Study: Youth Groups Driving Teens to Abandon Faith

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Study: Youth Groups Driving Teens to Abandon Faith

By |Editor

youth-feet-pd-300x199A new study might reveal why a majority of Christian teens abandon their faith upon high school graduation. Some time ago, Christian pollster George Barna documented that 61 percent of today’s 20-somethings who had been churched at one point during their teen years are now spiritually disengaged. They do not attend church, read their Bible or pray.

According to a new five-week, three-question national survey sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), the youth group itself is the problem. Fifty-five percent of American Christians are concerned with modern youth ministry because it’s too shallow and too entertainment-focused, resulting in an inability to train mature believers. But even if church youth groups had the gravitas of Dallas Theological Seminary, 36 percent of today’s believers are convinced youth groups themselves are not even biblical.

After answering three questions at, each survey participant received NCFIC Director Scott Brown’s e-book entitled Weed in the Church: How A Culture of Age Segregation Is Destroying the Younger Generation, Fragmenting the Family and Harming Church as well as access to a 50-minute-long documentary entitled Divided: Is Modern Youth Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church? (Divided has been viewed by 200,000 people.)

The survey is still active online through Friday, Nov. 8.

Adam McManus, a spokesman for NCFIC, is not surprised by the church’s deep concerns about youth groups.

“Today’s church has created peer dependency,” McManus says. “The inherent result of youth groups is that teenagers in the church are focused on their peers, not their parents or their pastors. It’s a foreign sociology that leads to immaturity, a greater likelihood of sexual activity, drug experimentation and a rejection of the authority of the Word of God.

“Proverbs 13:20 says, ‘He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.’ The result is that the youth stumble, they can’t see beyond their noses, and spiritual adolescence is prolonged well into adulthood. It’s crippling the body of Christ. That’s why it’s time to return to the biblical paradigm and throw out the youth group structure entirely.”

He continues, “I am greatly encouraged by the results of our survey. American Christians are finally waking up to the disconnect between the clear teaching in Scripture in favor of family-integration and the modern-day church’s obsession with dividing the family at every turn. Age segregation, especially during the tender and impactful teenage years, not only hasn’t worked, it’s been detrimental. Even worse, it is contrary to the Bible. But the good news is that practices in the churches related to youth groups are changing dramatically. Twenty years ago no one was even asking this question.”

McManus cited the following Scriptures to document his contention that it’s God’s will for the church to embrace the biblical model of families staying together in the service as the Word of God is preached: Deuteronomy 16:9-14, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, 2 Chronicles 20:13, Nehemiah 12:43 and Joel 2:15-16.

“Our fervent prayer is that God will raise up Spirit-filled, Bible-preaching, Christ-centered, family-integrated assemblies from the ashes of our man-centered, family-fragmenting churches,” McManus adds. “Plus, the church needs to begin to equip Christian fathers to communicate the gospel to their families. Today, Christian parents are beginning to realize that they have not fulfilled their spiritual duties by simply dropping off their kiddos to Sunday school and youth group, allowing other parents to disciple their children by proxy.

“Let’s not forget the powerful words spoken by Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-7: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’

“It is the parents’ primary obligation to disciple their own children, impressing God’s commandments upon them in the home on a daily basis.”

Cameron Cole, youth director at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Ala., says, “There is a propensity in our culture to outsource the development of our children. For intellectual development, we send them to school. For athletic development, we send them to Little League. And for spiritual formation, we send them to youth group. The church has done a poor job of communicating to the parents that they are the primary disciplers of their children. Parents don’t believe this, but the reality is that kids listen to their parents far more than they’re going to listen to a youth minister.”

“It’s time for the Christian father to take the central role which God has ordained,” McManus concludes. “Gathered around the dining room table, the father needs to lead family worship once again, which had been standard behavior for a vibrant American Christian family for hundreds of years, dating back to the Plymouth, Mass., colony of 1620. Dad needs to read from and discuss the Bible, sing Christian songs and pray with his family, his little flock over which God has appointed him shepherd. Frankly, I’m not as concerned about what happens in Sunday school in church as I am with what happens in ‘Monday school’ and ‘Tuesday school’ at home with the family.”


The National Center For Family-Integrated Churches Documentary “Divided”

17 Comments on “Study: Youth Groups Driving Teens to Abandon Faith”

  1. This is a true article. I witnessed this first hand growing up in church. We had a very large youth group, however by time we reached high school, over half was already bearing bad fruit and now that we are adults in our 20s and 30s only a few are actually living for the Lord and walking in His purpose. We had a good youth leader, but I see now that it wasn’t his job to equip us this should’ve started at home. But this group dependency thing starts way before youth groups. Most churches today have a nursery, then it moves up to the pre-k level, then elementary level and so on. So by time a young teen gets to high school, they have been trained to go along with the crowd and do what others do without being taught to stand on their feet and to live for the Lord whether someone is around them or not. Many parents have failed to raise their own kids and often look to the church to do the job they are assigned to do. Youth Pastors, Youth groups and even Nurseries are not biblical.

  2. I totally agree! Western Christianity has brought into the Freud theories of child development which is a lie and not biblical. We have to return to the Word of God for instructions to live out the Christian life. We can not just accept what is the norm anymore. We must question eveything and go to the Bible. Just because it has been done for so many years does not mean that it is right. Proverbs 14:12

  3. I understand this completely. Since most churches are just like the world children see not only their parents but also the pastors as hypocrites, do as I say not as I do. When I attend worship service my children are always with me even from the time they were babies, my oldest is almost an adult and I am very firm on them. I was a young single mom but by the grace of God alone he put the heart of a Godly mother inside me, I sacrificed my life to raise them with honor and integrity. I didn’t allow them to spend the night at friends homes “ever”, and I never allowed other children to stay at my home, my teenagers are not allowed to roam the street and if they do not have a destination when they leave the house they are not allowed to go from the house, I know this may sound harsh but I have a duty as a mother to not allow my children destroy their life, I know what is best for them and they cannot tell me what is best for them, if they had their way they would do whatever they want. I refuse to bow down to the whims of my teenage children. As parents we have to exemplify the love of christ in our home, we can’t be out clubbing, getting high, fornicating, commiting adultery and everything else and expect our children to respect us, we must tell our children we love them and give them hugs and encouragement all the time, allow them to verbally express things that may bother them and always teach them the words of Christ let them see you pray and pray for them and with them, tell them goodbye before they leave for school and never scream at them before they leave out for school that will discourage them. Parents must be held accountable for bringing children into the world.

  4. The true problem is that we depend in youth programs to teach out kids how to love Jesus in a two hour period a week at most. Youth services are great to have alter moments and to hear relative biblical truths to guidethem towards righteousness living, the life ling change comes from the home. You can have a Brim Stone and Fire or a Entertain me type service for youth and still won’t see the results in the masses if the home is not living for Christ.

    You will always have the 5% of youth that answer the call from the Holy Spirit on their own, but the majority of the youth needs the guidance at home. If the parents are teaching their children, laying hands on their children weekly, and include them in praying for other people they will become grounded in the Lord.

    Our biggest problem is that we lean on our Youth Ministry to raise our children. Seminary notes, or a entertaining power point won’t change our youth, parents living for Christ will.

  5. I believe as parents we have failed by leaving it solely up to the pastor/youth leader to show the way to Christ. The bible says to talk about God In your homes and in your everyday being all the time. I watched young teens perform in the church just because the parents wanted it, but really was not conformed. Holding on to the things of the world!! The church have accommodated the youth in trying to appeal to them have ended up compromising the Gospel. The Gospel alone is powerful and don’t need the add ons to be affective!!!

  6. I think the genuineness of the gospel has lost it’s savor from what we now see on the big screen. The emphasis is no longer on the Word of God but opinions on what “I think it means” or how it should be to draw youth. God’s Word and Spirit is still the same, it’s the ones that are claiming to know it really only know OF it. Mega churches have given the youth so much and the youth still turn away from God. To sit and pay attention, to listen in Sunday School then Sunday service, Wednesday night Bible Study worked for me, that was all we had at our disposal, then Vacation Bible School.

  7. Amazing and true. Thank you Pastor for posting this. I will share it with other Christians. I need to make radical changes in my house by God’s grace.

  8. This may be true in the current emergent church structures but this has not been my experience in the last 30 years.

    The “youth group” that i was involved in as a young man was little more than “Sunday School” on a different day of the week. It was not a substitute for a Pastor or my parents. It was not a babysitting service where we listened to “worldly” music and so on.

    It was a place where, just like Sunday School, where we could learn more about the Word. 9, 10, 11 year olds can’t not possibly understand Glorification, Sanctification, Condemnation, Propitiation, and other “deeper” things of the faith by listening to a 30 min sermon on Sunday. It must be taught at home and in church school.

    Even this very current day many of our youth groups of yesteryear still think back and reminisce on the “good old days” of youth ministry. Even now we are ministers, deacons, teachers and leaders of the church.

    I digress, because I have also witnessed contemporary youth groups that are basically a church sponsored “boys & girls club”. No accountability, no true teaching, it’s just a giant party held in a church so it’s considered church.

    So don’t get true “youth groups” who are working with the Pastors vision in creating disciples in their local church. I have seen the fruit when it is done right.

  9. Very powerful Documentary!! I couldn’t help but agree with the message, that parents are lacking when it comes to teaching the children “Sound-Biblical Doctrine”?! Growing up in the church, I can remember numerous times where we had classes for different ages, not so much children’s church?! But, this is where I often struggled a lot of times, because we would go to church all day and when we got home, my parents never really talked to us that much or explained scriptures more clearly??? I feel like they didn’t teach my sisters and I balance, when it came to word of God>?! Now that I’m older, I understand things much more and I actually do read my bible, pray and fast from time to time?!! But, this was a great video and I really enjoy all of the information that EX Ministries provides, it has been very beneficial to me and my walk with the Lord!! I will continue to support your ministry!! More young adults need to see this video?!!

  10. Beloved of God I believe the tragedy is not so much that we loose focus and follow tradition…BUT the TRAGEDY is when this TRUTH comes and we don’t change!! I don’t have to fast and pray! I don’t have to read this and research it for myself!! THIS MAKES SENSE IT LINES UP WITH THE TRUTH OF THE WORD OF GOD AND this lie ends NOW in MY family. just saying.

  11. This is so true. This has and is happening with many churches in my area. It’s very important for a household to be involved. I know it says in Acts 16 if a person believes the whole household of that person could be saved.

  12. I was convinced as well as convicted when I read this. I confess that I have not done nearly enough in the discipling of my children! Church youth-groups aren’t biblical or even Christ centered. Thank you for this article! You at EX MINISTRIES are doing a great work! May the God & Father of our Lord & SAvior continue to bless you immensely…

  13. Very very good article. While there is some truth in what was written. I understand the points he made. Do think youth ministries need to be less entertainment focused, treated like they sitters for teens and truly connected to the teachings the senior pastor is giving the adults. I served in youth ministry for about a decade and one of the things I stressed to parents was that we aren’t supposed to their teens main source of spiritual growth that was their job. Out job was to reinforce what being given in the homes. Sadly this always fell on deaf ears of parents. And secondly we made sure any lesson or teaching that we did was ran by the senior pastor first. If he didn’t approve, then we didn’t do it. We tried our best to follow the teachings he was giving to adults. I do agree too many churches youth groups were nothing social clubs for the kids and the workers at the same time. Though parents are supposed to be their teens best source of biblical teaching there are situations where the teens are the only people coming to church seeking after Christ. And then there are times when teens have strained relationships with parents, and a God-centered, Word filled youth can fill a spot missing and work at restoring the parent/teen relationship. All things need to be done in balance.

  14. Parents are leaving churches that don’t have developed “youth ministries” or “youth groups” too because they don’t want their youth sitting with them in church. They want to “enjoy the service” without having to be responsible for their child(ren).

  15. This is so true. I’m 23 years old and my husband and I went into leadership and the worship team after being in youth group since young ages. We made a very tough decision on getting out of the youth group bcuz our heart and focus was wanting to help disciple teens to learn to really get into an everlasting relationship with God. This youth group was too focused on entertaining and be ‘cool’ . Not even wanting to do worship practice and saying…’we will just rely on God…dont need to practice’

    I think I was the most disgusted with youth conventions. It is like going away for a weekend to get Jesus high and then come back and completely sober and not knowing how to deal with wveryday life and school…it was like this since I was 12 to 20..being in the youth group.

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