Is silence the biggest barrier for kids to have strong faith?

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

I found this article, by Kara Powell and Steven Argue, to be quite relevant to our conversations in RZIM Connect:

According to our study, which looked at 500 youth group graduates, over 70 percent of churchgoing high schoolers report having serious doubts about faith. Sadly, less than half of those young people shared their doubts and struggles with an adult or friend. Yet these students’ opportunities to express and explore their doubts were actually correlated with greater faith maturity. In other words, it’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith; it’s silence.

Researchers for the National Study for Youth and Religion discovered that young people have become inarticulate about their faith, often lacking the language to express their beliefs and convictions. Further exploration revealed another telling part of this story: so have their parents.

Somehow, young people and their parents have lost the ability to speak of faith in real life.

It is alarming to hear that, according to this research, 70% of churchgoing high schoolers have serious doubts, but less than half of them can talk about it. Further, that due to this tension, they are losing the ability to discuss faith while they are still attending church with their parents.

My questions:

  1. Does this survey data fit with your own observations and experiences?
  2. How are you opening up safe, comfortable environments for faith discussions with the next generation?
  3. What obstacles/barriers are hindering you from having good conversations with churchgoing high school students?

(Whitney Bowman) #2

I’d love to hear others’ experiences on this!! Thanks for starting this discussion, @CarsonWeitnauer! I’ve been praying about question 2 for a long time - I’d love to know how others are living this out practically :slight_smile:

If you’re looking for anecdotal data, I can say this article hits the nail on the head for me. It was certainly a massive communication failure on my part and I have a lot of regret. I let my faith hit the stumbling block with class discussions and the perceived incompatibility between science and religion. My sister and I first acknowledged we were struggling to the adult Sunday School class led by our pastor. Looking back, when they didn’t necessarily have answers I wish I had reacted with more grace instead of clamming up. At home, my sister and I very briefly shared our class discussions with our parents (who are gems) over dinner, but somehow never made it to the blatantly obvious, “Would you help us work through this?” My parents have since said that they just listened, because they didn’t realize we were wrestling and honestly coming to believe it was true. I don’t think their day-to-day walks had led them to encounter such questions. Neither had mine! I regret that I clammed up and never mentioned it again at church or later at our college campus ministry. I have absolutely no idea why - as two young millennials - that it never dawned on us to do even the most basic Google search to find resources/answers. I was scared if I poked at all it would all fall apart. I knew enough that if Jesus wasn’t who He said He was, then my life had no meaning – so I kept going through the motions praying one day I’d find something that could make my faith real/whole. It was huge communication errors on my end.

I find similar stories among my believing friends in grad school. I’ve found believing peers can be a bit rare in academia, but almost all have wrestled. Like the article mentioned, none have ever mentioned it to their parents. A few classmates and I meet periodically for Bible study and often wrestle through both long-buried and new questions as they come up.

Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten plugged in to a church enough to be able to get to know many local families or those with high school students. I’ve also drawn a lot of encouragement from several of the forums surrounding conversation starters as I interact with classmates at the office, but I’d really love to learn more from y’all on what opening up safe faith discussions with the next generation looks like in y’alls lives! :slight_smile:

(Tabitha Gallman) #3

@CarsonWeitnauer, thank you for this topic. The article was very good and I agree that telling our own spiritual story to our children is so important, and just talking with them about God and faith in general. I feel like my husband and I did not talk to our children enough about faith as we still to this day have a hard time articulating our faith.

I am so passionate about this topic and.i do think this data survey fits my observation about this issue. I hope more churches look at more data on this topic.

(Solomon Das) #4

Loved the article. I think the biggest hurdle is when we start imposing our understanding of faith over Kids. May be we need to understand first what is the current understanding or level of his/her perspective regarding God or Faith. May be its worth listening carefully and to slow to speak with kids.

(Clarence Ooi Seng Yok) #5

I have a couple of young college students that I could talk to.I agreed with the survey as they never ask any question about the faith. It is not because they do not have question, I think mainly is because they do not care and do not like people to tell them what to do. They are not seeking opinion, they believe either God can help them, or God can not. They will leave the church whenever they have the chance in future if it does not help them. They do not have the urge and hunger for truth, but to follow their feelings only. I think that is the product of the media today, they become what the world want them to be.

I almost give up and want to let them just do whatever they want until they hit the wall and see if by God’s mercy they will come back to God.

(Andrew Bulin) #6

Great topic and reminder!

I have a 13 year old and whatever we do, my wife and I go out of our way to make him involved in our life conversations, ministry plans, and sharing opinions on life in a biblically centered way. As we talk about his future and career goals, we consider how God wants to use his life and talents. We give him room to hold down his side of the conversation and own his opinions. I must admit that I’m blessed to have an extrovert kid! :slight_smile:

One thing that struck me from the study is how hard it would be to integrate your faith with your child if your faith was not integrated in your daily life. When I’m busy working, or doing my own thing, it may not be inherently wrong, but there seems to be interesting little risks in finding and obsessing in life outside of Christ. This thought is a gut-check for me that no matter how busy things may get, I need to have real time set aside to walk my faith with my family.

Thanks Carson!

(Clarence Ooi Seng Yok) #8

The title of the survey suggested that it is not Doubt, but Silence. My opinion is Silence is just an action, it is a result instead of the cause. Therefore for me the biggest hindrance to kid’s faith is what is causing the silence. If they really have doubt, they will ask (if the family has been encouraging them to ask), but what is the underlying reasons that they do not even want to ask?.

Situation that may cause them to be silent such as:

  1. I am forced to go to church just to please my parents, therefore there is no need to ask anything since I have no interest in what God has to say.
  2. I do not care because I have decided what I want to do, so I just need to wait until I am old enough to be out of the control of anyone.
  3. There is no benefit to ask because I already know what will be the answer and there is no way I can follow that and still be happy. By the way, no one should tell me what to do.

(Clarence Ooi Seng Yok) #9

What I have observed is today’s media are trying to give the ideas that are opposite to Christian beliefs.We can see it everywhere especially in movies and songs.

Things that I may make a few examples:

  1. We are only human, it is ok to make mistake, no one should take away your rights of making mistake. The idea seems nothing wrong, but I have seen many use it as a excuse not to follow good advice.

  2. The old ways has gone, you are in control of your own life, don’t let anyone tell you what you should do.

  3. Love is just an illusion, do what can make yourself happy.

  4. Sex is a way to enjoy, marriage is just a formality.

For teenagers that still go to church:

  1. Some are genuine because they love God.

  2. Some are forced to go because of parents/peers pressure

  3. Some just want a stage that they can make friends or show their talents.

The reason for them to remain silence could be because the environment does not encourage, but it can also be because they are indifferent. Just looking at it from another angle.

(Nic Shoffner) #10

My son is 13. He has Autism and is home-schooled so my experience will probably differ from the parents of typical kids. I decided a couple years ago that my family would spend 45 minutes to an hour each weekday focusing on God. Sometimes we read the Bible and discuss, sometimes it’s a family devotion, other times we watch an apologetics video and talk about it. I encourage him to bring any doubts or questions that he has up in these discussions.

I will never leave my child’s education about God in the hands of someone else and I believe that parents that allow that responsibility to fall solely on the shoulders of a youth pastor will probably see their child walk away from the faith once they are an adult.

(Cynthia McInnis) #11

Hi there and thank you for sharing this article. My most recent prayer has been for God to raise up a generation of unapologetic Apologetic young people. I sadly agree with the article and believe that much of the reasoning is an overall lack of understanding of God and true biblical principles generating from the adults that teach them. Young people need peers who speak the same language! The good thing is that I have recently seen an emergence of ministries led by younger, more energetic, “jean 'n Tee-shirt”, “in-ya-face” type ministers who are able to reach young people with powerful truth. Admittedly, I’m a watchman for hidden new-age world-views but am happily finding much unadulterated biblical truth.

(Cynthia McInnis) #12

Thank you! We need more like you. My prayer is for more like you.

(Jo D) #13

Hi brothers and sisters.
A lot of great insight in all these responses!
As a teen (17) I shall add a few thoughts :slight_smile:
Just a quick background note. My family isn’t really Christian, they are in a way but at the same time are still searching and have very fluid views of religions and spirituality, but I’m praying that they come to know Christ as their saviour.
For me, the first church I went to was one I was christened in and knew some people who went there already, and it was nice but only people above 50 so I felt very much like the odd one out. Some members of the congregation, though they are nice were extremely traditional and I found them rather intimidating and didn’t dare ask any of my many questions. Now attending a different more active church full of people of all ages and from all kinds of backgrounds I find it much easier to ask questions and have conversations about Jesus and be honest about one’s struggles.
A few thoughts on things that help:

  • churches need to be good at encouraging honest, open and difficult questions and make an open environment for conversations
  • Small groups and youth groups where you get to know the leaders and the other teens well and can support each other
  • A lot of non-Christian teens and adults are into drugs, sex, smoking, drinking etc and these topics need to be addressed from a biblical perspective within youth groups in a down to earth way it is good to see what the Bible says about such behaviours. It is helpful to have discussions after a sermon on such topics so one can further relate to the ideas and issues in a group
  • Encouraging teens to pray for and with each other through difficult times and when we have questions. I know my friends and I all love this. Prayer for their non-believing friends and family.
  • Having someone like a mentor, or just adults and students one can talk to about living a godly life, ask questions and so on

Yes, I guess a lot of teens are or appear apathetic but for lots of us we might put up barriers as we’re afraid of being judged, or thought less of if we ask difficult questions and share our struggles. It is often hard to share and be vulnerable so if from a young age you know that you can ask and open up if you want to that’s really great. I say that with caution though as sometimes it can come across as forcing us to share and then that just makes us block up.

It is a struggle to be in schools and unis where there is so much Christian faith bashing.
Oh and if the church can in some way address science too because for a lot of my friends and relatives they think its either science or religion and aren’t shown how in many ways the two can go hand in hand…
Maybe watching some talks by people like John Lennox, Ravi, Micheal Ramsden and others helps. Encouraging discussions on their materials or similar ones, going through them in a small group together and discussing the controversial and key topics of the time. I think a large number of us all have questions and are interested in why we choose Christianity over all else and having an open environment for understanding and questioning is great :slight_smile: Hence why I’m so grateful for this platform!!!
I hope I don’t sound critical of churches and the way they relate to us teens, I know that many are trying really hard and often do a great job too :smile:
Thanks for all your insights!
God bless you all x

(Billie Corbett) #14

Hello MoveMountains,

Thank you for your response. As a 17 year old, you did a fine job of articulating your thoughts (which likely represent a fair amount of personal experience for church youth.) Good on you, Mate!

When it comes to asking questions regarding church and faith…youth are not alone in fearing being judged. Believe it or not, many adults are silent with their thoughts, doubts and questions, too. It takes courage to give expression to them, and to wade through stress/conflict/uncertainity and insecurity.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson famously quoted, “ There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in hslf the creeds.”

It is my observation, (in general) that young people are more likely to challenge their peers, rather than to overtly challenge an adult in the arena of faith, ideas, science and values, morals and life experience. Do you think that is accurate?

There is a lot at stake for immature, developing young adults. They don’t want to be infantilized…nor do they want to bear more responsibility then they are ready to carry. Plus, just due to their stage of development…they are in flux between … needing the challenge and it being too much.

Do you think most adults have lost touch with their own adolescence?
What do you think about the idea that adults maybe don’t want to be asked hard questions?
Do you get that sense sometimes…and is that a reason for silence? (Not wanting to rock the adult boat, so to speak…because youth are still in a place of dependence on those adults in their lives.)

On the other side, what do you think about youth in “church” families, who begin to live very duplicitous lives? (Those youth who have figured out how to give their parents, the church groups, etc., what they want … and then, when they are with non church youth…they live, speak and act in a completely different way.) Maybe you have not encountered them? If you have encountered this dynamic, why do you think this duplicitous behaviour has taken root in them?

I think young people weighing in on these matters is extremely important.

Once again, thank you, for your courage to join this conversation.
And again, I commend you for being so articulate in expressing yourself.

(Tabitha Gallman) #15

What a great Dad you are @andrew.bulin for involving your son to show him he has value in the family, in Christ and in just an intrinsic way :grinning: We can all learn from your parenting skills. This isn’t arbitrary flattery because I personally think men in general need to be applauded for being Godly leaders within their families.

(Tabitha Gallman) #16

Amen @nshoffner. Well said :grinning:

(Samuel Khaw) #18

Silence is definitely a big factor here, but i would also like to point out that often than not, sometimes church environment plays a big factor too.

There are people in the church who sometimes can be very condescending in their way of answering your question. Sometimes, when you ask and they are like ooh ok, you got a question, and they will sort of give you a standard template like ooh it means this way, from the word, from this bible verse it means like this… and when you try to ask further questions they sort of go back to the same template. Worse still some will start to view you as rebellious, and they will kinda view you as “ooh his just more prayer kind of person”

But often time, young people at this age including myself, when we start to ask questions about our own faith, we are not just expecting template, now don’t get me wrong the word is important and should be the first and foremost reference point, but often church people stop short of the word, but they did not even want to answer the application part. How does the word plays out in our own lives.

Often in church, even when i ask questions about faith, people answer me in a way that paints such a nice picture that the word is to means this way and how our lives are meant to be lived out, but in reality when i look at that person who claims to be a christian, his life isn’t reflective of his answers at all. It’s just the same old “hypocrites” rehashing answers from church.

Silence is a factor, but sometimes young people might decide to just be silent about their questions with faith because they might see that afterall the people who they might answer their questions isn’t exactly the type of people that would truly reflect God’s word or teachings.

This is just my personal opinion. Now i have also met with other God Fearing peeps in church, and they have been truly instrumental in giving some answers to my questions in faith. And often, this people aren’t “super holy” christians. They are just God’s people who try to live according to the word, and even though they aren’t perfect, at least they understand the nuances of young people, who might be just starting out in life, trying to see how somebody who is a Christian is living out their lives.

This is just a personal opinion, and i’m not trying to criticize the church in general and i hope everything that i express in this opinion could contribute to the discussions here. God Bless you all.

(Mona Botros) #19

Totally agree
I have been reading a chapter from the bible every night with my husband and 2 daughters for the last few months. This has been a great blessing for us . We completed Genesis and started Isaiah. This is a space where we can talk about God, answer their questions and quite often pray for something that is difficult in our lives.

(Andrew Bulin) #20

@tabby68, you’re too kind! Thank you for the kind comments, and I praise God for them as I only strive to be an obedient father who does not frustrate his son as I try to train him up in the ways of the Lord, as a disciple of Christ.

I was very headstrong growing up, which was not well received, and the pushback did not go well or actually resolve anything. If anything it made things worse. I could not be made to do anything. And by the time I was a teenager, it was a little too late.

In the end, I can see as my son gets older, I have more limited impact at direct instruction, and it is the planting and tending of the Word in his heart in the past (and now) that allows him to be the most successful in his choices, attitudes, and decision making moving forward. It has also tested the limits of my ability to walk out the same faith before him, that I hoped he would adopt as his ways. Ultimately, this also shows me a better way to disciple other adults. As with my aging son, there is little I can to do force someone to do right. That has to come from within, doesn’t it?

Great topic, @CarsonWeitnauer!

(Jo D) #21

Hallo @Billie,
Thank you so much for your encouraging words, and the thought-provoking questions!
(Hehe, if I sound articulate in my writing, I will give, my parents credit for encouraging and making reading interesting and enjoyable since my brothers and I were small… they encourage questions and lots of thoughtful questions and answers, which is great :)…)

I shall put more prayer and research into my next response and ask some of my fellow youth to give me some ideas too, before responding again to this great topic, challenges, and thoughtful questions!

Thanks again for your encouragement and insights. This is such a great platform for these discussions and everyone brings something unique in their viewpoint and thus their responses :slight_smile: Thanks Y’all!
God Bless you, Brothers and Sisters, thanks for sharing your thoughts and views :slight_smile:
Jo D x

(Billie Corbett) #22


:+1: … for giving some credit to where credit is due…(your parents).
I am sure your parents are thrilled to see you growing and maturing…especially in the area of reading, writing (articulating your thoughts so well.)

I look forward to hearing more about what answers you and your peers may have to the questions posed. (As stated before, your input is valuable to the conversation.)