Nearly half of young adults with ties to Christianity say church can’t answer their questions: survey

New Barna Research: "Forty-seven percent of respondents with some connection to Christianity say they feel the Church 'cannot answer their questions' or spiritual doubts. According to the study, one in three young adults (32 percent) said 'hypocrisy of religious people' causes them to doubt things of a spiritual dimension. Almost half of the young adults who have left Christianity see the religion as 'hypocritical.'" - Christian Post

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TylerR's picture

Editor

There are three ways to take this data:

  • Churches don't teach substantive things
  • People never ask questions ... so they'll never receive answers
  • A little of both

It's probably the third. Example:

“It’s always the question of why God allows suffering; this is the biggest objection to Christianity. And there is no easy answer to it,” Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London and pioneer of the Alpha Course, wrote in an essay published with the research report.

Read Job. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of our own stupidity. Other times God allows (with some compatibalist caveats) us to suffer at other people's hands. He is good and holy, so He has a reason. The problem is our own hubris; we aren't satisfied with acknowledging we're infants who can't understand the bigger picture. We want to know the bigger picture. But, we can't. That's not good enough for some people. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

In a nutshell, you are correct. Keep in mind, the survey is a global one, so who knows who these people talked to or grew up under.

We need to get off the "pizza party" train with our youth and start teaching substantively.

Bert Perry's picture

What flies out at me is that young people are not feeling connected with the church, and they are at least claiming not to be getting answers about things that matter to them--but they are getting "stock answers" straight from what people would have believed and done 40 years back.  Along those lines, I had an interesting conversation with a young lady who dearly misses the close personal connections she had at her former church--we might infer that if we were to handle that better--give opportunities to mingle/talk/etc..--we would reach a lot of people we're missing now.  

Also worth noting is something that should be obvious, but may not be--sometimes the stock answers of 40 years back, along with the failure to explain them, are as relevant as snow to Bedouins.  Sometimes that cannot be avoided, but sometimes a "look in the mirror" can make all the difference.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Paul Henebury's picture

....but they'd leave!  Ot their parents would take them to another church with better programs.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

dgszweda's picture

TylerR wrote:

There are three ways to take this data:

  • Churches don't teach substantive things
  • People never ask questions ... so they'll never receive answers
  • A little of both

It's probably the third. Example:

“It’s always the question of why God allows suffering; this is the biggest objection to Christianity. And there is no easy answer to it,” Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London and pioneer of the Alpha Course, wrote in an essay published with the research report.

Read Job. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of our own stupidity. Other times God allows (with some compatibalist caveats) us to suffer at other people's hands. He is good and holy, so He has a reason. The problem is our own hubris; we aren't satisfied with acknowledging we're infants who can't understand the bigger picture. We want to know the bigger picture. But, we can't. That's not good enough for some people. 

I would offer a 4th choice, a lack of spiritual pathway.  Only going to church on Sunday morning and expecting answers is not sufficient.  It also requires a life that is immersed in prayer, reading of God's Word and fellowship with other members. 

Bert Perry's picture

I re-read my earlier comment and realized that I hadn't really fleshed out what I meant earlier.  To that, the thought is that more or less, before there will be a theological/truth connection, there often must be a personal connection.  To draw a picture, that's why so many people nap through their church's sermons, but listen intently to Beth Moore.  Yes, it's unfair, but it's the real world.

Along those lines, I've noted for years that a lot of times, I've heard from pastors pretty much only when they needed something from me.  The ordinary social graces were not quite there, and sometimes it's emphasized in the very architecture of our churches--how the pews are laid out, etc..  It seemed to work until the 1990s, where you could quite frankly count on a lot of men who'd served in the military to understand "that's simply the way it was" and put up with it.  They and their families were in church until recently.

That noted, the draft ended in 1973 or so, and hence most men don't serve, not even for ROTC in college.  Along the same lines, manufacturing has been in steep decline since about that time, and hence men don't understand or accept the kind of command structure of a factory anymore, either.  Hence church structures designed after the "factory" model will fail today; they simply don't speak to peoples' need for community.  

Now read through the article again in that light, especially paragraph 5 and paragraphs 8-16.  See the pattern?  It's like the old proverb; they won't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Even the comments about whether the church loves, and whether people agree with doctrine, flow from this.  And along the same lines, a lot of people are saying that people don't necessarily go to a church with which they agree doctrinally, but rather one with which they connect personally.

Now this doesn't mean that doctrine and instruction don't matter, but it does mean that it matters even more whether we're living out John 13:34-5 in our interpersonal relationships. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

....but they'd leave!  Ot their parents would take them to another church with better programs.

I know brother! Pizza and theology?

Or you could have the cool youth pastor hanging all over the girls in his program (see here)

Mark_Smith's picture

dgszweda wrote:

 

TylerR wrote:

 

There are three ways to take this data:

  • Churches don't teach substantive things
  • People never ask questions ... so they'll never receive answers
  • A little of both

It's probably the third. Example:

“It’s always the question of why God allows suffering; this is the biggest objection to Christianity. And there is no easy answer to it,” Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London and pioneer of the Alpha Course, wrote in an essay published with the research report.

Read Job. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of our own stupidity. Other times God allows (with some compatibalist caveats) us to suffer at other people's hands. He is good and holy, so He has a reason. The problem is our own hubris; we aren't satisfied with acknowledging we're infants who can't understand the bigger picture. We want to know the bigger picture. But, we can't. That's not good enough for some people. 

 

 

I would offer a 4th choice, a lack of spiritual pathway.  Only going to church on Sunday morning and expecting answers is not sufficient.  It also requires a life that is immersed in prayer, reading of God's Word and fellowship with other members. 

Also people confuse the word "love" and ""good. If God loves us and is good, then everything should be perfect. That's the argument. But real life is nowhere near perfect. So they begin doubting God's existence.

pvawter's picture

Tyler,

Another option is that the church is teaching on these issues and the youthful congregants are either not paying attention or simply don't like the answers they're being given. It's certainly not a one-dimensional problem.