Some thoughtful comments from Fr. Robert Hendrickson, of Christ Church New Haven reguarding the results of the National Survey of Youth and Religion. I commend them to you:
Identity Crisis Part II
So, having put up results from the NSYR study of youth and religion, I have gotten some interesting responses. They ranged from “Oh my God, the Church is dying” to “These numbers are really suspect” to “We are Episcopalians, we don’t do Church the way these other denominations do.”
None of these is especially helpful.
To allow our young people to grow up without clear teaching means that we cede faith to those who continue to use it for political or personal gain because those are the loudest voices or we risk them drifting aimlessly between self-exploration, astrology, reincarnation and the like without a firm foundation so that when life’s trials come they do not have a spiritual and moral footing that will hold them fast.
The study notes that “The majority of adolescents reported remaining at the same level of religiosity, and when adolescents did report a change in their overall religiosity, a higher proportion of them reported becoming more religious than becoming less religious.” In other words, there are opportunities for us to draw young people deeper into the life of faith. They are not rejecting the faith so much as having it presented to them in such a slipshod manner that it is irrelevant.
The survey results bear this out. Read again these results:
- “…while 93 percent of Presbyterian Church (USA) teens and 91 percent of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America teens report that their churches usually feel warm and welcoming, only 69 percent of teens whose parents are Episcopalian say the same.”
- “65 percent of Church of God in Christ teens and 57 percent of both Assemblies of God and Southern Baptist teens say that church is a very good place to talk about serious issues…while only 31 percent of Episcopal teens agree that church is a very good place to talk about serious issues.”
- “less than one-half of Episcopalian teens who attend church more than a few times a year (46 percent) say that church usually makes them think about important things.” (by far lowest and the only group under 50%)
We have the lowest percentage of respondents that say our churches are welcoming to them. We have the lowest percentage that says that church is a good place to talk about serious issues. We have the lowest percentage that says church makes them think about important things. If we are serious about intellectual engagement with the faith then the numbers would bear this out. We would have young people who felt challenged and believed we talked about serious things and made them think about important things.