From Youth Group to Agnosticism

Kent Saugier brought to my attention an article published in World magazine (part one and part two) last July that is referenced by the EPC’s National Director of Student Ministries, Rob Craig. This article seeks to explain why many conservative, evangelical kids turn away from Christianity altogether in their 20s. He lists 9 observations overall that are extremely insightful.  Below are the first three points (quoted from part one of Dr. Bradley’s article).

(1) Victims of formulaic parenting: All of these young adults were victims of the evangelical idea that if you put your children in the right program “X” they will turn out to be like “Y.” Strangely, adults seemed to be puzzled when their adult children walk away from Christianity because “they were so involved in youth group” and “went to Sunday school” every Sunday. Many evangelical parents will even “church hop” to find the perfect youth programs to plug their kids into as if church programs alone magically produce long-term followers of Christ. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure “youth pastor” can be biblically defended.

(2) Confusing doctrinal and biblical knowledge with true spirituality: As youth leaders, we all made the mistake of assuming that because these teens had good doctrine that they actually were developing a heart-driven affection for Jesus. Not surprisingly, most of these kids grew up in churches that elevate religious knowledge over religious experience and spirituality. Spirituality is assumed evident because they can recite Bible verses and answer theological questions while viewing religious experience and emotions as practices of the theologically unsophisticated.

(3) Controlling friendships out of fear: These young adults were also in contexts where they were quarantined from two groups of peers: (1) non-Christians and (2) Christians not having the “right” theology. Friends as seen as potential threats and bad influences. What happens, then, when these kids leave high school and meet “non-Christians” and others who are actually more caring, socially concerned, and generous, and so on, than many Christians they know? Anger and resentment at the church. These young adults were raised to believe that the only loving, caring, “nice” people on earth are Christians and the rest are demons just waiting to pounce. These young adults have no answer when confronted with the fact that you don’t have to be a Christian to be faithful to your spouse, love your children, care for homeless people, take in strangers, and the like. Maybe, then, Christianity is not as unique as many were led to believe.

The last six points can be found in part two and are worth the read.

Anthony Bradley is a professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute, and has been appointed the Francis Schaeffer Chair of Apologetics at the World Journalism Institute.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.