The Barna Research Group

25 12 2007

survey.jpg “Your partner for information, strategy, execution, and transformation” as they refer to themselves, released an update for October 2007 on “What Teenagers Look for in a Church.”

The most common elements sought by young people were:

“to worship or make a connection with God” (45% described this as very important)

“to better understand what I believe” (42%).

“to spend time with close friends” (34%),

“to get encouraged or inspired” (34%),

“to volunteer to help others” (30%).

“learning about prayer” (26%),

“listening to religious teaching” (26%),

“participating in discussions regarding religion and faith” (23%),

“being mentored or coached in spiritual development” (21%),

“discovering the traditions of their faith” (20%),

“participating in a study class about faith” (19%),

“studying the Bible” (18%).

When asked to choose between a church that teaches the traditions and background of their faith or a church that teaches how their faith should influence everyday decisions and lifestyle, most teenagers preferred the latter (39% versus 16%).

However, underscoring the fact that spirituality is only skin-deep for many teens, a plurality of teenagers (45%) admitted they would not care for either type of church. 

 How predictable that the teenagers’ top percentage answer just happens to contain the current pop-Christian “buzz” word – “connection.” It reminds me of the Miss America contestant who says that “world peace” is her number one desire for mankind. 

 I also noticed the manipulative words used in the “which would you choose” question.  Ask teenagers to choose between two options and in one have the words “traditions” & “background” and in the other have the words “everyday” & “lifestyle” and which one do you think will win? 

What this survey tells us and the only thing it tells us is that teenagers see things like teenagers. Look at what’s first and last, they want to worship and connect with God but they don’t want to study the Bible. That is like saying they want to graduate from High School but they don’t want to study or learn anything to do it. Sounds just like teenagers, doesn’t it?  

Responsible adults will continue to insist that teenagers buckle down and study in school and church, no matter what the folks at Barna report.

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4 responses

9 01 2008
jonathon smith

Having been in youth ministry for 16 years full time in the metroplex ……I think Barna is right on.

I think you are being way to critical. Did Barna say that you shouldn’t try to get teens to study their bible or did he just put the facts of the survey out there?

If you reworded the question and said “connecting with God by studying your bible” I still think you would undoutedly have a really low percentage.

You can’t blame this on the world…..I know Christian parents who stick their kids in front of video games and TV’s to get them out of their “hair” as much if not more than lost parents. Study is just not an idea that anyone including adults have ever really been excited about…….it kind of goes back to what the bible says “much study is a weariness to the flesh”. That’s not Barna’s fault he’s just telling the truth.

You could take the second highest answer which is “understanding what I believe” as meaning that teens know that they need someone to guide them in understanding the doctrines which are in the Bible”.

From my years of experience the most important thing teens are looking for is a place where they are accepted “Just as I am” and they know they will be unconditionally loved in both Word and Deed!

9 01 2008
kclick

I appreciate your comments and value your experience in youth ministry.

The philosophy of “unconditional acceptance” has been in vogue for at least a quarter century now and its fruits are abundantly visible.

I don’t think I’m being overly critical. I’m just stating the facts as I have experienced them over the years. Barna is in the business of selling surveys and statistics to those who will buy them. Those most likely to buy them have a philosophy and world view that expects certain results. Barna supplies those results. It’s the same system that has been in place for decades.

Sinners like to sin and don’t like to be confronted with any consequences. It’s self-evident (like saying healthy people live longer). Do we really need research surveys to confirm these things?

The enemy has convinced multitudes that it is “unloving” and “unchristian” to do anything but accept sinners “just as they are.”

The whole “unconditional acceptance” teaching is really a subtle attack on the righteousness of God, but few see it.

14 04 2008
lisaoflongbourn

I’m not a teenager, but if I want to learn about a church’s history or traditions, I can read a book. What I need from church is people to remind me and encourage me to live by faith, a holy life, every day. Our church’s youth group likes to throw topics out there, get kids thinking about and discussing them and wondering if God has something to say on the matter. But I think that people – teens included – need to know what works, not what other teens are trying or all the theories out there. Though they may deny absolutes, they need them. I don’t believe the teens want to make mistakes and mess up their lives – but no one is giving them direction because all the leaders are afraid of alienating them.

So much Bible study written for teens doesn’t go deep enough to be interesting or relevant. And the Bible is interesting and relevant and does involve a connection. I’m with the kids. Neither church in the survey is what the Bible describes.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

14 04 2008
lisaoflongbourn

PS: Don’t disparage teenagers. Hold them to high standards. A lot of them do like to learn, and are willing to study. I don’t think they’re an all-for-nothing group. They’re trying to cope with a world/culture that doesn’t make sense.

What if we asked these questions to adults?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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