We become alarmed when our teens or young twenties stop going to church. We often assume some drastic reasons are behind their choice to stop.
But I think we are succumbing to alarmism and giving our kids too much credit. Their decision is usually a non decision.
The world is coming at them relentlessly from all directions. They are overwhelmed but a young person’s response to that is sleep or distraction. Their distraction often looks energetic so we olders don’t recognize it as an attempt to rest. They aren’t old or overwhelmed enough to long for a peaceful respite. That comes later.
Relevance is the issue: they know all that stuff; it’s old news. They have questions but they’re not interested enough to find out. They’re distracted by a lot of new experiences and there are a lot of demands on their time. If there are a couple of uncommitted hours they’re going to veg out or sleep.
I don’t have to go now that I’m an adult (or a teen given some prerogative) and I just dont really want to think about this right now. It seems like more work and it’s just not relevant to me now.
In a nutshell: they’re not interested and they just don’t really want to deal with it right now.
When challenged, they must assume some sort of credible stance, so they adopt one, even though it hasn’t been vetted or examined yet. I’m a Skeptic. I’m an Atheist.
The second reason is of more concern.
I have discoved that I love to X and I assume that my church family wouldn’t approve. I have decided X is ok. I have a right to X. My parent’s friends at church must be robots or bigots. So I turn my back on them. For X.
A principled reason is of concern and anyone who loves the young person declaring it must be ready for the long haul of loving him/her through whatever comes, and preparing to gently persevere in reasoning with her over her issue.
But in the long run, the disengaged reason is more dangerous. Unchallenged, it becomes the default, the lifestyle.
Our job as parents and teachers is to close off that option. How?
By teaching them from early on:
You are a human being designed to think! Make decisions and have convictions about them. Prove ALL things. Examine every thought, every premise, every assumption that comes your way. Think it through. Dont let others do your thinking for you.
The truth stands up to scrutiny. We must all be skeptics, examining every thought that we encounter with reason and an honest search for truth. Then we must hold on to the truth we find like our life depends on it. It does.
Our children who have the habit of honest skepticism and intentional thinking will better handle what comes their way. Even though they may wander and experiment, they will be equipped to examine the paths they’re on. Hopefully they choose to stay honest and embrace the truth.