In October of 2021, I accepted the position of Director of Ratio Christi College Prep at Ratio Christi. What we have spent seven years developing at our chapter here in the Texas Hill Country will be taken nationwide to organizations that seek to strengthen the faith of high school and middle school students in addition to teaching them how to defend their faith.
I will continue in my role as Director of our local chapter in addition to assuming the duties at the national level. In order to do that, we needed to get help from within the student group of our chapter to help with the day-to-day operations of our local chapter. Introducing Katelynn Massey and Sydney Shaffer. Both students have been a cornerstone in the growth and success of our chapter over the last few years. Both have taught classes and in addition to teaching, Sydney is currently my teaching assistant. In addition to receiving hourly wages, they are also supported missionaries through our ministry. Please use the PayPal button below to donate to both Sydney and Katelynn, or just the general operating expenses of our ministry. All donors will receive both a quarterly and year end report of our activities and finances. Both Katelynn and Sydney will be matriculating at UT San Antonio in the fall of 2022.
I am now a supported missionary through Ratio Christi and if you’re concerned about reaching Gen Z, the first post-Christian generation in America, I encourage you to donate to my ministry by clicking on the link below. It will take you to my page at Ratio Christi where you can donate, signup for monthly newsletters and find other ways to connect.
1 Kings 19:11–14.
Standing on the mountainside outside his cave (cf. v. 9) Elijah witnessed what
Moses had seen in those mountains centuries before (Ex. 19:16–18) and what he
himself had seen on Mount Carmel only a few days earlier (1 Kings 18:38, 45),
namely, a spectacular demonstration of the power of God, this time in wind, an
earthquake, and fire. But on this occasion the Lord was not in any of these,
that is, they were not His instruments of self-revelation.
time later when Elijah was back in his cave (19:13) he heard the sound of a
gentle whisper. Recognizing this as a revelation of God he pulled his cloak
over part of his face, walked out to the mouth of the cave, and stood there
waiting for God to act. God asked the same question He asked earlier (cf. v.
9): What are you doing here, Elijah? The prophet’s response was identical to
his first reply (cf. v. 10), suggesting that even though he may have understood
the point of God’s display of natural forces for his benefit he still felt the
same way about himself.
God seems to have intended for Elijah is that whereas He had revealed Himself
in spectacular demonstrations of His power in the past at Kerith, Zarephath,
and Carmel, He would now use Elijah in gentler, less dramatic ways. These ways
God proceeded to explain to His servant (vv. 15–18). God would deal with
Elijah’s personal feelings about himself later in a gentle way too.
In much the
same way, Christian apologists today find themselves in position similar to
that of Elijah. God has revealed Himself to us in many ways, yet it is often
that “still small voice” that leads us further into our calling to defend the
truth of the Christian faith.
Like Elijah, we sometimes feel alone, standing against a corrupt, godless society where persecution towards us abounds. Yet God informs us, just has He informed Elijah, there are many more waiting to take up the mantle (or cause) for the Kingdom. And like Elijah and his mentorship of Elisha, we are to mentor others and continue the calling of the Christian apologist.
Constable, T. L. (1985). 1 Kings. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An
Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 528–529). Wheaton, IL: Victor
Introducing Jorden Berryman – Recipient of the Ratio Christi Legatus Christi Award
Jorden Berryman joined our newly formed College Prep chapter over four years ago as one of our original students and a high school freshman. Since then she has been a strong advocate of our chapter and within the last two years has been a strong contributor to the success and visibility of our chapter. She has taught apologetics content such as understanding textual variants and artifacts in the Bible, the reliability of the Bible, the teleological argument for the existence of God, the evidence for the Resurrection, and a presentation of the student’s McDonald Observatory trip and how it demonstrated the existence and glory of God. She has taught 6th grade students, middle school and high school students, adult apologetics students, youth groups at other churches, and is one of the youngest speakers to ever address a chapter of Reasons to Believe, the scientific apologetics organization founded by Hugh Ross. As my teaching assistant, she has crafted four presentations, The Genesis Flood, Transgenderism: Facts and What the Bible Says About It, Art as an Apologetic, and Correcting Your Christian Friends, the latter intended for high school students. She manages our social media and coordinates our field trips and special events. This month she begins her studies at Liberty University, with a focus on Christian ministries and beginning in the fall semester she will be responsible for teaching middle school students every week. – Dan Britton, RCCP Texas Hill Country Chapter Director –
When did you come to Christ as Lord and Savior, and how did that come about?
I grew up in the church and
accepted Christ at a young age but as I got older I began to think that maybe I
don’t know who Christ is; that is until I started going to the apologetics
group at Hill Country Fellowship. In my freshman year of high school, I based
my worth on my popularity or how many boys liked me. But when I started going
to the apologetics group, I learned that in God’s eyes I’m worth so much more.
If you were in a high school church youth group, how much did you learn there about the Christian faith and reasons to believe?
I started going to a Wednesday night youth group and at
first, I had gotten a lot out of it but eventually it became repetitive. I
wanted to know more about God, and I had so many unanswered questions. So, when
I heard about an apologetics group that met on Monday nights I was intrigued.
When I started going, I immediately had some of my major questions getting
answered. Without apologetics my faith would not be half as strong as it is
How did you become interested in apologetics, and how did you get involved with Ratio Christi?
Originally, I started going to
Monday night apologetics because that is where all my friends were, but when my
questions started getting answered, I wanted to be there all the time. One day
my apologetics pastor, Dan Britton, asked the Monday night group if any of us
were interested in going to a Reasons to Believe chapter in Austin Texas. As a
high school sophomore who didn’t have a license, I had no plans, so I agreed to
go. I learned so much that I went to almost every Reasons to Believe chapter
meeting after that.
What impact has the Ratio Christi College Prep ministry had on your walk with God and your personal ministry?
If I had not started going to the
Ratio Christi chapter in Burnet, I don’t think I’d still be a Christian, because
there are so many questions that the typical Sunday service could not provide
answers to for me. Ratio Christi has given me evidence that can’t be denied.
What is this RC chapter like? (how many usually attend, is it loose discussions or pre-planned topics, do outsiders often attend, do you engage secular thinkers, etc.)?
Currently, on a typical
Monday meeting about 10 youths attend (we have had up to 30 prior to COVID-19).
We typically have a lesson handout or watch a video from Summit Ministries. These
discussions are planned months in advance and are typically well thought out
for what the students need at the time. We often look at both sides of an
argument to see which side has more evidence; spoiler alert, it’s never really
the secular worldview.
What were some of your favorite areas of involvement with your local RCCP chapter?
I love that pastor Dan is so
passionate about his students, past and present, and how much he wants to give
them an “unfair advantage.” He puts his heart and soul into making sure the
students are educated and can defend their faith. I also love teaching the
middle schoolers that go to Wednesday night apologetics. They have some tough
questions like I did at their age, questions that they deeply want answered.
What does the your Legatus Christi award mean to you?
Christi award is going to help me further my career as an apologist. Before I
had very little credibility as an apologist because of my age but now, I feel
confident enough to pursue apologetics as a career with even more conviction.
How do you envision taking the apologetics you have learned through Ratio Christi into your future endeavors?
I want to attend Liberty
University, so, the apologetics I have learned will give me an edge on
graduating. After I graduate, I want to continue teaching apologetics to youth
and adults. I also want to carry apologetics with me to help answer questions
that people may have or debunk doubts that are festering.
What are your short and long-term career/ministry/mission plans?
Short term, I want to attend
Liberty University and teach along the way. Long term, I want to continue
teaching apologetics but I’m not quite sure how.
Would you consider coming back to work with your RC chapter, starting one at another school, or working with RC in any other capacity?
I would love to work at the
Burnet RCCP chapter, and maybe sometime in the future start a new chapter in a
town that has a need for it.
What would you say to other students who might be considering getting involved in Ratio Christi, whether they be skeptics, seekers, or believers?
I would encourage them to get
involved. At the very least, they would learn some of the truth claims and
evidences of the Christian faith. As believers, they would grow stronger in
their own faith and as skeptics or seekers, gain a clearer understanding of the
There is one significant reason to purchase and study this
book; our student’s future. I’m a full-time pastor and apologist at our local
church and for the better part of six years, I’ve been equipping students (and
adults) to grow stronger in their faith and learn how to defend it. I’ve also
read more books on this particular subject than I care to remember. With the
publication of So the Next Generation
Shall Know, I could probably replace all of them with this one volume.
I’ve not read anything that so succinctly identifies the
crisis of faith confronting our young people today and charts a way to have a
meaningful, successful solution to the problem.
To enumerate the many highpoints of this book would take
quite a few pages. It’s easy to say, “here is a problem”; it’s quite another
thing to say, “here is a solution.” Thankfully, Sean and Jim do both with
crystal clarity. I’ll share two highpoints that I found very informative.
The first is a section on “Ten Strategies for Connecting
with Generation Z.” They state that one does not need to do all ten, but you
should seriously consider doing as many as possible. First on my list would be
to “mentor a young person.” This is not to establish a formal mentoring
process, but to grow in relationship
with a young person. As Sean writes in this section, bringing students to
special events goes a long way toward establishing a lasting relationship.
Second on my list is Chapter Six – Love Trains: Resisting
the Desire to Entertain Rather than Train. Jim’s insight in this chapter
confirms what we’ve all expected; pizza, games and superficial messages are not
getting it done for our youth. This might draw them in, but it will not grow
them in a way that will equip them to remain strong in their faith post high
I have been teaching students outside of their regular
Wednesday night youth service now for four years. I’ve done much of what Sean
and Jim outline in this book and will be doing more, based on what I’ve read
In short; if you care at all about this next generation,
purchase this book now. It will not only change student’s lives, it will change
Quite a bit has happened since I penned my last blog almost two years ago. Without diminishing the importance of those that blog regularly and faithfully, my ministry tends to be a street-level, on-the-ground type of ministry that does not allow a lot of time for writing blogs. Perhaps I should consider changing that.
As I’ve embarked on a new season in seeking a doctorate in
theology and apologetics, what writing I do engage in has been largely academic
and the creation of lessons for my upcoming third edition of Discipleship:
Equipping and Apologetics curriculum which expands from the current 32 lessons
to 48. I expect it to be published mid-summer. Editing is complete, minus a few
minor updates (do they ever stop?) and packaging/publishing has been largely
In January, I moved from paid, part-time status as the
Pastor of Equipping and Apologetics at my church, Hill Country Fellowship, to
full-time. With that, I now teach classes an average of five times per week
with some weeks seeing more. So, what has two years since my last blog seen in
the area of equipping and apologetics within my ministry?
Students: Still the heart of why I do what I do, little has changed in this arena in the way of class offerings. We still study basic apologetics, worldview and Scripture. What has changed significantly is many of my students have been studying with me for two years, some for three. Also, these students are now teaching others.
During our VBS last year (“Camp HCF”), I had four students teach a 30-minute lesson to over 70 six graders. Ella taught an introduction to apologetics and the reliability of the Bible, Jorden taught them the difference between Biblical artifacts vs. evidence, Jonathan taught on several archaeological finds that confirmed certain biblical accounts and Kylie taught on how the fine-tuning of the universe points to our Creator. By the way, none of these students were old enough to drive yet.
In two years, we’ve
taken multiple field trips; Dunham Bible Museum, Probe Ministries, Center for
the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, reTHINK Student Apologetics Conference,
Reasons to Believe chapter meetings, and more recently, the McDonald
Observatory in West Texas this past December.
We’ve seen two students attend Summit’s two-week intensive worldview and apologetics conference. We had one student, Judson, receive the Legatus Christi award from Ratio Christi, their highest award for exceptional students that use their training in apologetics to proclaim and defend the Gospel.
Two other students, Kylie and Jorden, created a one-hour
presentation on their McDonald Observatory Field Experience and presented it to
the entire youth group on a Wednesday night, as well as multiple small-group
meetings and the church’s adult apologetics class. They are also scheduled to
present their session to Hugh Ross’s
Reasons to Believe Austin chapter in July. We think this will be the first time
this scientific apologetics organization will be addressed by high school
We continue our affiliation with Ratio Christi College Prep,
a high school apologetics organization through Ratio Christi (www.ratiochristi.org).
Adults: In addition to the basic apologetics sessions
offered on Sunday mornings, we have submitted the paperwork to become a
Reasonable Faith chapter under William Lane Craig. This group meets on Thursday
evenings every week and while at times studies content similar to Sunday
morning classes, we often study deeper subjects, driven by events happening in
culture. In this regard, these evening sessions are more focused toward
4-1-2 is our church’s primary means of increasing knowledge
of core doctrinal beliefs. The name is from Ephesians 4:12 which reads “for the
equipping of the saints.” Other pastors and I share during this two-hour
session (which includes a 30-minute dinner break). The six sessions are 1.) The
Church, 2.) The Word, 3.) The Great Commandments, 4.) The Great Commission, 5.)
Culture Shift and 6.) You Lost Me. Each session is intended to help those in
attendance grow deeper in their knowledge of their faith and the worldview
issues that can either shape them or destroy them. These sessions are offered
every two months.
Suffice to say, the four “I’s” of my earlier blogs have
played out and apologetics is now instilled as part of our church culture. I’m
blessed beyond measure that I’m at a church whose leadership understands the
importance of the words found in 1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord
as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a
reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” In
today’s culture, we can do no less.
In our last blog, part 5 of 6, I posed the question of how to bring apologetics into a church that had no one on staff trained in apologetics and little to no budget. The short answer is to engage a mentoring apologist to help you chart a course.
As a mentoring apologist, I have helped several churches begin the process of bringing the discipline of apologetics into their church. So, let me propose several steps to begin the process.
If you are reading this, you have found my website. Step one, therefore, is to find someone that can help. In addition to myself, I know almost all my classmates that have or are working on their Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics and most of them would be happy to engage locally. In addition to classmates, I am also affiliated with Ratio Christi, a worldwide apologetic organization that helps facilitate the training of high school and college students. A mentoring apologist or Ratio Christi director/mentor/staffer can be a significant help in starting apologetics in your church or organization. Step two is to start planning. How do you want to introduce apologetics to the congregation? Bring in an A-list apologist? Local apologist? Video? When do you want to start? Anytime? Beginning of a school year? How often do you want to meet? Weekly? Monthly? Who are you going to train? Students? Entire church? What is the budget, if any? Lastly, what curriculum will you use? These are all questions a mentoring apologist can help answer.
Before we continue, I’d like to answer the questions above regarding our own church here in Burnet. For our first full school year of apologetics training, we brought in Sean McDowell to help us kickoff the year. The following year we hosted his father, Josh McDowell. We did incur a significant cost for these events (honorariums, travel expenses, advertising, etc.), but we opened both events to the entire community, so the benefit extended well beyond the needs of our own church. We had determined that our training would meet weekly on a Monday night for students and later, Thursday night for the entire church. This coming year will see, for the first time, synchronized schedules where both adults and students will get the same lesson within a few days of each other. The intent is to enable parents and students to talk about what they’ve learned outside of the class. Aside from the cost of bringing in Sean and Josh, we have a modest budget to allow for a few special events during the year. We have had several guest speakers come and talk with our two groups. Dr. Sarah Salviander, a University of Texas research astrophysicist has lectured on the cosmology behind the Genesis creation account and the Christian influence on modern science. Christian filmmaker Brandon McGuire also visited us to share his film, Mining for God. The previous year, we showed his film to students and invited Brandon to Skype with us, which he did. Cost? Zero. We do give honorariums to our guest speakers to help them continue in their ministries. We’ve also taken a field trip to the Dunham Bible Museum in Houston, about a three-hour drive for us. Cost? Zero.
Do you need a lesson on Islam? $7.95 from the Summit Ministries website. A one-hour DVD lecture by noted apologist Nabeel Qureshi. William Lane Craig has an excellent series called On Guard, which is a complete curriculum. No budget to buy? Dr. Craig live-streams his Defender classes every Sunday for free. The options are abundant for low to no cost curriculum. <Insert shameless plug> I’ve developed a full year curriculum (Discipleship: Equipping and Apologetics Second Edition) that I offer for a suggested donation of $25. It includes 32 lessons and breakout sessions, teaching notes and student study guides and artwork for a three-ring binder. You can contact me through the contact page if you’d like a copy to review. I also offer many other lessons not packaged with the above edition, a list that can also be found on this website.
We’ve now completed our walk through The Critical Need for Integrating Apologetics into Youth Ministry. I pray that you’ve found this helpful and that you’ll help turn the tide of the youth exodus from the Christian faith.
My delay in writing this article was to allow a certain event to unfold so the “Instill” step could be better illustrated. More about that toward the end of the article.
The fourth and last step in the process of bringing apologetics into the church is to “Instill Apologetics” as part of the culture. From our pilot year with high school seniors, to the high school students (not just seniors) the following year and now this year, apologetics is becoming part of our culture.
In our first full year of teaching high school students, we had research astrophysicist Dr. Sarah Salviander from the University of Texas visit our students. Sarah was a former atheist; she came to share not only her testimony but how the account of Genesis accurately represented the order of creation events in Genesis. This wasn’t only our regular 30 to 40 students. About 100 people from our church showed up. The moms and the dads and the grandparents. So, you can see what’s happening now. Apologetics has become part of our church culture. Both the students and adults are now interested.
It’s important to share that we are a Ratio Christi College Prep chapter. It is an organization that seeks to equip both college and high school students in apologetics. They have roughly 150 chapters on college campuses and are fast approaching a similar number of high school chapters. They provide not only a network of like-minded leaders, but access to discounted or free teaching resources, speakers and marketing materials. We were a pilot chapter our first year and saw the benefits immediately. Three of our five high school seniors went to colleges that had Ratio Christi chapters. Two went to the University of Texas at Arlington and one went to Baylor University. We were able to connect them with Ratio Christi chapters at each college. These students could transition to their university Ratio Christi chapters from their high school apologetics Ratio Christi College Prep chapter. It’s a great organization and I would not recommend starting an apologetic ministry for students without affiliation with Ratio Christi. Information on that organization can be found here: www.ratiochristi.org
The event I mentioned at the beginning of this article happened on Sunday, the 26th. On that day, I was ordained and commissioned as Hill Country Fellowship’s Pastor of Equipping and Apologetics. Apologetics has now been completely instilled as part of our church culture. In three years, our church has gone from knowing very little about apologetics, to it now becoming an important part of our culture.
Last night was the first church-wide apologetics training kick-off. We’ll continue through the remainder of the year, but next year, both the students and adults will be taught the same lesson each week to allow families to have conversations about their faith. Equipping and apologetics will be part of continual education for our church and anyone in the surrounding community.
This concludes the steps on the four “I’s” of apologetic training for your church.
Identify the need for apologetics
Well, that’s a good roadmap you might say, but we’re a small church with no one that knows apologetics and little to no budget to support this type of training. Good news! How to do it under those conditions will be the subject of the last article in this series.
The third step in this process is to “Include Apologetics”: You don’t do one shot by bringing in the guest speaker and say “okay, we’re done.” We had the chaplain for the San Antonio Spurs come up to talk to us one Sunday. He was an outstanding speaker and had a great message for us, but that was it. You can’t do that with apologetics. This is a discipline that needs to be fostered and promoted. So you include it as part of a curriculum.
In our first full year with high school students, Sean McDowell helped us kick-off apologetics training on Sunday, with a special service for the students on Sunday afternoon. He challenged the students with his “atheist encounter” role play and we had one specific student, a senior that was one of our pilot students the year before, challenge him on the accuracy of the Bible. He didn’t let her win the argument, but later he confided he recognized that she must have been one of the students trained in apologetics because she spoke in a way that only a student familiar with apologetics would do. Here’s Sean with Danielle and Jarrett, two prior high school seniors that came back from college for the weekend to help us kick-off our first event.
The day after our kick-off event, Monday evening, we had about 20 students. Three nights later it was around 40 students. Keep in mind, this was in addition to their regular Wednesday night youth group. These students were making an additional commitment to come and learn. Why? It was something that they had never been taught before.
At this point, you may be thinking “that’s easy enough to do if you have someone in your church that is trained in apologetics and can teach, but our church doesn’t have anyone that can do that.”
The solution is easier than you might think.
There are abundant resources available that can be used to teach apologetics. Most only require that someone facilitate the training. I’ll address resources in more depth in Part 6 of this series.
A good curriculum would include, besides lessons, other activities to reinforce the training. On this site under the “Resources” tab, you will find our complete listing for our first full year of apologetics training for our students. Figure if you follow a school year, you will have about 16 nights of training per semester. The curriculum I’ve created includes 8 lessons and 4 suggested breakout sessions per semester. These can be supplemented with optional activities.
Mix it up. Teach, train, engage others to help. Lectures/lessons, field trips, guest speakers and special events can encourage students to engage and learn much more about their faith and how to defend it.
If you live in a large metropolitan area, see if there are museums that have content that support the study of biblical time or lands. Here in Texas, in Fort Worth, the Tandy Archaeological Museum contains artifacts from various locations as well as the Baxley Archaeological Park which features a scale model of Qumran, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In Houston, the Dunham Bible Museum contains a rich collection of bibles throughout the centuries and an operational, replica Gutenberg printing press.
Our guest speakers (not our kick-off speakers) are local. We’ve had our pastor share with students about leading someone to salvation in a winsome manner. We’ve had a former atheist and research astrophysicist visit and share how modern cosmology supports the creation account in Genesis. This was open to the entire church and in addition to our students, about 100 members from the church and surrounding community came to hear her speak. Inviting others to your student apologetics training is how you can instill apologetics into your church. That will be our topic next week.
Now that we’ve established the reality that the data is accurate and young people are leaving their faith, if there any data that suggests we can reverse the trend or at least have an impact on it?
I’ve been involved with Summit Ministries as a volunteer and go-to apologist for both staff and students. Summit does a deep 2-week conference each summer in three locations. Last year they averaged about 2,500 students. Let’s look at their data in a report called Turning the Tide, available from their website.
By examining 50 years of their student graduates, they compiled the following chart, taken from their report mentioned above. This first chart reflects the changes in the student’s faith before and after they attended Summit.
Before they attended Summit, 15% understood world views, after Summit 85%.
The ability to defend their faith went from about 20% to 80%!
But here’s one that’s in support of all the data I’m sharing. Church attendance. It’s identical. The before-and-after is no different. There’s a lot of students that go to church that can’t defend their faith. They don’t understand world views. They don’t know how to share their faith. Their devotional and prayer life are lacking and only 1/3 of them have no confidence in the truth of the Christian worldview. Perhaps they are the ones that see no issue in co-habitation prior to marriage. If it even leads to marriage.
So let me ask a poignant question. In which column do your students fit?
This next chart is the core Christian values, the six values, as defined by Barna Research.
This chart compares the results of the average American, the average born-again Christian and Summit graduates. Summit grads fare significantly better than the other two groups. Summit grads are above the 90 percentile range in their beliefs regarding core Christian values.
Regarding the six core values, Summit grads hold firm to an absolute moral truth, in contrast to the rampant moral relativism of society today. They believe the Bible is accurate and that both God and Jesus as presented in the Bible are real.
This data supports the idea that the trend identified in Part 2 of this series can be reversed by implementing a worldview and apologetics-based curriculum for your students. So the next question is, how do you start?
The first step is to get buy-in from your church leadership, usually the senior pastor. You will usually encounter three types of pastors.
The first type is the pastor that is already there. He recognizes the problem and is ready to address it. I was especially blessed as this was my pastor.
The second type is the pastor that may be somewhat unaware or unsure, but is at least interested in getting more information.
The third type is the pastor that is hostile to the idea the science, reason and logic have any place in the church. They can be openly hostile to idea that we should teach anything that is not in the Bible. With this type, often the best you can do is give them a copy of You Lost Me and Turning the Tide, and sharing the names of two of the earliest Christian apologists (Jesus and the apostle Paul)
The next step is to share the preceding data. I like to summarize the data on one page, highlighting the most relevant points (see the resource page of my website for an example). Once you have the buy-in to proceed, it’s time to introduce apologetics to your church if it hasn’t been done before.
The easiest and best way to introduce apologetics is from the Sunday morning pulpit. The more support from the church, the better. There are any number of well-known apologists that can be booked for a Sunday morning or better yet, a Sunday morning and a Sunday afternoon event geared especially to the students. That’s what we did at Hill Country Fellowship. We brought in Sean McDowell and he helped us kick off our first full year of student apologetics. His father, Josh, did it for us our second year.
If your church is smaller and budget is an issue, there are any number of reasonable alternatives that will be discussed in Part 6 of this series. The important point to remember is that introducing apologetics to your entire church will be helpful as you rollout the “Include” part of these four processes to have a lifelong effect on your students. That will be our topic next week.
Is the often-cited youth exodus real or just business as usual for another generation? The data suggests the former.
Back in 2002, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life did a survey that said 88% of their young people left the church. Now the survey goes on to say a handful come back, but the bottom line is they leave.
Soul Searching, written in 2005 by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, presented the results of an exhaustive study of approximately 3,300 teenagers between 13 and 17 years of age. Their results were equally disheartening; of those students that claim to be Christian, they “were often woefully unable to express what they believe or why it is important to them.” The cited article goes on to say this is “due to churches failing rather badly in religiously engaging and educating youth.” This study, the National Survey of Youth and Religion, has been funded through 2015.
A 2009 study by Jossey-Bass of youth active in high school drop out of church at an alarming 90% rate. Lifeway Research did a similar study in 2011, and they found that 70% leave the church between the ages of 17 and 19.
David Kinnaman who is now the head of Barna Research, authored You Lost Me, a book that should be mandatory reading for any youth pastor. Kinnaman examines not only the data but the reasons behind the data. Why are they leaving?
While each study cited presents its own reasons, they do tend to fall into six general categories:
The church is overprotective. Don’t believe me? How about the vilification of the Harry Potter series by some churches? Some students are told to avoid certain movies, music and the like because it’s evil. It may well be, but we should teach how to apply discernment to what we consume. Kinnaman states “An overprotected generation has been sold the lie that Christian living means material blessing, automatic protection, and bulletproof safety. Two millennia of Christian martyrs beg to differ…” As the adage goes, we are in the world but not of it.
The church is shallow. “If there was a message it was simple; I wasn’t getting a deeper understanding of my faith. So I left.” Many students echo the findings of Kinnaman:
Church is boring.
Faith is not relevant to my career or my interests.
My church does not prepare me for real life.
My church does not help me find my purpose.
The Bible is not taught clearly of often enough.
God seems missing from my experience of church.
The church is anti-science. Students often feel the antagonism of the church toward science (real or perceived) force them into an either/or decision. It should be an “and” decision as both science and faith are intertwined. The teleological argument for a purposefully designed universe needs modern science on which to base its claims.
The church is repressive, especially as it related to sexuality. Students need clear teaching on issues facing them regarding sexuality.
The church is exclusive. Some churches encourage its students to avoid coming to events held at other churches. While there may be legitimate concerns, often it’s more about “turf.”
The church discourages doubt. Thou shalt not doubt. Thankfully, this didn’t make the list. Yet it remains gospel in some churches. Students are reluctant to ask tough questions because of how they will be viewed by their peers or teachers. Doubt should be encouraged to the point no student is afraid to ask. If doubt remains when they leave their home, they will be more likely to fall prey to arguments against their faith.
So now that the problem has been identified, what is the solution? Apologetics play a central role in addressing the solution and we will begin with how to introduce apologetics into a student curriculum next week.