Children want to see real faith

Responding to the high drop-out rate of young people from Christianity

A new global report from the US-based Barna Group shows that in Australia, just eight per cent of young people who grew up as a Christian remain “resilient disciples” – those who continue actively in their faith.

According to the Connected Generation report, Australia has a higher than global average drop-out rate among young people leaving the faith.

Train up a child in the way he should go – but be sure you go that way yourself.

Why are so many Bible-believing parents losing their children? The main reasons given by the young are “hypocrisy of religious people” and their view that religion generally is not contributing to the common good.

They want to distance themselves from what they see as “the politics of the church” and the theatrically pious.

They see much of Western Christianity sitting in judgement on some moral issues but failing to address global, poverty, human rights, refugees, homelessness, ecological justice and other challenging social issues in authentic ways.

A recent McCrindle survey noted that many Australian Christians are buying into the consumerist culture. The survey reported that many adult Christians cite financial independence, owning a home, being well regarded and travelling the world as the defining factors in what it means to live “a good life.”

Care for the local and global community rated as less defining.

We can fashion God in our own image; a God who approves of our tastes, judgments and social biases. Young adults are quick to see through that sort of religious hypocrisy. We know why young Christians are leaving. It’s time to give them a reason to stay. A time to take responsibility for our own thoughts, words and behaviour.

The evangelist Charles Spurgeon said train up a child in the way he should go – but be sure you go that way yourself.

We need to honestly dialogue with our children with the troubling, unanswered questions of faith. We need to listen and learn when our children challenge our views and values.

The Bible compares life to running a race. It is not an individual event. It is a marathon and a relay. We only win when we pass on the wonders of faith, hope and love to the next generations.

Throughout the Bible is the importance of passing the baton from one generation to another. We see Moses passing the baton to Joshua, David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to his disciples, and Paul to Timothy.

Mentoring is loving. We impart truth from honest, meaningful relationships. Let’s repent. Let’s recommit to really listening to what our children are saying.

Tim Costello is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity and Executive Director of Micah Australia.

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