Last week I wrote about a seminar I was asked to present on the topic, Why Teenagers Think the Way They Do. I shared how I began the seminar by asking the church leaders in attendance how the average teen in their churches thought. The responses explained why the room was standing room only. If you didn’t read last week’s article or want to review it, click here. The next thing I did in order to answer this difficult question was to get some further information about the teens that were attending these churches. I asked these church leaders several questions and wrote their answers on the board.
Question #1 How many hours of biblical instruction does the average teen receive at your church each week?
The youth pastors started giving me a wide range of hours of biblical instruction that they said their teens received in their churches. One youth pastor told the group that his students received between 8 and 10 hours of instruction every week at his church. It was interesting to watch other youth pastors from other churches challenge his estimate. After they got him to rule out pizza parties, game nights, etc., the group settled on between 2-4 hours of biblical instruction each week at church. A short time ago, I heard a children’s pastor share with me that one study shows that the average child attends church for approximately 1.4 hours per month. For the sake of this article, we will stay with the answer of 2-4 hours that these church leaders gave.
Question #2 How many hours of biblical instruction does the average teen in your church receive at home each week?
This question led to a very interesting discussion. In fact, they were adamant that their teens at their churches were not getting any biblical instruction in their homes. I then asked how many people in the room had children or teens living at home with them. The vast majority of them did. So I asked them was it true that their own children were not receiving any biblical instruction in their homes. After some more discussion the group hesitantly responded that teens in their churches may be receiving between 1-2 hours of biblical instruction each week at home.
Barna has done several studies on how parents viewed their role in teaching their children moral and ethical values. Most of these studies reported that 75-85% of parents stated that they believed that parents have the primary responsibility for training their children in the areas of morals and ethics. Yet, these church leaders indicated that they didn’t see parents doing this at all with their children. They may be busy taking their children to school, ball games, shopping, dance or music lessons, and/or a host of other activities, but not much biblical training seemed to be going on in the homes of these churches.
Question #3 How many hours of influence did the average teen in their churches receive from the media each week?
There was an immediate reaction to this question. Everyone agreed that the average teen received between 5-6 hours of influence from the media each DAY. When asked how many days per week is this taking place, they were unanimous in their answer – it was at least 6 days every week. That totaled up to between 30-36 hours of influence from the media each week.
Question #4 How many hours of instruction did the average teen in their churches receive from their schooling each week?
The participants explained how all of their students went to school and the average school day was 6 hours in length. Since school meets five days each week during the school year, it meant that their teens were receiving approximately 30 hours of instruction each week at school.
The next thing I did was to ask the participants to elaborate some more on their answers to Question #3 & #4. I wanted to hear from them what type of influence were their teens receiving from the media and from school. Specifically, I asked them how much of this influence was secular and how much of it was Christian. Notice I didn’t ask them how much of this influence was biblical. I kept it very generic and asked them to breakdown the media’s and school’s influence on their students. I was expecting them to say that this influence was maybe 50% secular and 50% Christian or maybe a 40% to 60% ratio between secular and Christian influence..
Even though I tried to lead them to split the influence their teens were receiving from the media and their schooling between Christian and secular influence, they were adamant that the media’s and school’s influence was 100% secular. So I wrote secular next to questions #3 and #4. My next step was to total the influence teens were receiving from these four different sources. The results were very revealing.
The average teenager in these churches received between 3-6 hours of biblical instruction each week from the home and church.
The average teenager in these churches received between 60-72 hours of secular influence each week from the media and the school.
Having done this, I announced to the group that I was now ready and able to answer the question that caused them to attend the workshop. I was going to tell them Why Teenagers Think the Way They Do? (remember their description of how their teenagers thought that I reported on in last week’s article). Here was my answer.
Your Teenagers Think the Way They Do Because They Have Been Taught to Think That Way!
Their was a very solemn silence in the room that seemed to last for several minutes. I waited for someone to respond. Then I saw one pastor raise his hand and, with tears coursing down his cheeks, said, I am afraid you are absolutely right! Then another pastor quietly asked, What can we do to change this? I saw heads nod in agreement all around the room. These church leaders knew something had to change right away or they would continue losing their students to the world.
If I presented this seminar today, the results would be pretty much the same. The influence of the church and home has not increased and may have actually decreased over the past decade. The influence on today’s teenager from the media and schooling is still close to 100% secular in nature. What I said next in the seminar then would be the same thing I would tell church leaders and parents today.
What I shared with them that I thought needed to be done and a very surprised reaction I received will be the topic of next week’s article. I wonder if today’s church leaders would react the same as some of them did several years ago? See you next week for the rest of the story!