Cited below is a summary of a recent report in USA Today on why teenagers leave the Church. As you will see I have a lot of questions about the study which, though admittedly summarized here, seems rather front-loaded. That is, it seems to have asked questions of teens that more imply the expected answer than really seek for the actual answer.

All that said, there is no doubt the Church has had trouble in recent decades retaining young people once they head to college and then begin careers. It used to be that, when they married and started having kids, we’d get many of them back. But with marriage and family being postponed as late as the mid 30s, many of them are lost so long, they never return.

Dubious Study? It is always a good endeavor to seek to understand the dynamics of the current problem. Nevertheless I am not sure this study is very helpful. First,  the results seem a bit dubious to me. They seem more a projection of the poll taker’s issues, than authentic issues of modern youth. Second, some of the reported responses seem rather typical of what all teenagers go through to some extent (rebellion, no one is going to tell me what to do, etc.) Third, even if these responses are accurate, I am not sure what the Church is suppose to do about many of them, since to remedy the problem, would be to ask the Church to not be the Church.

Let’s look at the summary of the report. Again, all I have access to here is the USA Today summary, hence the actual report may not fall under every critique I make. The Full USA Today articel can be read here: USA Today – Teens leave Church. The excerpts presented here are in bold, black, italic type. My remarks are in red plain text.

Why do young Christians leave the church? New research by the Barna Group finds they view churches as judgmental, overprotective, exclusive and unfriendly towards doubters. They also consider congregations antagonistic to science and say their Christian experience has been shallow.

Now, does this really sound like teenagers talking? Most teens I talk to reference more basic things like boredom and not understanding what is going on. I have never heard a teen talk about the Church’s “antagonism to science” on his own. Now, if you front load the question and ask “Do you think the Church is antagonistic to science?” The first thing many teens will ask is what “antagonistic” means. Then when you explain it means “hostile” or “against” they’ll likely say yes, since this is often the subtle narrative in their public school curriculum. But honestly, I doubt this is a big deal with most of them and it sounds like the surveyors are putting words in the teens’ mouths.

And can you really imagine a teenager, even an 18 or 19 year old talking about a church being “unfriendly to doubters?” This sounds more like a Gen X or Baby Boomer phrase that comes out of the Willow Creek “seeker sensitive” lingo.

And again, “shallow” sounds like a word that was put in their mouth by the survey takers. I don’t think current teens use words like this. Perhaps, boring, or dumb or stupid, or irrelevant, but shallow?

Pardon me for being dubious about the nature of this survey. It sounds like older and rather cynical poll takers putting thoughts, words and phrases in young people’s mouths.

The findings, the result of a five-year study, are featured in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, a new book by Barna president David Kinnaman. The project included a study of 1,296 young adults who were current or former churchgoers.

Researchers found that almost three out of five young Christians (59 percent) leave church life either permanently or for an extended period of time after age 15. One in four 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church.” One in three said “Church is boring.”

OK, these are serious numbers and I’ve sure heard the “Church is boring” claim. But frankly, young people find a lot of things boring including school, family gatherings, museums, conversations, reading, you name it. While we can’t ignore it, there does seem to be something inevitable about boredom at this stage of life. One of my visual images of a teenager is of a young man slouched in a chair, hands in his pocket, looking up and about, somewhat dazed, bored and with mild contempt on his face. Not every teen is this way, but it is a common trait. We can try to engage them better, but there is something of a phase they are going through that may not entirely be the fault of the Church.

As for “Christians demonizing everything outside of the church” this too sounds like a supplied view in the survey. For example, if I were a teen and heard a question, “Do you thing Christians demonize everything outside the church?” I might first wonder what “demonize” meant. Then, having been told that to demonize means “to consider as evil,” I’d probably say, “Yeah, right. That’s exactly right!” But frankly I have never heard a teen use a phrase like this and I figure it was a phrase supplied by the poll takers, not a phrase actually emerging from interviews with current teenagers.

Further I wonder as to the neutrality of the poll takers who speak of “Christians demonizing everything outside the Church.” The question seems more rhetorical than an authentic question. Would these same poll takers think to ask young people if they thought “Scientists demonize or dismiss everything outside science?” No, of course not. That doesn’t fit the narrative that says it is only Christians who are judgmental and “demonize.”

Clashes between church expectations and youths’ experience of sexuality have driven some away. One in six young Christians said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” And 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Catholics said their church’s doctrine on sexuality and birth control is “out of date.

What to do? OK, but here is an example of data that is not surprising but, at the end of the day, what is the Church supposed to do? We cannot change our doctrine on this. Perhaps we can catechize on human sexuality better. But, frankly, even with a lot of education on the matter, many in today’s world still reject the teaching.

Frankly, many people reject Church teaching on sexuality not due only to lack of knowledge, but mainly because it is inconvenient to their moral life. To a great extent they do know, deep down, that much of what they are doing is wrong. I have never spoken with a cohabiting couple who didn’t know, deep down, that what they were doing was wrong.

But psychologically we usually like to deflect our guilt. And so people say the Church is “out of date,” and if you call me on it “you are being judgmental.” But, deep down, they know it’s wrong.

Also, I am not sure that the “out of date” charge from teens is unique to these times. Even back in the stricter 1950s, I am willing to bet that young people saw the Church teachings on sex as “out of date.” Things like that were just less openly discussed and surveyed in those days. And, there were more cultural mechanisms in place to ensure compliance. Plus, marriage happened a lot earlier, and people grew up a lot faster, and saw the wisdom of the teaching more clearly, at least insofar as fornication and adultery go.

Contraception is another story, and much more has to be done to help people see how this hideous recasting of sex has led huge problems with promiscuity, STDs, abortion, higher divorce rates, an explosion of single parent families, homosexual confusion and on and on. In the 1960s we sowed in the wind and we have reaped the whirlwind. We have discussed that here before, and will need to do so again.

Kinnaman called the problem of young dropouts from church “particularly urgent” since many churches are used to “traditional” young adults who leave home, get educated, find a job and start a family before age 30.

Yes, this is a big shift. When I was ordained, just under 25 years ago, most couples I prepared for marriage were in their mid 20s. Now they are in their mid 30s. Starting a family was a traditional path back to Church. Not any more.

“Churches are not prepared to handle the ‘new normal,’” said Kinnaman. “However, the world for young adults is changing in significant ways, such as their remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, their alienation from various institutions, and their skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible.

All this could be said for older Church members as well. There’s no doubt, we’re in a real pickle when it comes to secularization and increasingly vocal hostility to the Christian faith. The Catholic Church is especially singled out for hatred.

But here again, the Church can only do so much. Simply changing to fit the times, has been tried by most of the main-line Protestants denominations and look at them, they are far worse off than we are in the Catholic Church. Surely we must continue to engage the culture in an on-going discussion and use every form of media possible. Fr. Barron’s Catholicism Series is a good example of how we can more effectively teach the faith.

But in the end we are what we are. Paul wrote to Timothy that the Gospel must be preached in season and out of season. Right now we’re increasingly out of season. We can make some strategic moves to better communicate the faith, but at some level, there are also some cultural mega-trends that may simply limit our numbers for now. When it came to numbers Jesus never seemed all that obsessed. In fact, when the crowds grew large Jesus would often give a “hard saying.” (e.g. Lk 11:29; Matt 19:1ff; John 6; Lk 5:19ff; Matt 9:23 ff, inter al). And while it is true that Jesus said we should go to all the nations, he did say we could, should, or would please most of them.

So our task seems clear. We must not cease to evangelize, but we must also realize that these may be times of sowing more than harvesting. Turing around things simply and quickly may be difficult. But above all we must never compromise the Gospel merely to draw numbers. The Church must be the Church. I am working to double the numbers at my parish this year. But we’re not going to do it by being conforming to consumerist demands, but by being compelling in the proclamation of the truth faith.

As always, I am interested in what you think.

At some level teenage rebellion is just a phase. Sadly though our modern culture puts it on steroids by glorifying it in music etc. Here’s an example from my high school daze:

Sittin’ in the classroom thinkin’ it’s a drag
Listening to the teacher rap-just ain’t my bag
When two bells ring you know it’s my cue
Gonna meet the boys on floor number 2
Smokin’ in the boys room
Teacher don’t you fill me up with your rule
Everybody knows that smokin’ ain’t allowed in school

56 Responses

  1. Joshua says:

    Msgr Pope,

    I am a 29 year old man with a wife of almost three years and two children so far. I almost left the church at 16 but did not due to my Godfather’s intervention. He simply took an evening to explain to me a couple of the truths about our faith. Very simply put he peaked my mind with a call to both truth and heroic witness. I personally think that young people and old leave from a lack of both. I am well educated in our faith and it makes me nothing but angry to have to sit through heresy and sacrilege during a mass, to hear homilies that amount to secular self help and positive thinking pep talks. Kids are smart enough to know when something is not worth their time and I think that is the true reason. We are a generation that needs heroes and it seems hard to find them in the Church (I’m not including you here). If every priest could start preaching truth and the call to sainthood with the extremely possible chance of martyrdom, kids would stay and others would come back. Anyways, that is my humble opinion and I agree that the polling was probably loaded if not falsified altogether.

    • Yes, I kinda felt this way as a teen wherein I figured every sermon I ever heard was summarized in 3 sentences: 1. Jesus is challenging us to do better today. 2. Let us try to do better. 3. Now please stand for the creed.

  2. Bender says:

    a recent report in USA Today on why teenagers leave the Church
    ____________________

    Sigh. Sorry, but that is as far as I got before I was compelled to comment.

    ANOTHER study? Another study on some aspect of human behavior (e.g. religiousity, differences between male and female behavior, behavior of singles and marrieds) that has gone on for thousands of years? Do we really need studies and “experts” to tell us what we can and have discerned for ourselves throughout history? And do we really need to be paying people to study the obvious?

    Why do people leave? Why do people drift? Well, why did Augustine leave the Church? Why did the prodigal son? Why did the Israelites wander in the desert?

    Because people need to find faith on their own. Because they have a desire for freedom and don’t like to be told what to think. They want to find out for themselves. Because they, by nature, have a hunger for truth and they want to go out and look for truth. And because young people generally do not have the experience or wisdom to know what is true and what is false, they frequently do not see the truth of the Church even when it is staring them right in the face, like Augustine. And even when they do comprehend the truth, still they would like to see for themselves what is outside.

    It has been the same for thousands of years. It is the human experience. That is the way it was with those two young people in the Garden in the Beginning, and that is the way it has been since then until now. You don’t need studies to know that.

    Many will leave, many will drift. And many will return or, if they do not make it all the way back home, they will start back in that direction. That is freedom.

    Now I guess I’ll go and read the rest.

    • Bender says:

      OK, I just read the rest.

      Nothing new in this “study,” which tells us a lot of things that everyone already knew and also does appear to have had certain conclusions already written before respondents were questioned.

    • Fair enough. Though I think it is a legitimate question for the Church to consider our effectiveness. But, as I point out in the article, there are only so many things we can do, which I think is also your point.

      • Vijaya says:

        “Because people need to find faith on their own. Because they have a desire for freedom and don’t like to be told what to think. They want to find out for themselves. Because they, by nature, have a hunger for truth and they want to go out and look for truth. And because young people generally do not have the experience or wisdom to know what is true and what is false, they frequently do not see the truth of the Church even when it is staring them right in the face, like Augustine. And even when they do comprehend the truth, still they would like to see for themselves what is outside.”

        Bender, you just described me when I was 12 …

        I am so thankful that God called me back. The yearning that God places inside us never leaves, even if we turn our backs. But I think it’s very important for parents to bring their children to Mass, esp. fathers. I remember reading that there is a huge correlation between the father attending Mass and children keeping the faith as they get older.

        As far as the article goes, no teenager speaks like this, so the survey itself is not trustworthy. I’d be asking for real quotes, not this paraphrasing. And you wonder what good things were left out.

  3. John says:

    “At some level teenage rebellion is just a phase.”

    One that never ends for too many! Myself included. :)

  4. Jeanne G. says:

    Msgr., I am pretty sure that this was a survey where there were canned questions and the young people had to state “agree or disagree” that would explain the leading language. It is just a shame that they don’t let the kids speak for themselves rather than putting words into their mouths.

  5. Mary Floore says:

    I think you are right on here Father! Anyone who spends any amount of time with the group being identified in this report will quickly realize the verbage is not consistent among this group. Good call.

    This culture is working fast and furious in attempting to push whatever is going to sell in means of monetary gains. When will the media be held responsible for the untruth and trash they sell and promote? Sadly, sex sells and has been costing all of us a lot! We continue to bear the diseased fruits of the sexual revolution. Praise be to God that the Catholic church stands firm in its teachings in this area!

    As a catechist I am constantly reminding the parents of my students that it is their responsibility to raise their children in the faith and assist in developing a relationship with God and leading them to their home in Heaven. The world will keep all of us distracted and busy. Is it the busy that will bring about our salvation or a busy that will allow the enemy the crack he seeks to enter? Without a life IN Christ discernment becomes difficult if not impossible. Our children regardless of their place in life continually learn by the examples of their parents…young, old, and in between!!!! They are watching, what are we teaching?

    I am a sidewalk counselor outside of an abortion mill where I am continually give the opportunity to remind individuals about the sacred gift of sexuality. Reminding them that human sexuality is a gift given to us by God! A gift to be used in a married committed state to affirm the love between a man and a woman, that ultimately brings about life. This culture excitedly engages in the affirmation of ‘love’ but chooses not to embrace the ‘life’ of that love. As people listen not one individual I have ever spoken to will dispute that fact with me.

    This world is starving for the truth/Truth. Where does the Truth reside? In that place we call “Church.” The wedding feast is taking place, the invitations have been sent, not all will RSVP. So we remember that each one of us is the Body of Christ, we ARE the church, let us all depart from the “culture” and enter into the World of our Creator leading by example…His example!

    If we aren’t willing to lead,we better be darn careful who we follow…….There will be a price to pay and eternal consequences for all we do and don’t do!

  6. Cynthia BC says:

    An oft-repeated mantra among Human Resources (aka Personnel) professionals is: Workers don’t leave their employers, they leave their supervisors. In other words, how one perceives an employer as a place to work is in large part based on one’s relationship with one’s immediate supervisor. The degree to which the immediate supervisor affects one’s decision to resign has been consistently supported by research in the field of business management.

    From that perspective I think it would be far more enlightening to ask teens and young adults about the relationships they have/have had with the ordained and lay leaders within their parishes than to ask for their perceptions of the Church in general.

    • Micha Elyi says:

      Once, I left an employer because of the firm’s Human Resources department. HR departments themselves do a lot of damage to the worker/supervisor relationship. The joke among workers in Silicon Valley is their HR managers think the multitude of Dilbert cartoons posted on cubicle and cafeteria walls are making fun of what other companies are like.

    • Audrey says:

      Yes, I completely agree with this. Teens who feel that they cannot be upfront with their parish priest are much more likely to fall away.

  7. Kevin P (UK) says:

    Once again, this report is another anti-Catholic statement by the mainstream media.
    Teen-agers are no different today than 50 years ago. Their faith means nothing to them as what they see around them is that other people’s Faith is not been lived out either (hypocritical lifestyles which Jesus condemned in His time as well).
    It is true though that ‘real Heroes’ are required for the young (and us oldies as well) to follow.
    The suggestion that Peter Kreeft came up with recently about Bishop’s standing up for the Faith by carrying images of the results of abortion in a public protest, would make most people sit up and think.
    This would draw people back to the Faith as they would see a principled response to the current situation.
    Is it not strange that where the growth of the Faith is most evident across the world is where Christians are suffering persecution? Almost 10% growth under persecution and a similar level of decline in the ‘industralised’ world.
    “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself”. (probably not an entirely correct quote but the meaning is hopefully clear)
    Christ did not try to explain or clarify when he spoke about the institution of the Eucharist after the Feeding of the 5k, so do we need to chase after the crowd and justify what is said today.
    Evidence of lives lived out in vibrant Faith is what is required and the numbers would look after themselves BUT It is quality not quantity that is needed though.

    By the way when you said “And while it is true that Jesus said we should go to all the nations, he did say we could, should, or would please most of them.” : has a negative been missed out here ?.

    Keep up the good work Monsignor

    • Jonathan Hieb says:

      You need to get your head straight if you think that faith means nothing to teens because you couldn’t be farther from the truth. If that’s what you think than you can see why kids get discouraged and leave the church . Do some volunteer work you will see why Jesus said let the children come to me.

  8. Ann says:

    Yes, teenagers will leave, and they are going to continue to leave.
    This is about the family. This is not something a parish can solve with more youth groups or activities or whatnot.
    If a family doesn’t go to Mass every week, kids know it is not important, and you can count on your kids not practicing the faith as adults. Kids are smart, very smart. Skip enough Masses for sports games, and a parent has taught the lesson very clearly.

    I think it’s important to acknowledge that many people do want to “come home” as adults however. Parents need to pray for their adult children and keep encouraging them.

    • Micha Elyi says:

      Little children are taught a child’s version of the faith. For some, that’s all they need for their whole lifetime. For many, that child-sized faith becomes as outgrown as the clothes they wore as children. As people grow and enter young manhood and womanhood, they have little help or catechesis that leads them to a faith tailored for adults. That, I believe, is why people begin walking away from the faith in the teenage years.

  9. Marcel LeJeune says:

    A few notes about the study, which I blogged about as well.

    1 – It isn’t just about Catholics, but about all Christians.
    2 – They point out that there are two bad responses churches have made, (remember they are focussing on Protestant Evangelicals more than anything). They say the two bad responses are minimizing the concerns of the youth or catering to them. Neither is healthy. I have to agree.

    We cannot just write off trends within our young adults. As someone who has worked in campus ministry for 10 years, I have to say the trends in our culture, in regards to faith issues, are not good.

    The simplest answers are these – we need saints and we need Catholics to evangelize.

  10. Jeff Galloway says:

    Perhaps we could ask teenagers why they HAVEN’T left the church? Even at a parish level it would be enlightening. And, unlike teenagers that have left, there is the possibility of follow-up and more in-depth evaluation.

  11. Peter Wolczuk says:

    I feel obliged to agree that the statistics are a strong indicator of “leading questions” and recall that one of the best examples of a leading question (in my opinion) is, “have you stopped beating your wife; yes or no?” It doesn’t take a lot of thought to see that either answer could be interpreted as an indicator that the person responding has, at one time anyhow, been a spouse beater.
    Looking back a few decades, any of my encounters in organized religion which would have led me to select the “boring” box on a multiple choice survey would have been better described as lacking challenge. Through the late 1960′s and the 1970′s there was such an effort to remove so called offensive aspects that it was like the blood being drawn from an anemic patient. The call for heros could well include the challenges which young people crave and which heros tend to inspire.
    Also, some teenage phases which tend to be labelled with such negative appellations as “rebellion” might be described as young people crying out for room to experience growth without proper and prudent caution being distorted into wrapping them in metaphorical cotton batting. A somewhat recent belief of mine which Bender seems to cover much better than I feel I could in the response which includes, “need to find faith on their own”
    Another reason I abandoned (bit by bit) my quest to reconnect with the regular church attendance and exciting faith of my early childhood was from the number of times I was invited to an event which was portrayed as secular and turned out to be religious. I was usually angry; partly at myself for not checking after the first few times and partly outraged by the dishonesty which I saw as a sacrilege because of the deceit. Had they been honest they would have had a much better chance with me.
    I’m pretty sure that the main reason I left at about age eleven was mostly due to a growing obsession to isolate but, the simple and sincere faith that I’d become used to at the church I’d attended suddenly seemed to turn very hostile in a sort of fanatical way.
    When I tried to explain it to friends who are also in their late fifties they tried to convince me that it was because I had attended both church and Sunday school regularly for three years on my own with neither encouragement nor discouragement from my parents and. Well, wouldn’t that kind of vulnerability draw attention?
    Could the point of the last incident be about watching that an individual church not go too far off the track of proper doctrine and into a risk of cultishness?

  12. Steve C says:

    I can relate to Joshua’s statement in the beginning of the comments. I was a ‘cino’ through college & after college you could have asked me any question on the faith & I would have not going it right & never acted like a Christian outside of showing up at mass on Sunday & receiving the Blessed Sacrament living immorally. My brother saw me posting on facebook on politics & that started him posting on religion & he started learning our faith & then seeing him do that made me want to study as well or I may have left the church under nothing but ignorance & following a none practicing wife who liked the rock band ‘churches’ yet never attended them. I remember Jamaica during honeymoon I found a church for Sunday & I left thinking “I liked the atmosphere in the church” haha I started liking the ‘extra’ stuff like a good band in mass. Then I started reading & was say the old school Holy Sacrifice of the Mass & fell in love with it & realized it wasn’t about me & never knew what the mass was growing up except for ‘you had to go & couldn’t miss” so I blame lack of education on it (I’m big in self educating now haha trying to learn latin on own is tough but a challenge). Parents need to teach the fiath long before society gets to the kids. Mentioned in article how kids thought the teachings are ‘out of date’ well the society got to them first & its tough trying to tear them away from that way of thinking.

    But its worth the fight :) I was there at one point & could not be happier where I am now

  13. Brandy says:

    The rise of the secularist/humanist/atheist (and in some cases, protestant) thinking cannot be overstated. Relativistic, subjective truth is the rule everywhere outside the Church, and sadly, within some locales of the Church. Until we begin to counter these effectively arguments, the trend will continue.

  14. Tara J Stone says:

    David Kinnaman also wrote a book called “UnChristian,” which explored a survey he conducted about non-believers’ perceptions of Christians. If I recall from that book, his method of survey included both quantitative (“leading questions” with answers that range from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”) and qualitative (sitting down with subjects and getting the answers in their own words). His goal in conducting these surveys, I think, is not to discredit Christianity or the Church but to encourage a more authentic evangelization – an evangelization of love in action.

  15. John Bradley says:

    I was speaking with friend of mine last night about teaching Elementary Religious Education for students not in our parish school and the frustration of having to reteach things which my 5th and 6th graders should have learned at home. My friend suggested that the children should attend mass and the parents should be in class.

    I am not the primary teacher of religious education for my students only the assistant of the parents. My ministry is to help cultivate the seed of faith planted by the parents. Sadly in too many instances there is no seed planted, no prayer, no instruction, no bible at home and we wonder why we have a crises of faith in this country. The Supreme Court may have banned prayer and God in schools not in our homes.

  16. Jonathan Hieb says:

    I am 24 and until recently was a youth minister to four perishes for four years. I think that you underestimate the teens of today and always have, these kids are smart they know a lot more than you or I did at that age and know how to express themselves better then a lot of adults. The reason that they think that against this or that is because of poor teachings of the church. And the fact that the church confirms at eighth grade when kids couldn’t care less. After confirmation the church ignores them until its time for them donate money unless they have a good youth group(which is getting bet in years past) until you start TRULY carrying.for our youth and young adults the church will grow stale and shrink. And with all the changes that are plan for this year everything they have come to know about the church will change and for the young adults if they do decided to come back it will not be the same church that the remembered. And because of that millions will leave the church. Even though I am very strongly root in the church I have had the thought cross my mind the problem is for me where would I go that wouldn’t be a lie. If you would like to talk this over with me please send me an email

    • john says:

      same observation here.
      I’m from the Philipiines, middle aged, me and my family are involved in the charismatic renewal movement in our area..
      Indoctrination in the younger years should be strong and effective to counter present temptations to the kids.
      Our community sometimes gave outreaches to the teens and the responses are fantastic. Which means that it just needs the leading and continued stoking for these kids to kindle their natural love for God.
      Regular attendance to the mass should also be supplemented by growth teachings for them to deepen their knowledge and their faith, and maybe other activities for them to be identified into. Enthusiasm is high after the life in the spirit seminars and wanes after a time when there is no follow up.
      Seed planting at home is also important, so as with he parents showing the right example. For me I bring along all my three daughters during masses, church festivities, and community events and seminars whenever they are available. And the fruit could be seen. One of the kids is now even able to share on the word of God in our community and had even invitations in some communities. They are even the ones reminding us parents when we go astray.

  17. Kristina LA says:

    One word in Steve C’s blog stood out for me. ‘READING’. I had choices of books and magazines to read as a young teen, and they focused on a particular ‘interest’ of what I wanted to learn about. Being a young curious adult, I found reading ‘romance’ paperbacks dove into a life of ‘free anything’. This was an adolescent stage, but at the same time I chose to read true stories about Prison to Praise books….etc.

    I also had a keen interest in reading ‘Biographies’ of those who had experiences with God in their lives. This type of reading got me more and more ‘WANTING’ to be closer to God, and also attend Mass on a daily basis. The more books I read about the Nuns, Saints, etc. the more I could identify with them. I have a library full of books I’ve bought on Ebay….so I can learn about the lives of people who have lived with the love of God as their goal.

    I was one who could not be ‘told’ anything…because I wanted to experience it for myself, which is why I loved reading, I have taught CCD to the junior high for 6 years, and I have enjoyed ‘listening’ to them more than my teaching, even though we ALL were learning together~~!!! Being an adult and one the students could look up to for questions and concerns, I ENJOYED their company when I taught Catechism. I know they EACH have to make their minds up to what they would like to do in their life…One thing I did STRESS was that God has GIVEN TO EACH OF US a special GIFT. I encouraged them to USE their gifts and see how this can work out in their lives as a goal.

    I encouraged the junior high teens to CONSIDER being a Priest, or a Sister, or just remain single instead of feeling like they HAVE to be married to be happy. Marriage is an EXCELLENT VOCATION~~!!! There are other ‘CHOICES’ out there for the young to think about. I have been a number of times with the Sisters in the Convent for a week’s stay….in various countries and cities. The Community of the Sisters is a beautiful way of life, as I saw it.

    Exposing BOOKS, MAGAZINES, INDIVIDUALS, ETC. who are doing God’s Service as a VOCATION, even a married couple…..can be GREAT TOOLS to supply for the youth. They are delicate with many more choices (tattoos, drugs, free sex, etc)….as compared to the simpler choices I had back in the 60s.

    Reaching at their level and being an attentive listener is a good step, and then going forward with offering materials or just short readings they can use on their own time, can allow them to ‘decide’….like watering the seed which was planted….

  18. Brother Mark says:

    I had a similar reaction to reading the article. Being in youth ministry for several years, this came across as out of place. I have rarely, if ever, actually encountered young people who match this. I don’t find kids thinking the Church isn’t with the times. I have found kids that have felt unwelcome, because of personal mistakes, and that is another issue. The way the article was phrased gives me the sense that participants were given all kinds of loaded terms, implying a sort of pressure for the teens to cooperate with the language. The narrative of the adults, I believe, colored the results and interpretation of the survey.
    Ironically, I can also say, I have also rarely, and almost never heard any priest give a homily on personal moral sin. It does make me wonder if the guilt has more to do with their own family faith upbringing.
    As someone who has worked in youth ministry for ten years, since I was a youth in youth ministry, I think this study is dubious.

  19. Jeremy says:

    I think you need to give teenagers a little more credit. There are plenty of teenagers whose vocabularies include “antagonize” and “demonize.” There are plenty of teenagers capable of giving the sort of responses reported here. If they are smart enough to write innumerable papers and essays, they are smart enough to give these answers. Questioning the methods of the study is perfectly legitimate, but simply dismissing the survey’s responses dodges the problem rather than solving it.

    • Well of course I am being a bit facetious. But the point is those are not words commonly used by teens. There were obviously leading questions in the survey. As for solving the age old problem of teens, I am waiting for Jeremy to publish the definitive book, make a million bucks and go on to fame.

  20. Nate says:

    “And 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Catholics said their church’s doctrine on sexuality and birth control is “out of date.”

    That is about a 55 percent improvement over their Baby Boomer parents. Seems like a positive trend.

  21. gradchica says:

    I’m 30, married 5 years, and expecting my second son. I left my Protestant church in college after nominal attendance during high school. I left because my home congregation was essentially a social club–when they got a new minister who–gasp!–talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus, people freaked out. Normal people didn’t talk like that–sheesh, only those crazy southern evangelical-types talked about Jesus as if he were a real, actual person with whom you’d have a real relationship! There was never any talk about Christianity’s truth claims, no less this particular denomination’s truth claims–in fact, it was openly acknowledged that no one had the real truth about Christianity. No real talk about miracles, just “nice stories” from the Bible. Religion was about being a nice person, not being a cheater/liar/general degenerate loser, and going to church occasionally was just what you did as a nice person and productive member of society, since to publicly identify yourself as without any religious/church affiliation made you “different” and left doubts as to your position vis-a-vis the “general degenerate” category.

    Shocking, then, that I stopped going to church. Why bother? I could be a nice person without church, although I would have still identified myself with that denominational label just to have something to tell people. Then I met my husband, a devout Catholic. I saw his faithful Mass attendance, the zillion crucifixes/statues/pictures of Jesus and Mary in his apartment, and his unpreachy but unwavering commitment to the unpopular doctrines of the Church, including the moral law. This was real, I thought–this church had a hold on his heart that I knew I could never break to turn him to my vague Protestant-nice-person-easy-living lifestyle. So I tried to break up with him. He told me that was BS and promptly bought out the entire “What Catholics Believe” pamphlet rack at church. He challenged me to learn more about the Church before I rejected it, so I took him up on it. A few years of Mass attendance, lots of reading, and a rigorous RCIA run by some scholarly and uncompromisingly orthodox yet likeable Dominicans, and I converted and haven’t looked back since.

    Dumbing down the faith to attract teens with pizza and movies won’t work. Challenging them to be radically different will. Everyone wants to feel called to heroism, to taking an unpopular or difficult stand in solidarity with others for the truth and for the betterment of mankind.

  22. Jo Anna says:

    Monsignor Pope, I have 7 children, 4 of whom are teenagers, and I would say you are exactly right in your analysis.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Msgr,

      On the other hand, given the near total collapse of classic liberal education in both public, private, and parochial schools (no Latin, no Greek, no Euclid, no seminar discussion, scarce reading of the classics, no introduction to the philosophical life, no introduction to what used to be called “Sacred Doctrine”), and given the complete victory of Baconian utilitarianism as the reigning educational philosophy (i.e. education is for money, “knowledge is power,” “Truth is what works”) and given the collapse of any idea of objective beauty in our institutions of fine art, and given the subsequent doctrine of aesthetic and moral relativism that necessarily steps in to fill the void …..I say given all this…. I am more surprised that there is anyone at all left in the Church! Indeed I consider it a miracle of grace that there are any churches open!!! Maybe even the fulfillment of a Divine promise?

      Imagine an entire people having been immersed and indoctrinated for generations, by a dogmatic view of science that only allows for material causes as a scientific explanation. Think of the hours of dogmatic indoctrination in which young people are taught to hold as infallible truth so called facts of science which they themselves can never demonstrate- or even understand a demonstration should one be given.

      It is a supreme irony that our generation is willing to believe as dogma in the unseen action of invisible forces like gravity and the movements of subatomic particles as the underlying explanation for much of the movement and change that we do see…BUT are inclined to hold as mysteries beyond discussion other invisible things like the human soul and the action of God and his angels- there is a selectively arbitrary dogmatism at work.

      How can any church expect to fill its pews for one hour a week to speak about immaterial and spiritual things, when we, and our children, have all been subjected to a rigorous education- five days a week for 12- 16 years on end- which teaches that the ultimate explanations for the world, for life, and for the very activity of the soul can be found in matter- and in the “latent” and “emergent” properties of matter?

      Is it any wonder that our clever teens begin to pick up on the disconnect between faith and reason? We ourselves as parents and educators slowly and methodically turn their minds off – we shut down even their natural wonder by our inability to satisfy their thirst for the truth.

      Here is my question for church going parents who insist on sending their teens to the local conventional private or public school. “how can you possibly think that your teen will ever remain ‘church going’ if you insist on sending him to a school where utilitarianism is the prevailing educational principle?”

      .

  23. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    The survey is most certainly biased in it’s construction and motivation. The Church is definitely under seige from social engineers bent on changing the mind set of “the masses” with subliminal education and conditioning starting with the youngest of empty minds waiting to be filled with revisionist morality. There is no easy solution to this situation when the new norm is to be acceptant of peoples feelings over established moral and spiritual laws created out of the historical lessons learned from failed civilizations’ behaviors. The hardest selling point the Church has at this point is convincing young people that it represents the authority and teachings of a two thousand year old legacy passed down from “The Messiah”, that is being marginalized or negated by the very legislative, judicial and social organizations that are vying for the postion of the dominant belief. Bye bye Miss American Pie.

  24. Stefanie says:

    “Dumbing down the faith to attract teens with pizza and movies won’t work. Challenging them to be radically different will. Everyone wants to feel called to heroism, to taking an unpopular or difficult stand in solidarity with others for the truth and for the betterment of mankind.” Amen to that! This is what Pope Benedict always reminds the young Catholics — that being a Catholic is an adventure worth the journey.

    I just finished another Teen RCIA session with our small group of six. It always amazes me that the three kids who have attended Catholic schools most of their lives know so little about our faith or the basic facts about Jesus. These are kids who are baptized and have not yet received First Holy Communion or Confirmation. One student routinely quotes The DaVinci Code as if it is the only gospel. I finally told her tonight that to do so is quoting heresy and that one could possibly be excommunicated if he/she truly believed that Jesus lusted after Mary Magdalene and had a child by her. That shocked her. She sincerely didn’t realize why it was wrong to entertain herself with such thoughts and apologized.

    Re: the article and book. I’ve been reading Barna books for years — it is the same old stuff, recycled. I suppose it is a ‘pollsters’ perogative to keep asking the same questions in order to get the same answers. The publishing co. gets good press though because most media enjoy bashing Christians. It’s worth studying to some degree because most Catholic leaders are so absorbed in their own corner of the world that they have the mistaken impression that the ‘woes’ of the Catholic Church are much worse within the rest of the Christian community, Catholics are so used to knee-jerk reactions to these type of surveys — or of the hand-wringing plea for more priests. Our separated brethren are encountering far greater troubles than we are — yet their voices are not always heard because they are so small in membership compared to the Catholic Church. Every day, small Christian churches are experiencing the scandals of bad leadership (finances, goals-set-too-high, disillusioned staff, over-bearing church boards, inappropriate behavior of teachers and volunteers, lack of decision-making that serves the many, abandonment of social justice programs due to lack of funding).

    The Barna Group came from a very emergent-flavored evangelical background that has now become increasingly critical of emergent-evangelicals. Emergent evangelicals favor small churches over mega-churches who reject institutional church yet are attracted to Catholic’ stuff like Stations of the Cross, confessing your sins on a regular basis (but since they don’t believe in the priesthood, there is no absolution), fasting & abstinance, Liturgy of the Hours, a Eucharist life (but since they don’t believe in the consecration, it remains a symbol of Jesus coming inside you–yet sadly, not the Real Presence). Many who embrace that type of Christianity play around on the edges of Catholicism but have a very deep suspicion of true Catholicism even while they are beginning to examine the history of the Church.

    Important to put the Barna folks in perspective.

    • Peter Wolczuk says:

      An excellent post that helps to clarify what I see as an exaggerated emphasis on nice. However;
      “Why bother? I could be a nice person without church.” Is this necessarily true? Many good intentions toward “nice” have caused damage due to a poor assessment (judgement) of their needs; a hidden desire to block challenges in order to smother the recipients’ growth so as to create a dependence; etc; etc. Who should the dependence of anyone I mentor be on; myself or God? They can’t serve two masters – at least not with their whole soul and heart.
      With a sincere search for God’s guidance and our best effort to be receptive I believe that we can truly be nice to other people, although He may guide us into a learning experience that takes time and, can even seem frustrating unless we remember that His schedule is not like ours. Psalm 90:4 “A thousand years are to You like a yesterday which has passed, like a watch of the night.”
      Couple this with the call to heroism, which both you and gradchica mention, and we may find the inspiration we need to pass on such as; John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you must realise that it hated me before it hated you.
      19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice of you has drawn you out of the world, that is why the world hates you.
      A bit scary perhaps but, two secular sayings, “No guts no glory” leavened with a paraphrase of one that asks troops why their reluctant to charge – do they want to live forever? to; why the reluctance to charge, don’t you want to live forever?

  25. Paul L. says:

    The first problem is rolling all ‘church’ up into one indiscriminant ball of mush. The second problem is our concept of ‘school’ and ‘education’ and how we expect, even demand our children to participate in these SECULAR institutions. The third problem is that young people have been trained (compelled by law), through secular ‘education’ and especially in college and the media, to be cynical and doubt everything that isn’t a dogma of modern ‘science’ so there’s no place for wonder, mystery and never God. But the forth problem is the real problem. Kids have no idea of why they should need ‘Church’, and are constantly conditioned to believe that technology is the real and Only ‘God’. Church to them is completely obsolete; an institution born of primitive superstition and ignorance, which they will have thoroughly embedded in their minds by the end of their freshman year of college at the very latest.
    If the Catholic Church is going to retain Her children, (and they are children still), the Church has to reignite the desire to explore Real philosophy in the way former generations did: Looking for an ‘end cause’ of their personal/individual (specific) existence within the context of the Universal human experience. But they haven’t the tools, as they have not been taught to think rationally so they believe that all truth is subjective; truth being relative at best. They need to be exposed to Scholasticism again, where they can learn the nature of Universal and objective Truth, and they need to be able to use words in their original/etymological context. Without the proper use of words, and an authentic understanding of the Universal concepts they hold and represent, there can be no clarity of thought, and without clarity of thought there cannot be a place for Universal Truth. Without a prominent place for Universal Truth in the mind, the mind becomes a quagmire of darkness and a jungle of confusion; which is a pretty good description of the modern mind, particularly of the young (irrational by nature) modern mind.
    Furthermore, our catechism programs are a joke and a very bad joke that turn far more kids off to the Faith than on. Our Catholic Schools are rarely any different than public schools in what and how they teach.……………..Our Bishops need to get serious about teaching like good Catholics again.
    We glorify the very institutions that undermine the Faith and glorify Secularism—Public Schools and Academia. Then we wonder why our kids leave and become thoroughly secular???? The Church needs the step up and be at least a check on these negative institutions, and stop insisting we feeding our children to the heathen fire in the name of education and prosperity. We are sending our children off to be trained by those who hate us and actively plan and promote our destruction then we wonder why our children leave us?????
    We better wake up and pull really hard on the stick pretty soon; the ground is getting really close and we are in a serious nosedive! But who’s piloting this ‘aircraft’ anyway? The pilot’s seat usually looks empty. Anyone seen a Bishop around lately, or is he still in the restroom, again, overwhelmed by fear of his responsibilities as an Apostle that is suppose to challenge the Pagan/heathen State which has commandeered nearly all institutions of ‘education’?
    Here’s my recommendation to all our Bishops: Flush the cheesy feely-good catechism programs down the toilet while you’re in the rest room, and start teaching some good old Scholasticism again. Offer some good countermeasures to what these young minds are exposed to in public schools and college. Start with teaching our children that the Catholic Church is not part of that ball of mush the secular world calls ‘church’. Leo XIII would approve as would all the Saints, and Jesus Himself will bless you and your efforts and the Catholic Church will again become the Beacon of Hope and Light that calls us all (young and old) out of the dark jungle of ignorance and confusion.
    Dear Bishops,
    Being charitable isn’t enough; Christ chartered you (Bishops) to feed AND Lead His sheep! Feeding is easy; even the secular world smiles when you do it (because then, they don’t have to). Leading takes guts as the secular world does not smile on those who would dare be rivals to its amoral power and authority. Catholic schools and Catechism programs need to become the philosophical battlefield again, where the concepts that shape and form the young mind can be thoroughly compared and conflict against each other where the best and most worthy concept is victorious over the other in the individual young mind. That’s how young minds are formed and Faith becomes REAL. As it is now, it will take an active manifestation of Christ Himself, beyond the Sacrament, to bring our youth back to the Faith, because our Bishops have abandoned them to die in the pagan wilderness and haven’t the courage to even call to them, let alone dust off their rusty swords and go out and fight for them.
    Take back your Schools and teach Scholasticism again. Prepare the soil and plant the seeds of Universal (aka-catholic) Truth. Only then can you expect a harvest beyond weed, thorn and bramble.

    • Mark says:

      Paul- you have the right idea. Bravo! Sounds a little harsh at times- but I think your message is “spot on.”

      The beauty of scholastic education (among other things) is its ability to focus the mind on final causes and purpose. An education that begins with fostering wonder and ends in wisdom- an education that forcibly demonstrates that grace builds on nature- that the sciences are handmaidens to the Faith.

      How laughable it is – and a testimony to our impoverished “social studies” courses that students have been led to believe almost universally that the Catholic church is opposed to “science,” when in reality it is the one institution that has been the certain safeguard and promoter of science and reason while throughout the rise and fall of societies and nations.

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our Bishops could resurrect the idea of authentic Catholic education- instead of continuing to promote the traditional evidently ineffective conventional catholic schools that are nothing but secular schools with a “catholic veneer.” (granted that there are many extraordinary and heroic people working behind the scenes in these schools- I am talking about the institutions as a whole)

      Step 1. Re-establish strong Latin studies in every Catholic high school (consider Homeric Greek as well as a treat for the very bright)
      step 2. Return the study of Euclid as the glory of high school Mathematics (no better way to defeat skepticism in the young mind- as well as the very best way to teach Logic to the young)
      Step 3. Throw out text book science and start reading real scientists that promote wonder (Like J.H. Fabre and Lorenz)
      Step 4. Throw out every religion text book and simply have high school students read the Catechism one section at a time- preferably starting with The Catechism of Trent- and continuing with the Catechism of the Catholic Church! Discussing these texts over their whole high school career with teachers that are themselves educated and thinking Catholics.

  26. Sam Schmitt says:

    The book by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton as to why young people stop religious practice, “Soul Searching,” is much more insightful – and accurate. They coined the phrase “Moralistic therapeutic deism” summarized in 5 points which pretty much sum up what many young people actually believe – among them: “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions,” “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

    There’s little or no sense we are completely dependent on God, that we are called to a personal relationship with Him within the context of the Church, that our life is meant to glorify Him. It’s not too difficult to see that accordint to this paradigm religious practice is as an extra at best, a nuisance or even a threat to my happiness at worst. As gradchica says above: “Shocking, then, that I stopped going to church. Why bother? I could be a nice person without church.”

  27. mdepie says:

    THe whole problem and its solution have been summed up above with two statements, first the reason why kids drop Christianity was summed up nicely above with the last line “Why bother? I could be a nice person without church.” Great line!

    I have 3 teenage kids. They have gone to school in 4 different Catholic schools, and I have been through 2 Parish run confirmation programs. Rest assured the message they get tells them the goal is to be “nice” and that everyone can go to heaven even “atheists”. This pretty much nails it. If true I an not sure exactly why one would opt for Christianty, at say 16, 17, 18 years old, there are, after all, those troublesome rules about sex,. ( These rules were at least troublesome when I was a 17 year old boy) and if atheists are getting into heaven anyway, I am not sure what the “upside” is. I recall a line my oldest Son heard from a classmate.. Ok Jesus loves me… so what? “How is my life different? This in a theology class at a Catholic school! Charming, don’t you think? Healing ones “brokenness”, a popular line the kids get, will not cut it. Most mentally healthy teenagers ( or adults for that matter) do not consider themselves “broken” . Wicked at times… now that might be another story.

    The start of a solution was the great line by Paul L “Here’s my recommendation to all our Bishops: Flush the cheesy feely-good catechism programs down the toilet while you’re in the rest room, and start teaching some good old Scholasticism again. ” Beyond that everything else he said is on the money.

    There is no mystery to this, what is going on is fecklessness among those running the show. When someone takes Paul L seriously things will get better. Until they do, there will be a lot of naval gazing among various people while the world continues a slide into a moral absyss.

  28. Amy says:

    If parents live the faith, I mean really live it, not pay lip service, then the children will likely follow. We didn’t always understand this, but by the Grace of God, my husband and I came to the truth. Families need to pray with their teens even more than they did when they were tucking them into bed as toddlers. Graduating from the simple wrote bedtime prayers to the Divine Office helps breed maturity that is lacking in most teens.Compline at our house is usually followed by some interesting conversation. I don’t know what it is about bedtime, but that seems to be when they want to talk. Prayer, worship, meat and potatoes catechism, close relationships, and interesting intellectual conversation (and good humor!) creates an environment in which teens can thrive in their faith. Kids need guidance from good parents who participate in the Sacraments and can explain the beauty and truth of the Church. I have yet to meet a drifting teen who has had a rich, traditional Catholic upbringing. It’s up to us to do the work. God be with us!

    • Praying mother says:

      Amy…I invite you to my home to mee the “drifting teen” who has had a “rich, traditional Catholic upbringing”.

    • Praying mother says:

      Amy…I invite you to my home to meet the “drifting teen” who has had a “rich, traditional Catholic upbringing”.

  29. Maria says:

    I don’t mean to be offensive, but i found this on the internet and i’m quite concerned by it. I’m 15, and although it may not be the norm, i’m certainly intelligent enough to use words like ‘demonize’ and ‘antagonisic’. I do read and take conscious steps to educate myself, rather than being ‘just a young man slouched in a chair, hands in his pocket, looking up and about, somewhat dazed, bored and with mild contempt on his face.’ What you seem to be missing is the fact that judging from this article, your view on teenagers is very negative, and you seem to see us as not intelligent and mature enough to make our own decisions as to whether to join the church or not. This is clearly a negative thing, and i wouldn’t want to be part of a society where adults are as patronizing as you seem to be. I do not want to cause offense by saying this, but maybe if you opened your mind a little more and valued us as intelligent beings, teenagers would not be as likely to leave your church.

    • The point to which you object is facetious. But the fact is most teens don’t use words like demonize and antagonistic. Further one 15 yr old, (you) does not equal all 15 year olds. Trends bespeak broad matters. But in the end a 15 yr old is not mature, he or she is only 15, they are not adults. They are in a stage of development between childhood and adulthood. You seem to be asking for a kind of sensitivity that disregards the truth of the matter, which is that teens are not adults and they do have traits that pertain to their developmental stage. I regret that this offends you and seems patronizing, but it is not intend to offend or patronize. It is a view that, while facetious in places, is rooted in real observation and experience an adult who has been there but now sees from another perspective.

      • Audrey says:

        I am 19 years old and currently in my second year of college and some of the points mentioned in the article were my exact thoughts. Sometimes, I have felt distanced from the church because I have had questions. I feel that when I ask questions about the faith or doubt things I don’t understand, I am told, ‘oh, hush, hush. You don’t understand it.’ I don’t want to be told that I can’t comprehend the reasons behind a teaching and brushed aside. You remind Maria that she is a teenager and therefore does not have as many life experiences, but this is what pulls teens from the faith. The idea that we don’t know what is best for us and to keep quiet.

        Most teenagers aren’t looking to rebel, they are looking for truth and they feel that their questions, concerns and opinions are instantly rejected because they are young. While I agree that teens (including myself) are still developing and obviously have fewer life experiences, illigetimizing their concerns because of their age only pushes them further away. ‘Doubting Thomases’ feel condemned for lacking a blind faith and teens who are struggling with their faith are feeling increasingly ostracized by the Church. The feeling that the church is unfriendly to doubters is certainly not limited to the baby boomers.

        While, I feel that most high school age youth know words like demonize and antagonistic, for the sake of the argument, I will say that they don’t. However, I just don’t feel that is a proper reason to throw out the article. Whether the questions were worded in a way that is more complex than the average teenager’s dialect or not, you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Clearly, many teens are feeling that way or they would not have responded in agreement.

        Finally, I am 100 percent positive shallow is a word used by teenagers. Typically, it is used to describe a person they feel doesn’t have a lot of depth, but I can definitely see it being used in the context of faith. As the media and other outlets flood teenagers with dark concepts and harsh realities, they are seek guidance from the faith they have grown up with. However, many are disappointed by the lack of support they receive from their community. I have a friend that was sexually assaulted while at a party drinking our senior year of high school. After struggling for months, we decided she should talk to our parish priest and he would be able to help her. She was basically told that she needed to get her life on track or things like that would happen. (Ouch.) Yes, the situation would not have happened if she had been making good decisions, but she was reaching out for help and found the shallow response of, ‘Brush it off and try again.’ Not nearly the support a victim of a such an act would need. Many times, men’s and women’s groups are shallow as well. We speak about the need to grow closer to God, but no one really delves into the serious issues on their hearts. Men don’t feel that they are able to reach out for help in their parish if they are struggling with pornography. They feel like they receive a slap on the wrist and our sent on their way. Women struggling with the media’s image of the perfect woman look to their church for help, but find nothing. This leads the teenagers into feeling isolated and that the Church really can’t provide for them what they are looking for. Our spirituality is the deepest part of who we are, yet teens feel that they can’t express who they truly are in their community. While some teens are bored and some teens do just want to ‘do what they want,’ it cannot be ignored that THIS is what pulls teenagers way. Teens who have fallen feel broken and confused. Teens who doubt feel that they should simply believe. They are looking for answers and they find hardened hearts, telling them they don’t know what is best. They feel that the faith is shallow and only looking for those who represent the ‘cookie cutter’ Christian.

        While I agree that ‘a sin is a sin’ and we can’t simply be a church of ‘warm fuzzies’, rejecting the idea that our choices have consquences, I feel like many teens fall away because they don’t know how to pick themselves back up after a fall and they have no one in the church to turn to.

        Now, please don’t get me wrong. I agree that we are who we are and the faith will have the seasons that Paul spoke about. I agree that we cannot change our faith to fit the times. The main reason I decided to comment was because I felt like you were very quick to throw out an article that could potentially have some very helpful insight into how teenagers feel about faith at this time.

  30. Maria says:

    Of course, I’m well aware that my personal studious norms are certainly not the norm for teenagers as a whole, and that I am not entirely mature; but from my experience so far, having talked to many of my peers on religious matters such as these, they do feel that the church regards them and their questions as invalid because they are young and haven’t had the time to investigate and resolve all their problems fully.

    I’m not trying to contradict your entire argument or offend you – merely saying that if you gave these teens your time and truly listened to them and gave them useful advice rather than simply patronizing them or brushing them away, you might get more teens who stayed with the church. I’m aware that this is a small factor and there are many who leave the church because they don’t feel the teachings are relevant to them and for many other reasons, but this is certainly one of the reasons, that you could easily address.

  31. Praying mother says:

    Thank you…thank you…thank you for helping me to see some hope. My son was born and raised a Catholic. I thought he was a believing, practicing Catholic until recently. He shared with me (which I am grateful for) that he sees himself as more of an agnostic right now, that he is questioning so much, and that nothing that I say or give him to read will change his mind. I was crushed as this conversation came during our Advent time toghether this evening. I was feeling terribly alone and tried to find comfort in a prayer to St. Monica. I am going to keep modeling and sharing my Catholic faith without ceasing, but I will take into account what you have shared. Thank you…thank you for this: (your words)…”So our task seems clear. We must not cease to evangelize, but we must also realize that these may be times of sowing more than harvesting. Turing around things simply and quickly may be difficult. But above all we must never compromise the Gospel merely to draw numbers. The Church must be the Church. I am working to double the numbers at my parish this year. But we’re not going to do it by being conforming to consumerist demands, but by being compelling in the proclamation of the truth faith.” You have helped me to frame this experience as a mission to pray, to share, and not to give up. I sometimes forget that our faith allows us to be challenged and to grow closer to God and our faith through that challenge. I’m going to keep on sowing and will prayerfully wait until the day I can once again feel like I can harvest.

  32. Lizzie Reezay says:

    I’m an 18-year-old teenager and I found this article super offensive.

    First of all, I love God and am super passionate about spreading Christianity. But I would label the Church as shallow (more religious than spiritual) and very antagonistic to science. And I’m certain that most teenagers know what the word “antagonism” means! haha

    Anyways, Church needs to become more modern in its worship service (not entertaining, just modern songs) and they need to read from a modern translation of the Bible (get rid of KJV!) if they expect teenagers keep coming back to church.

  33. T.F. says:

    My wife and I raised two sons who are now in college who attend churches and are maturing and continuing on in their faith. The reason? My wife and I were dissatified with “cheerleading squad” churches where the cheerleaders are leading the team instead of the coaches. We purposely found a Bible teaching church about 35 miles away from our home and our boys learned how to study the Word of God with a verse by verse expository teacher in the pulpit. Instead of getting preached at with the gospel week after week the Bible teaching culture gave our sons a gift of “show me don’t tell me” approach to the Bible. The teacher encouraged critical thinking and all questions but always pointed our son’s to the foundation of their lives. This is what young Christians are yearning for but the majority of non Bible teaching churches offer a spiritual nutritional value of about zero. And youth groups are the worst places for young people because there is usually no leadership when it comes to Bible teaching. Don’t be fooled by pastors that claim that they “cover” the scriptures – that is not the same thing as teaching which is hard work, dedication, and the spiritual gift of teaching to get it done. Seriously, anyone can print a sermon from an online website and read it to the audience to then call it ministry! Come on! The modern church is in a huge crisis because there is no teaching leaders anymore, just cheerleaders who love to make you feel good and our young people are starving for nutrition. I would also say that fathers must show the leadership to get their families to these teaching churches which means you may say no to what you are used to. God will bless this in your children and you so get it done!

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