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.
 Norman Geisler, The Apologetics of Jesus