Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How To Ruin A Teenager's Faith

Chrissy Weaver, typical teenager.  NOT!
WARNING: Contains Sarcasm!

Anyone who spends anytime around middle school and/or high school students knows that they face many challenges in their day-to-day lives.  Some of those challenges involve their faith.  They are deciding who they believe, what they believe and how to live out those beliefs in the world they live in.  You would expect the church to be at the forefront of helping these fragile followers of Jesus discover their true selves.  And often it is.  But on occasion the church (and the adults who "make the rules") actually provides more confusion than help.  Today I want to take a look at 5 rules we use to turn teenagers away from God and towards a Double-Life Faith where they simply go through the motions of Christianity.  These rules can also apply to new adult believers, so beware!

#1)  They must dress differently for church than they do for anything else.  In my early days as a youth pastor most students were still being coerced into wearing their "Sunday Best" to every event at church- from weddings to worship.  I myself wore a tie on Sunday for years and wore one on almost no other occasion.  I was always told this was because we should wear our best for God, but I have come to believe it was a disguise we wore in the hopes that Jesus would not recognize us on Sunday after the way we had behaved all week...
#2)  They must talk differently at church than they do anywhere else.  It's important for church youth to learn to speak in a language no one can explain.  I'm not talking about the swearing- that probably should be different.  I'm talking about "Christianese."  At church, they can tell you that a worship service was "Spirit-filled," or that someone was "Saved" or "washed in the blood of the Lamb"- and give you a "Hallelujah" or an "AMEN" to back it up.  If you ask a youth at school on Monday how the church service was, about the best you can hope for is "whatever."  We teach them to describe their faith journey in a language they will never use outside of church.
#3)  They must learn that we don't talk about "those things" at church.  Teenagers must learn that some subjects are just unsuitable for church.  Jesus may be LORD of All, but he obviously cannot deal with subjects like sex and evolution.  If students hear often enough that "we don't talk about that here," then guess what?  They'll quit talking about it with you and with God- and go back to gathering their info from the highly enlightened 17 year old who lives next door.  Muuuuuch better....
#4)  They must learn to act differently at church than they do everywhere else. At church it is important to act happy and be nice. You must pretend to share a fashion sense (see #1) and musical tastes with people 4 times your age.  As a real life teenager, your job is to be moody, grumpy and occasionally outright Gothic.  Learning to pretend you are someone different at church than you are in real life is the basis of a good Double-Life Faith.
#5)  They must learn that Christians are perfect, and so are they!  At church, you never admit sin, defeat or failure, because everyone knows that Christians are perfect.  Those sins you committed during the week are best hidden away on Sunday, because goodness knows Jesus doesn't want to hear about them.  If our kids hear often enough that our goal is to get to heaven, and that heaven is for perfect people, then they will understand the need to NEVER confess their sins- at least not when anyone in the church might hear them.  Grace?  That's for losers...

History has shown us that if we teach these things well when our kids are young, we can be fairly certain that they will grow up believing that Jesus is "that one guy who lives in that one building."  They will have learned that faith has no place in the real world, and that God lives in a tiny little box kept under the pulpit.  They will have learned to live a Double-Life Faith.  It is a lesson far too many adults have learned far too well- and now they know how to play church.  Want to ruin the faith of a teenager?  Maybe you should just send them to church.  It's time to stop the madness.  It's time to get real with our kids about faith.  Quit giving them "church."  Start giving them Jesus.  

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous6/29/2011

    This is hilarious and sad at the same time.

    I think my second foray into Christianity has been a lot more authentic than my first go round simply because I refuse to act like anything other than what I am. I still say "Dude" about 300 times a day (this includes Sunday), I watch movies that would quite frankly make the Church Lady weep, and I DO NOT wear anything that is uncomfortable. I am all about function over form and if they don't like my t-shirt that says "Mixed Martial Art and Crafts" well sorry for your luck.

    Then again, I'm lucky. I go to a church where we are encouraged to be authentic in our everyday lives AS WELL as at church. We screw up, but the important thing is what we do AFTER we screw up. All fall short and all that jazz, it's not getting it perfect but relying on the ONE who IS perfect. Not giving us license to be reckless and stupid, but not condemning us for being well, human.

    Know what I mean Vern?

    -Jen K.

  2. I do know what you mean, Bob. I also know there need to be many more churches like yours!

  3. Good stuff CJ - I was raised in a strict AG home so I understand and lived these "rules" - but I have worked with children of all ages and taught music in a junior high theater group - and all kids really want to know is this: Do you love me?

  4. Cindy, you just summed up everything I believe about ministry. We all want relationship, and we all want to be loved. Thanks so much for reading!

  5. Anonymous6/29/2011

    Great post- I laughed until I hurt! :P But my question is this- How do we get teenagers to love the church?


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