Fifteen years ago, I started a youth summer camp out in Durango Colorado. It’s been an incredible place to learn from a broad cross section of teenagers who come to summer camp from all over the world. I’ve often referred to the camp time as “My little Laboratory” because students are so great at helping me understand how trends change. They’re informative, they’re caring, and above all, they’ve become my dear friends over the years.
Yesterday, I was talking with a few students about the latest poll numbers of “christians” in America and the overwhelming number of 30 and unders who don’t claim any faith at all. (today labeled The Nones.)
When I told them about the 30% number, I saw a few faces in our small group kind of wince. Of course, I thought it was because they were thinking 30% is much too high of a number. But after I finished, one of the guys said, “30% is all? I would guess 70% if I were looking at my community. We just don’t talk about faith anymore.”
For those of you out there who are appalled by the 30% number, let me be the first to inform you, it’s much worse than you thought.
These kids who are here come from families who are faith full.
By in large, most of them attend some sort of faith community.
They’re the ones who are trying to connect with some sort of spiritual life. (all be it, not all christian)
But to say that 70% of students are giving up on faith issues is disturbing to me, and while my friend helped me see the reality of his own community, heads were nodding in agreement all around the circle.
My first reaction was to come back to my office and ask, “What have we done?” We’ve had the BEST programs the church has ever known. We’ve had the BEST leader training. We have access to the BEST speakers. We can download the BEST materials ever produced. What in the world are we missing?
I don’t think my reaction is to address some strange notion that to have more people in “my club” equals “winning.” But my curiosity is being stoked because we spend an inordinate amount of money on these programs and materials, trips and staff, and for what? What are we actually accomplishing? Have we forgotten the epicenter of what we set out to do almost 100 years ago when we created this demographic called Teenagers and Young Adults in our faith circles.
Sorry for the report today. I have to get back to mentoring students. But I thought I’d drop a quick line and warn you…the 30% report is only the beginning. It’s much worse than we thought.