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Though a majority of teens and young adults identify as Christian, a new study suggests that only 15% of them have personal relationships with Christ and are deeply committed.
Most American “Millenials” – those born between 1980 and 1991 – don’t pray regularly. Few read their Bibles or other religious texts, and many don’t attend church on a weekly basis, according to a LifeWay Research study.
“[W]e cannot forget the vast majority of lost young people in this generation. Our hearts should be broken with this reality,” said Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. “We should be convicted if we do not yet have a heavy burden to reach this generation.”
Sixty-five percent of Millennials called themselves a Christian in the study that was conducted on 1,200 young Americans in August 2009. But Rainer estimates that 85% of young people are lost.
“Many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only,” Rainer told USA Today. “Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.”
According to the study, one-third of all Millennials agreed strongly that they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today. Nearly a quarter agreed somewhat.
Rainer, who has been researching the younger generation for an upcoming book, has hope in the few who are deeply committed Christians.
“Millennial Christians will not settle for business as usual in our churches,” he said. “They will not be content with going through the motions, programs without a purpose, and spectator Christianity. They take their faith seriously, and they have little patience with churches that focus most of their resources on the members.”
While most surveyed young people believe Christian churches are relevant today, only 28% agreed strongly.
Half of those who trust Christ as Savior, and 67% who self-identified as “Christian” indicated they do not attend worship services on a weekly basis.
More than half (56%) of self-identified Christians rarely or never read the Bible and 38% rarely or never pray by themselves.
Notably, almost three out of four Millennials agreed that they are more spiritual than religious. Even those who trust Christ as Savior were particularly likely to describe themselves as more spiritual than religious (74%).
The study noted that the popular SBNR label “is no longer a term that means ‘I don’t have any particular beliefs but believe in spirituality in general.’”
Forty-four percent of self-identified Christians agreed strongly that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Among those who trust Christ as Savior, 81% agreed strongly. Only 16% of young people who don’t attend religious worship services indicated the same strength of accord.
Moreover, 26% of Christians agreed strongly that salvation is through God’s grace alone.
In other findings, only a quarter agreed strongly that the Bible is the written word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches. Only 30% strongly believe Jesus Christ was sinless. And the most common belief among Millenials about life after death is that “no one really knows.”
“Millennials are the most religiously diverse generation in our culture’s history,” Rainer said. “Unsure of the afterlife and the life of Jesus, Millennials present the church with a great opportunity to engage them in conversations dealing with the nature of truth and its authority as God.”
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — Nine teens have been charged in the “unrelenting” bullying of a teenage girl from Ireland who killed herself after being raped and enduring months of torment by classmates in person and online, a prosecutor said Monday.
Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley was stalked and harassed nearly constantly from September until she killed herself Jan. 14. The freshman had recently moved to western Massachusetts from Ireland.
“The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school. The bullying for her was intolerable,” Scheibel said.
Six teens — four girls and two boys — face charges including statutory rape, assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly and stalking. Three younger girls face delinquency charges.
Scheibel said the harassment began in September. She said school officials knew about the bullying, but none will face criminal charges.
“The actions of these students were primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session,” the prosecutor said.
Scheibel refused to discuss the circumstances of the rape charges.
Prince’s family has moved away from the area and could not immediately be located for comment. Scheibel spoke for them at a news conference to announce the charges.
“The Prince family has asked that the public refrain from vigilantism in favor of allowing the judicial system an opportunity to provide a measure of justice for Phoebe,” she said.
Some students accused of participating in the bullying have been disciplined by the school and will not be returning to classes.
Scheibel said the case is still under investigation, and there may be additional charges.
The Massachusetts Legislature cited Prince’s death and the apparent suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield last year when members passed anti-bullying legislation earlier this month.
Post-high school years have often been cited as a season when most students struggle in their Christian faith and leave the church. But recent research shows that that might not be the case.
Fuller Youth Institute released findings on Tuesday showing that two to three years after finishing high school, students said they were feeling “closer to God.”
Over 400 students were asked the open-ended question “Since leaving high school, what’s changed about the way you view God?” Among the 14 different responses given, the top three categories of change were all positive changes.
Feeling closer to God, believing that God is bigger than they once thought, and having a greater understanding that God is with them and for them were the largest categories of responses.
Other categories included “I have no more relationship with God,” “I don’t think it has changed much,” and “I have experienced God’s faithfulness more deeply than I ever understood it in high school.”
The findings are part of Fuller Youth Institute’s College Transition Project, a longitudinal study of over 400 youth group graduates during their first three years in college. The project was launched in 2006 to better understand what provides for a better transition from high school to college especially when it comes to faith.
Previous research and estimates by youth workers suggested that a majority of youth group seniors struggle with their faith and with connecting to a faith community after graduating from youth group. Initial research through the College Transition Project revealed that about 40-50% of students struggle in their faith after graduation.
But two to three years later, students were found to be experiencing positive changes when it came to their faith.
“They said that they now see God as more active, involved, and important in their day to day reality,” the Fuller Youth Institute reported.
“I view God on a much more individual level and feel as though he is much more a part of my life, mostly because I allow him to be more a part of it,” one student said, according to the research report.
Students cited spiritual disciplines and involvement in Christian communities as sources of or support for their faith integration.
Many students also said they became closer to God through the adversity and challenges they faced since leaving high school.
Another common theme reflected in the open-ended responses given was the new perspective that God is more sovereign and less black and white.
“Students who once thought God existed to serve them, ‘now see that there are some things that [God] will say no to. He’s not subject to our will but we are subject to his,’” the report stated.
Additionally, many gained increased confidence in God’s goodness, love and grace towards them.
Youth workers are encouraged to use data from the research project to help shape their ministries and better equip young people so that they could grow and change in positive ways after they graduate high school. Helping students integrate life and faith is just one suggestion the youth institute makes.
The Fuller Youth Institute plans to develop resources based on its research for youth ministries.
As Janet Kornblum of USA Today remarks, America’s teenagers are growing up “with a mouse in one hand and a remote control in the other.” The generation Microsoft founder Bill Gates calls “Generation E” has never known a time when information was not instantly accessible on the internet, or when communication was not available at warp speed through instant-messaging, e-mail, and Internet websites.
Make no mistake—teenagers are wired and highly active online. According to the Teenage Life Online report released by The Pew Internet and American Life Project, over seventeen million teenagers use the Internet. According to the report, that represents 73% of all teenagers. “Teenagers’ use of the Internet plays a major role in their relationships with their friends, their families, and their schools,” the report explains.
All this leads to new opportunities, and to new dangers. One of the latest challenges faced by parents is the development of teenage blogging. Taking advantage of Internet websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Xanga, many teenagers and college students are creating personal blogs, which are essentially online diaries accessible to the public. As Kornblum explains, these teenagers “now pour out their hearts, minds, and angst in personal online diaries.”
She also describes the problem this way: “And anyone with a connection—including would-be predators—can have a front-row view of this once-secretive teenage passion play.”
Kornblum is correct. Teenagers are using blogs in unprecedented numbers. What was once communicated through phone conversations is now handled by instant-messaging. The content once secreted in the pages of hand-written diaries is now out for public consumption, and often with intimate details and personal information.
Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, California explains, “This is the new way kids interact. Fifty years ago, they borrowed their parents’ phones or made their own phones out of string and Dixie cups. Today they have their own cell phones, and they have their own computer accounts and Web pages, and they have their own blogs. It’s part of life in the cyber age.”
The Pew study estimates that at least four million teenagers now blog. These numbers do not even include pages found at some of the most popular Internet sites where young people are posting personal information and putting up personal Web pages.
Most observers agree that girls dominate blogging, even as in previous generations girls were far more likely than boys to keep personal diaries. Far too many parents are unaware of the dangers that lurk on the Internet.
Others are keeping a watchful eye on their children and their blogs. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that increasing numbers of parents have resorted to “spying” on their teenagers by visiting their blogs. Reporter Kevin J. Delaney took a look at this issue through the lens of one mother and her teenage daughter. This mother discovered that the daughter had lied about going to a high school football game with friends. By reading the girl’s blog, this mom discovered that her daughter had actually gotten into the car of a boy the mother did not even know and had gone to an ice-cream shop without permission.
Her daughter quickly figured out that her mother had traced her activities through her online diary and blog. Since then, this mom has attempted to use software programs to snoop on her daughter’s Internet use and the revelations of her personal life. According to Delaney, the mom spends approximately thirty minutes a day monitoring her daughter’s activities on and off the Internet.
“If my daughter had a diary in her room, I would not read it. But what she posts on the Internet is posted to the entire world,” the mother reported. Amazingly, some claim that teenagers’ blogs should be off-limits to parents. As Janet Kornblum reports, “Experts are divided about whether and how parents should treat the journals—especially when it comes to teens over 13.” Some argue that, since the material is published in public view, there should be no assumption of privacy. Others, Kornblum reports, “argue that reading journals is no different from eavesdropping on their kids.”
This debate tells us a great deal about how American culture has shifted authority from parents to teenagers. How can a concerned and loving parent not follow their teenagers’ online activities? No doubt, it’s a dangerous world out there. Furthermore, Christian parents should be very suspicious about any claims to “privacy” on the part of their teenage children.
The emergence of teenage blogs has created problems, not only for parents, but for high schools and colleges. Officials at North Carolina State University brought charges against several underage students when a residential advisor found on their Facebook blogs a picture of them drinking. “There is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” said Paul Cousins, director of the office of student conduct at the university. “So I have no concerns about any university becoming aware of an issue via Facebook and then following up on those concerns.”
In some cases, online blogging has led to real danger. Taylor Behl, a seventeen-year-old freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University was murdered this fall. Though officials are not certain whether her online activities had any direct relation to her death, Behl had used MySpace and similar sites and had posted intimate details and personal information. Pam Lepley, a spokeswoman for the university, told reporter Alorie Gilbert of News.com, “In the course of the investigation it became very apparent to university officials just how much information she had put out about herself online. She and thousands of other people her age put out these Web pages and may not know how vulnerable it could make them.” Lepley further explained, “In their own minds, they’re sitting in their dorm room or at home, and they have a sense of privacy—and they really don’t have it at all.”
Furthermore, parents are often shocked by what they find at their kids’ blogs. As one report summarizes: “Teens complain about parents and homework, using language that will make Tony Soprano blush. They share daily dramas, post songs from the latest bands, display pictures of themselves, sometimes wearing next to nothing or taking bong hits. They write angst-ridden poetry, detail supposed sexual exploits and complain about each other or offer support. But mostly they simply relay the details of their everyday lives.”
Some school officials have discovered further grounds for concern. Vauhini Vara of The Wall Street Journal reports that school principals now monitor many blogs. In this report, Vara told of one sixteen-year-old girl at Paramus High School in Paramus, New Jersey who was suspended after teasing a classmate during school and implying he was homosexual. At home, even during her suspension, she posted some comments on her blog, including a post in which she heaped further scorn upon the boy. The school considered these comments to constitute harassing behavior, and the girl was suspended for three more days. The girl’s parents have complained to school officials. “It’s inappropriate that they’re telling my daughter how to behave when she’s not at school,” said her father. “It was such a violation of the First Amendment.” Once again, this development indicates how the pattern of authority has been radically changed. Many parents now fight for their children’s “right” to harass fellow students, to criticize school officials, and to make virtually unrestricted comments online.
Christian parents must see the fallacy in this argument and the danger in forfeiting their parental responsibility. This generation of teenagers desperately needs parents who will reassert their authority and fulfill their responsibility to protect, monitor, and supervise their children.
Responsible Christian parents will establish clear boundaries and rules for their childrens’ use of the Internet. There should be absolutely no expectation of privacy when it comes to what their teenagers are doing and writing on the Internet. The stakes are simply too high.
A sixteen-year-old girl in Port Washington, New York was molested by a man who had tracked her down because she had listed personal information on her MySpace profile. Many teenagers claim to understand the danger. One seventeen-year-old girl retorted, “I watch Oprah. I know what happens.” Maybe so—but maybe not.
Parents would do well to limit all Internet access by teenagers. In general, teenagers are spending far too much time online and less time engaging in interaction with friends, parents, siblings, and other family members. To a great extent, the emergence of an online teen community means that teenagers now have a new and powerful mechanism for retreating into an adolescent-only world, cut off from adult contact and supervision.
This is neither healthy nor safe, and parents who neglect to protect their children online are putting their teens at risk. Teenagers with unrestricted access to the computer and the Internet are as vulnerable as adolescents who would be given an automobile with unrestricted access and virtually limitless speed. In reality, the situation is even worse, for there is no adequate police force on the Internet. It’s a dangerous world out there and America’s parents need to act before these dangers hit close to home.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Statement signed by 120,000 to be released on Monday
“We do not agree with much of the document produced by governments for the High Level Meeting on youth,” says Tyler Ament, Director of the International Youth Coalition. “We also do not agree with the messages being put out by UN agencies like sex rights for young people and other objectionable ideas.”
Ament and his colleagues will present a Youth Statement to the UN and the World that has been signed by 120,000 people including 57,000 under the age of 30. “The Youth Statement recognizes the rights of parents and calls for policy makers to return to basics and get away from dangerous ideas that are harmful to young people,” says Ament.
Other speakers include Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, the largest youth pro-life organization in the country; Leah Darrow, a former America’s Top Model contestant turned chastity speaker; Thomas Peters, creator of the American Papist blog, which is one of the most popular Catholic blogs on the web.
Ament and his colleagues will appear at a press conference on Monday, July 25th at 11:30 am in the offices of C-FAM (211 East 43rd Street, Suite 1306, New York City). Members of the press can also participate telephonically by calling 866-906-9888, pin code: 209-4617#).
The International Youth Coalition is a group of young people from around the world that celebrates the fact that humans are made in the image of God, intrinsically relational, and are called to live a life with purpose and meaning. More info at: www.iycoalition.org
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On an Internet site, 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante listed her hobbies as “killing people” and “cutting.” It may have sounded like a teenage exaggeration, but authorities say she fulfilled her words.
Even as new details emerge about the teenager charged with killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten, many facts about the crime continued to be kept secret Thursday — and may never be released by authorities unless Bustamante goes to trial for murder.
Bustamante, who had been in juvenile custody since leading police to Elizabeth’s body Oct. 23, was certified Wednesday as an adult and indicted on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. She is accused of strangling Elizabeth, cutting her throat and stabbing her.
Online court records showed Thursday that a public defender assigned to represent Bustamante filed a motion seeking to have her placed in a state hospital for immediate mental health treatment.
On a YouTube profile viewed by The Associated Press, which has since been taken down, Bustamante listed her hobbies as “killing people” and “cutting.” A year ago, Bustamante posted a video to the site in which she appears to intentionally shock herself on an electric fence near her home, then goads her two younger brothers into doing the same.
In court Wednesday, juvenile justice officials testified that Bustamante attempted to commit suicide in 2007 and had been receiving mental health treatment for depression and cutting herself.
A police officer testified that Bustamante confessed to digging two holes to be used as a grave, then killing Elizabeth five days later without provocation because she wanted to know what it felt like.
But repeated objections by Bustamante’s juvenile justice attorney prevented the police officer from explaining why two holes were dug. Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson also has declined to elaborate.
“I know that, but I cannot go into those details right now,” Richardson said.
Asked if he could say whether Elizabeth’s body was found in only one of those holes, Richardson paused for several seconds and again replied: “No, I can’t tell you that right now.”
Richardson similarly declined to explain what the sheriff meant when he said last month that the investigation was aided by “some written evidence.” The Cole County sheriff’s office did not immediately return a call Thursday.
Those kinds of details might normally be included in a probable cause statement from sheriff’s deputies or police as a basis for a prosecutor to file charges. But in Bustamante’s case, there is no probable cause statement in the court file, because she was instead indicted by a grand jury.
Greater details of the crime also are included in Bustamante’s juvenile court records, but those will remain closed under state law, said Cole County Juvenile Court Administrator Michael County.
No further details are expected to emerge at a Dec. 7 status hearing in Bustamante’s case. It could be months, maybe even a year, before a trial at which witnesses would be called to explain the details and circumstances of the crime. But no trial — or testimony — would occur if Bustamante were to plead guilty to a charge.
Although he did not rule it out, Richardson said he wasn’t inclined to agree to a plea on a charge of anything less than first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole.
“Because of the nature of the case, there is not a lot of room to enter into pleas,” he said.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Blessed with a Friday off school, 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante dug two holes in the ground to be used as a grave, authorities said. For the next week, she attended classes, all the while plotting the right time for a murder, they said.
That time arrived the evening of Oct. 21, when Bustamante strangled 9-year-old neighbor Elizabeth Olten without provocation, cut the girl’s throat and stabbed her, prosecutors said. Why?
“Ultimately, she stated she wanted to know what it felt like,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rice testified Wednesday during a court hearing over the slaying.
Rice, who interviewed Bustamante in the days after Elizabeth’s disappearance, said she confessed to investigators and led them to the fourth grader’s well-concealed body in a wooded area near their neighborhood in St. Martins, a small town west of Jefferson City.
A Cole County judge ruled Wednesday that Bustamante, who has been held in Missouri’s juvenile justice system, should be tried as an adult. Hours later, the teen was indicted on adult charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action for allegedly using a knife to kill Elizabeth. A judge later entered a not guilty plea on Bustamante’s behalf and referred her to the public defender’s office.
The court proceedings marked the first time that the suspect in Elizabeth’s death had been publicly identified since a two-day search for the girl by hundreds of volunteers. When they found Elizabeth’s body Oct. 23, authorities only said that a 15-year-old had led them to it and was in custody for the slaying.
Bustamante remained largely expressionless as she sat with her hands shackled around her waist in court Wednesday. She occasionally looked down beneath the brown bangs that covered her eyes and swallowed hard as a judge read the charges against her.
On one side of the courtroom sat her mother and grandmother, who has been Bustamante’s legal guardian for about half of her life. On the other side sat Elizabeth’s mother, relatives and friends, several of whom wore pink — Elizabeth’s favorite color.
Bustamante was ordered held without bond pending her trial. If convicted of first-degree murder, she would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Witnesses at Bustamante’s adult certification hearing described a girl who was bright yet depressed and clever in a sometimes sneaky sort of way. She ranked in roughly the top third of her class at Jefferson City High School, the principal said, and had been in no trouble at school or with the law.
Yet Bustamante had tried to commit suicide at age 13 and had been receiving mental health treatment for depression and cutting herself, said David Cook, the chief juvenile officer in Cole County. Once, she led her family to believe she was attending a local church event when she instead sneaked off to a concert in St. Louis, about two hours away, Cook said. On one or two other occasions, Bustamante spent the night in the woods without permission, he said.
After her arrest, Bustamante tried to cut herself with her own fingernails while being held in juvenile custody, said her appointed juvenile defense attorney Kurt Valentine.
He argued Bustamante should remain in the juvenile system, where she could potentially be rehabilitated before being set free by age 21. Valentine warned that Bustamante would either kill herself or be assaulted and killed by others if she were placed in an adult jail cell or prison.
“We are throwing away the child and we are signing a death sentence for Alyssa,” Valentine said. “She is not going to survive her time in the Cole County jail.”
Cole County Sheriff Greg White said later that Bustamante would be held at a different, undisclosed location.
Cook recommended Bustamante be tied as an adult. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem agreed, saying the killing was vicious and that the state had no adequate facilities or services to treat Bustamante if she remained in the juvenile system.
Bill Heberle, with the Missouri Division of Youth Services, testified that the state has no secure facilities with fences for female juveniles. Youths in Missouri’s juvenile system generally are housed in group settings and are not typically watched by staff 24 hours a day, he said.
The Bible calls the Church “the Body of Christ.” Today, that body is bleeding profusely, says a Christian author and sought-out speaker.
“The next generation of believers is draining from the churches, and it causes me great personal and professional concern,” said Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis and a Young Earth creationist.
Hoping to shed light on what he believes is a monumental problem, Ham enlisted the services of America’s Research Group to study why young people were leaving. The results, published in Already Gone, will shake many churches to their very core, Ham states in the new book.
While previous surveys have shown that Christian students tend to quit church during their college years, the data collected by ARG found that most of them were already gone in middle school and high school.
According to ARG’s survey, 95% of 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55% went to church during high school. And by college, only 11% were still attending church.
“They’re sitting in our churches right now ... and they’re already gone,” Ham said during a “State of the Nation” address last week.
Delving deeper into some of the reasons for the exodus, the research group found that nearly 40% of the surveyed twentysomethings first had doubts about the Bible in middle school. Another 43.7% said they first doubted that all of the accounts and stories in the Bible are true during their high school years. Only around 10% said they first became doubtful about the Bible accounts during college.
Among those who said they do not believe all the biblical accounts are true, the top reasons they gave for doubting the scriptures were: “it was written by men” (24%), “it was not translated correctly” (18%), “the Bible contradicts itself” (15%), and “science shows the world is old” (14%).
In an even more alarming finding, attending Sunday school proved to be of no help in strengthening a young person’s faith. In fact, the survey revealed that Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of children.
Recognizing that such data may not sit well with many Christians, Ham encouraged believers to consider the research before reacting.
He stressed, “We’re not advocating getting rid of Sunday schools.” Instead, we’re advocating a revolution of them, he added.
61% of the surveyed young adults said they attended Sunday school while 39% said they didn’t. When comparing the two groups, the survey revealed that those who attended Sunday school are actually more likely: not to believe that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true, to doubt the Bible because it was written by men, to defend keeping abortion legal, to accept the legalization of gay marriage, to believe in evolution, and to believe that good people don’t need to go to church.
Part of the problem, Ham pointed out, is the curriculum. While Sunday school teachers teach “Bible stories,” children are left to learn biology, anthropology, geology, astronomy and other science courses at public schools.
By merely calling it Bible “stories,” churches end up communicating the biblical accounts as “fairytales” rather than history, Ham noted.
“To them, the Bible is not real,” he said. “In churches we’re teaching moral things, spiritual things, relationships, doctrine ... [but] we’re not teaching those earthly things. We gave that up to the world.”
“Who said that’s not for the Church?” the Young Earth creationist asked, noting that the Bible deals with geology, biology and other sciences.
“We gave it up because we didn’t know how to deal with it and now we’re losing generations,” he said.
Ham – whose Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., displays dinosaurs next to humans – finds many pastors and Sunday school teachers teaching what he believes are compromised positions, informing youths that they can believe in evolution and that the age of the earth is millions or billions of years, rather than 6,000 years, while still believing in Jesus.
But by being taught such views, students begin to question the first book of the Bible, particularly the creation account. Later they find themselves not trusting the entirety of the Bible and its authority.
“If we teach our children (or anyone) to take God’s Word as written concerning the Resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, and the account of Jonah and the great fish ... but then tell them we don’t need to take Genesis as written but can reinterpret it on the basis of the world’s teaching about millions of years and evolution – we have unlocked a door,” Ham wrote in his book.
That door is the door to undermining biblical authority.
“When we undermine the word of God, the next generation undermines it more and more,” Ham said.
The foundation of biblical authority and God’s word is crumbling in America while human reasoning and man’s word is being held high.
There’s a spiritual problem in America, Ham said, and sadly it is Christians who have dropped the ball and allowed moral relativism and secular worldview to rise.
Churches have failed to raise the younger generation on the authority of God’s word and to teach them how to defend their faith or give answers to secular attacks, Ham said.
“We let them (secular humanists) take generations of our kids and give them a different foundation,” he lamented.
Christians have an epidemic on their hands and what they need now is a “complete renovation,” not a mere remodel, Ham stressed.
It’s time to call the Church back to the authority of the Word of God. And for the Young Earth creationist, that call begins with Genesis.
WASHINGTON, — Sexual activity is on the rise among U.S. teens while the use of contraceptives is sliding in the other direction, according to a study released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Findings from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System show that approximately 48% of high school teens say they have had sex, representing 2% hike since 2005.
The same survey showed a 2% drop-off in the percentage of teens who said they used condoms while having sex.
The CDC questioned 14,041 students in grades nine through 12 in 39 states in the spring of 2007 on a range of risky behaviors, including sexual activity, and drug and alcohol use.
Sexual activity among teens has declined since the 1990’s.
In 1991, 54% of the high school students said they had ever had sexual intercourse, compared to 48% in 2007. In 1991, 19% said they had at least four sexual partners, compared to 15% last year, the survey showed.
For the students overall, just under half have had sex, 75% have tried alcohol and 20% smoke.
The study is given to high school students every two years. The new report noted that black and white students are reporting less sexual activity than in years past, but there was no decline among Hispanics.
However, whites reported the highest rates of smoking and heavy drinking, while blacks reported the highest rates of obesity and violence.
Hispanic students were more likely than either blacks or whites to attempt suicide, ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or use cocaine, heroin or ecstasy.
The survey did not collect information on the parents’ income or education levels. Some experts say those factors also can be a strong indicator of a youth’s health behavior and academic achievement.
Adolescents cannot always be counted on to tell the truth about their sexual exploits, drug use, or other risky behaviors. But CDC officials say they take many steps to secure accurate responses: Participation is confidential, kids are spaced apart when answering the questions and teachers do not hover.
Approximately 28% of American teenagers trust only in Jesus Christ as their way to heaven. The rest are confused.
A new survey by LifeWay Research indicated that many American teenagers are confused about what it takes to get to heaven. Results showed 53% of teens strongly agree with the belief that they will go to heaven because Jesus Christ died for their sins. Another 16% somewhat agree.
Among those not holding that traditional Christian belief, 27% said they trust in their own kindness to others and 26% trust in their religiosity as their means to get to heaven.
The survey, however, further found that even those who believe in Jesus Christ have confused ideas on how to get to heaven.
Out of the 69% of teens who at least somewhat agree they will go to heaven through Jesus Christ’s death for their sins, 60% also said they will go because they are religious, and 60% also said they will go because they are kind to others.
“Why would teenagers feel the need to add anything to Jesus’ work on the cross?” posed Scott Stevens, director of youth ministries at LifeWay.
Stevens pointed to several possible reasons for the “Jesus +” belief in going to heaven.
“Maybe it’s because so many of them are fully engulfed in a performance-based existence where they are constantly striving to earn the favor and acceptance of those around them, especially those in positions of authority. How often do these teens experience unconditional love at home, school, or even in their church?
“How about the teenagers at your church?” Stevens asked. “Do they feel valued as long as they show up, keep quiet, and don’t break anything? When they have to earn the favor of others based on something they do, it’s not hard to understand how this theology of ‘Jesus + my good works = heaven’ could seep into their belief system, not to mention the accompanying spiritual doubt they experience when their behavior fails to meet the established standard.”
Raising further concern, the LifeWay study also found that 69% of teenagers believe heaven exists, which is a 6% drop since 2005.
“[I]t may be that living in an uncertain world—with the threats of war, terrorism, school violence, divorce of parents, economic uncertainty, broken friendships, etc.—has teens unsure of reaching heaven when they die,” said Stevens.
Those more likely to believe in heaven were African American teenagers (81%) and girls (73%). Sixty-six% of boys strongly agree heaven exists.
According to the latest study, 26% of teenagers don’t know if heaven is in their future and 25% of teens who agree they will go to heaven because Jesus Christ died for their sins are also uncertain.
Only 5% strongly agree that they do not believe heaven exists and 4% strongly agree with the statement: “I don’t care if I go to heaven.”
When measuring teens’ involvement in religious activities, the study found that in the last 30 days, 54% have attended a church or religious service; 23% indicated that they attended a church youth group social activity; 20% attended Sunday school (drop from 24% in 2005); 14% attended a small-group Bible study (drop from 18%); and 8% have been in a leadership role within their youth group.
Outside of the church, 39% of teenagers said they prayed regularly and 14% said they read the Bible regularly in the last 30 days.
Moreover, 24% of teens said they had told a friend about their religious beliefs in the last 30 days (drop from 30%) and 15% had invited someone to a church activity (drop from 19%).
The study revealed older teens (18 and 19 year-olds) are much less likely than 12-17 year-olds to attend youth group activities and Sunday school. Also, female teens were found to be more active religiously in personal and church activities than male teens. Females are more likely to pray and read the Bible regularly, participate in youth group social activities, small group Bible studies and leadership roles.
“With declining involvement in religious activities, perhaps it’s not surprising that fewer teenagers are discussing their religious beliefs with friends or inviting people to church,” said Stevens. “This would certainly align with the falling number of baptisms in this age group among Southern Baptist churches.”
Total baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention dropped for the second consecutive year in 2006 from 371,850 to 364,826.
“Also, the percentages of participation in these activities are lowest among 18-19 year olds, which points to the continuing challenge of ministering effectively to students as they move from high school to college,” Stevens noted.
Simply put, Stevens warned the church, “Influence is being lost with the future of the church.
“At a time when there are growing numbers of teenagers in America and growing numbers of churches who are ministering specifically to teens, spiritual results with this age group are lacking. While resources for ministry to teenagers abound, it’s time for churches to focus on the spiritual development of students rather than providing more ‘stuff’ for student ministry, and to fully engage teens in the life and ministry of the church.”
LifeWay Research was launched by LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, and its current president, Dr. Thom S. Rainer, for the purpose of assisting and equipping church leaders with insight and advice that will lead to greater levels of church health and effectiveness.
Thousands of Jesus-following students who graduated from high school this summer will be claiming independent lives as they enter the big college campus in the fall. A new research study, however, is indicating the majority of those students will also be “graduating from God” upon entering college.
Fuller Theological Seminary’s Center for Youth and Family Ministry launched a three-year longitudinal study, surveying Christian students and their life transition into college and what provides for a better transition especially when it comes to faith. The milestone study is set to confirm the large number of students that youth workers say are leaving the church.
Denominations and youth workers have estimated that between 65% and 94% of their high school students stop attending church after they graduate. But no broad, multi-denominational, research-based calculation has confirmed any number.
Research for the first pilot phase of the College Transition Project began in January 2005. Initial results revealed that 100% of the 234 students surveyed had engaged in risk behaviors including alcohol use. Those surveyed were students who had graduated from the youth ministry of a Presbyterian church within the last four years. The second most frequent engagement in risk behaviors was sexual encounters.
According to the study, the struggles students were found to have when making their shift into college were related to friendships or lack thereof. In addition to not having friends or a community, students also indicated being alone for the first time and having a desire to find a faith community or church as some of the most difficult elements of their transition.
Southern Baptist Convention President Dr. Frank Page expressed alarm over the high number of church drop outs and failures on the part of churches.
“It is a disturbing trend and part of it is that our churches have become one- or two-generation churches, and we’ve failed to learn how to reach out to this younger generation.”
Intergenerational relationships were found to be enormously beneficial to students, according to Kara Powell, executive director of the Center for Youth and Family Ministry. The College Transition study will be measuring components such as intergenerational community, parents, and youth groups that impact the move into college life.
Powell pointed out a significant finding from the initial study. “One of the most interesting findings from that pilot project was the importance of doubt in a student’s faith maturity. The more college students felt that they had the opportunity to express their doubt while they were in high school, the higher levels of faith maturity and spiritual maturity [they had].”
“Whether it was with the youth group overall or with a specific adult leader, students who had the opportunity to struggle with tough questions and pain during high school seemed to have a healthier transition into college life,” stated the study by Powell and Krista Kubiak, youth worker and graduate of the Marriage and Family program at Fuller.
And youth workers play a significant part in such conversations involving struggles and tough questions. But in the big picture, youth groups are leaving out any preparations to help students make a successful transition.
“A lot of youth pastors assume everything goes well with those kids [who graduate],” said Powell. “The reality is that the transition into college is a lot tougher.”
Ben Burns of Campus Crusade for Christ had mentioned that the “send-off” of high school seniors to college is not a part of the youth ministry cycle. And the pilot study revealed the consequences of that.
“Nicole” – a church’s common high school small group student – was an active member of her small group for four years. When she went off to college, however, she and the small group leader lost contact. Soon, she dropped out of the church scene. Three years later, the small group leader found Nicole with a nine-month-old son, unmarried and unchurched.
“We all have our students who walked the narrow path in high school but somehow made a U-turn and stumbled, or maybe even sprinted, in the opposite direction,” stated the study.
Thus, Powell joined a host of other youth ministry leaders and college campus groups to form the Guiding Coalition of the Youth Transition Network, which is just beginning to bud. The coalition is a national effort fostering an effective transition for students from high school.
Despite the lack of college preparation tools in youth groups, Powell commented, “We’re amazed at how many churches, denominations, and national ministry organizations are very concerned about how many students are not transitioning well. This project seems to hit a real need.”
The Fuller study was conceived by Dr. Cameron Lee, professor of Marriage and Family, and final results are expected in 2009. Findings will be published along the three-year track and can be found at http://cyfm.net/.
Have you heard of “cutting”? If you’re a parent, you’d better read up. “Cutting” refers to self-mutilation — using knives, razor blades or even safety pins to deliberately harm one’s own body — and it’s spreading to a school near you.
Actresses Angelina Jolie and Christina Ricci did it. So did Courtney Love and the late Princess Diana. On the Internet, there are scores of websites (with titles such as “Blood Red,” “Razor Blade Kisses” and “The Cutting World”) featuring “famous self-injurers,” photos of teenagers’ self-inflicted wounds and descriptions of their techniques. The destructive practice has been depicted in films targeting young girls and teens (such as “Thirteen”). There is even a new genre of music — “emo” — associated with promoting the cutting culture.
In Britain, health care researchers estimate that one in 10 teenagers engages in addictive self injury. According to psychiatrist Gary Litovitz, medical director of Dominion Hospital in Falls Church, Va., the growing trend here in America has alarmed school guidance counselors around the country.
It’s not just delinquents and social misfits who are doing it. A concerned parent sent me the following letter recently:
I just found out this week that my 14-year-old daughter is a ‘cutter.’ She has a 4.0 average, 8th grade, goes to a good school, and is well-liked by all who know her. She is popular, has two homes (mine and her dad’s) with supportive, loving families in each. Her own friends cut, too: four of them that I know of now between the ages of 11 and 14 . . . [a]s do her two cousins, ages 11 and 15.
My daughter cuts herself with a safety pin. I found this out on her own personal website, which I discovered she had been hiding on a hidden account she used at another relative’s home. She had links to webrings about cutting, suicide and broken hearts as well as images and poetry. Her friends all feature cutting/suicide links, icons and song lyrics as well.
The counselor at her school told me this: At her middle school, ‘70% of the kids here cut or know someone who does. It’s cool, a trend, and acceptable. Boys do it as well but are more public about it. . . . you’re not even the first parent this week: you’re the third, and just today a girl received stitches in the hospital for cutting herself so bad.’
While many public schools deny the problem exists, public health advocacy groups are warning medical professionals of the cutting craze — and have even declared March 1st “Self Injury Awareness Day.”
This madness would not be as popular as it is among young people if not for the glamorizing endorsement of nitwit celebrities such as twentysomething actress Christina Ricci. Several of the websites I researched highlighted the same quotes from Ricci describing her experiences with self-injury:
In an Us magazine interview, for example, Ricci blabbed about various scars on her hands and arms: “I wanted to see if I can handle pain. It’s sort of an experiment to see if I can handle pain.” In another interview, she described putting cigarettes out on her arm and answered questions about whether it hurt: “No. You get this endorphin rush. You can actually faint from pain. It takes a second, a little sting, and then it’s like you really don’t feel anything. It’s calming actually.”
And in Rolling Stone, Ricci prattled about scratching her forearms with her nails and soda can tops: “It’s like having a drink. But it’s quicker. You know how your brain shuts down from pain? The pain would be so bad, it would force my body to slow down, and I wouldn’t be as anxious. It made me calm.”
It may be all fun and games for a Hollywood starlet like Ricci, but her mindless stunts have inspired countless young girls to carve themselves into a bloody stupor. Hollyweird strikes again.
Supplemental Articles in a separate file (click here to read)