to spiritually challenge teens today?
- Be proactive in our approach. Instead of reacting to major life challenges, our churches need to spiritually equip teens to confront tough issues in their lives. They need the tools to handle life issues such as death, divorce, and difficulties with relationships.
- Preach boldly. This means calling people to action. We need to convey the message that following Jesus means much more than being good or following the rules; it means getting our hands dirty–helping the poor and homeless. Sometimes we are afraid to preach boldly because we are afraid we will upset people and they will leave. Preaching boldly goes far beyond helping people feel good about themselves; it means challenging people to think of others by sharing their faith with them.
- Demonstrate by example. Parents of teens usually have the greatest impact on their own children. If we want to teach our children how to serve in the community, we need to serve others—and then ask them to join us. Teens will learn more about watching us than they will from verbal instruction. This increases our responsibility to do more than attending church; we need to demonstrate our faith in action.
- Increase our expectations. We need to expect more from teenagers than having good behavior or being nice. Since they are very passionate about social issues such as poverty, homelessness, and the environment, we need to help them see the connection between their faith and the world around them. We need to challenge them to be dangerous like Jesus was—by taking risks and doing things that require sacrifice. Calling them to this kind of lifestyle attracts teens because it gives them purpose and direction. It is also radically different than the self-serving, egocentric message perpetuated by the world.
What else can we do to spiritually challenge teens today?