Youth ministry has been on my heart the past several weeks and I’ve been formulating some ideas to begin discussing with our youth ministry leaders.
By “youth,” I mean those in the 7th-12th grades.
Several times in sermons, I have made reference to studies suggesting that many students who attend church & participate in a youth group while growing up LEAVE THE FAITH by their 2nd year of college.
Last week, I came across the authoritative study on this subject. The study is entitled The Impact of Student Religion and College Affiliation on Student Religiosity by Steven James Henderson, BA, MBA.
As part of his research, Mr. Henderson surveyed over 15,000 full-time undergraduate students at 133 colleges. The motivation for undertaking this study was personal: his beautiful, smart and “powerfully Christian” daughter self-destructed during her freshman year at a well-respected public college. The shock and grief was overwhelming.
It’s a 200-plus page report, but let me share with you the main conclusion:
“Nearly two-thirds of incoming freshman who identify themselves as born-again upon entering a public university will either no longer identify themselves as born-again four years later or, even if they do still claim that identification, will not have attended any religious service in over a year.”
Why is this? Mr. Henderson says “research plainly shows that most students are unprepared for the conflict of worldviews they will encounter at non-Christian colleges. Dropping a beautiful diamond into the mud will not purify that environment. Rather it more likely will dirty the gem until it is unrecognizable.”
Mr. Henderson says the freshman year is critical, with church attendance (of lack thereof) being the most significant indicator of a maturing (or declining) faith.
The fact is, most faculty at non-Christian colleges disdain Christianity. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Henderson’s research, “not only do students normally reflect the values of the college professors of their senior year, but they also tend to reflect these same values 25 years later.” In other words, a person’s worldview is profoundly shaped during college and this worldview tends to endure.
This research is sobering. In next weeks’ article, I’ll share some of Mr. Henderson’s recommendations . . . for parents, students and churches.