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Helping Your Teens Retain Their Faith (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
September 28, 2020 6:00 am

Helping Your Teens Retain Their Faith (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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September 28, 2020 6:00 am

Researchers David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock share valuable insights about the faith of the emerging generation of young people, identifying many of the challenges facing teens and 20-somethings in the digital age. Our guests offer parents guidance for strengthening their teens' faith and helping them sustain that faith in today's culture. (Part 1 of 2)

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It can be easy to get discouraged about an emerging generation of young people who don't seem very interested in the Christian faith. But really there's a lot to be encouraged about you hear more today on Focus on the Family as we have practical ideas to help you and help your team follow Jesus in this digital age, your hostess focus presidents and other Jim Daly and I'm John felt John as a father of two young men. This topic of how young people and coalesce is so close to my heart because we live in a right now. Gina Meyer diligently trying to raise our sons to be man after God's own heart.

Some days we feel like we got a home run of the day is to strike out right and I think listeners feel the same way were competing with a lot in the culture right now when it comes to the existence of God a lie for him. What does it mean and today were going to discuss some wonderful insights from two experts that will give you a parenting tool many parenting tools to have discussions and to engage your young person in a way that I think will be super productive yet there's a lot of encouragement here. Our guests are David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock, and together they written a book called faith for exiles. It's about how to follow Jesus in the current culture and we have copies of that book of the details are in the episode notes a David Kinnaman is the president of the Barna group. He's an author. He has surveyed some one half million people over the years. Mark also works with the Barna group and lives in Texas. He's written a number of books and he's spoken to over million teenagers so these guys know what you're talking about, and both are married and have young adult children, David, Mark, welcome to focus thanks nice to be here. Good to have you glad to be, well, you know, I'm looking at the book and reading it and doing the prep for the program and I'm excited because I in living this like I said in the beginning there and this is where were at.

I know many of the listeners are there and it's can be really interesting. Let let's start with this idea of digital Babylon. What does that mean I think I did it and here's the other great thing John these principles again apply to all of us in the night. Think were all living in a Babylon type environment right now in our culture. So whether you are aiming this at your children or yourself. This is how you grow in Christ.

But go for it. Digital Babylon yet so you know that the work Barna is try to understand culture and so this million and 1/2 interviews. I feel worn out. Just hearing that handled by a lot of people like survey and we had telephone interviews, and online interviews and focus groups and qualitative interviews and so were were listening to culture understand what's happening and when we done all this research. I've tried it and interpret that for families and leaders and parents and for me when my favorite here is a Scripture is Daniel. And so, over the last 1012 years I really focused in on the world that this emerging generations living in and try to compare that to the story of Daniel and so one as a radio interview and I said you like this generation is that like there like exiles in Babylon like digital Babylon and and so that's what stock is about eight, nine years ago and for me that phrase digital Babylon Daniel learn the language and literature of Babylon for three years and more, he's apprenticed to becomes very influential in that place where faith is foreignness on the sidelines is his faith in Yahweh and so did a Babylon in today's context is the power of screens.

The power of these devices. The power of smart phones apps that we use in social media and the connectedness of this generation that's more connected than ever, but also less connected there lonelier than ever.

So really it's the story of the influence and try to parent well in this digital age. Mark, as you've worked with Barna and David obviously you identified the idea that you know that the consumption by young people digital resources is I mean astronomically high and you as a parent of teens. It's hard to get a grip on that because they use it for entertainment edutainment, you name it.

Screens are just ubiquitous in the culture. What are the numbers like and what are we facing well only look at you and cut what's going on right now. We seen how the Internet and social media has disruptors that every single industry in the every sector that's out there.

The one questions house really affected the church house really disruptive what's going on there and one of the things that we looked at as we were looking at the volume of screen hours compared to other experiences that young people having is that screens disciple and when David and I type those two words. Next each other. We were kind of like the weight of them was so heavy because I realize that someone is lead small groups of my church for a couple decades that this is what I've been facing is normally if a student was, you know, considering doubting God or his existence, they would come to me and say you not getting questions about God, but now they're going to Google first and they're having a secret conversation with somebody else's discipling them in their coming to me and saying I don't believe this in their coming out of the statement more than a question and they've Artie been formed and ends of their coming and their arguing that the I member this one exchange I had with this young man what seemed been born in my church so I knew we grew up.

I thought he's arguing a little bit smarter than he really is capable of self somewhere. He's getting these ideas and I googled a couple ideas that he had shared with me and churn out this website popped up how to debate a theist and he did absorb this information and so even though he was in my small group. For months he had been absorbing this to the point he argued back at me and so by the time I enter into the picture. I have a lot of work to do to undo the discipleship.

It's already been done away from the Lord will one of things that is so fun about this book in the study. I spent 12 years plus really studying the disconnection journeys. I did a project called you lost me.

That was really about the stories of the loss of faith and so this product was really about the resilience of faith and the good news and and I actually think were here today to talk so much about what we love about millennial's and Jen's the were on 46 marks. 51. As you say we got to one of about 21-year-old at 1916 and and it is true that there's a lot of strong correlations with the more screen time that the challenges but this is a message is more about us like how you monitor the screen at time of the apps that use because we are all going to live in a screen driven age. Whatever age you when your kids are going to get there telephone when it's a smart phone with her to get in online it's it's a big bad world out there and we have to figure out the way of strengthening faith so that they can live resilient lives as Daniel did down in this current sort of experience and so yet it's a really interesting work where it out so much an advocate for the sake of what this generation's asking of the church and in the deeper answer is that they're asking for and I so appreciate that because I'm excited for this next generation. I'm not down on it. I think God's putting both orthodoxy speaking truth and or the proxy doing truth together in this next generation. It's exciting when that happens is a full package for letting rare, it is rare for parents. It's terrifying sometime because we are going to some uncharted territories. You know, but the works right.

This is a personal project for us. Were not just some researchers donate is an interesting subject like going we care about our kids we want to see their faith be resilient in this world is there to live in a world that's unlike anything we've ever lived and that's a nice set up his next question when they ask you just to provide that kind of the personal bona fides that you bring is the fact that you've done this with your kids. David, in your case, your daughter chose UC Berkeley and on telling these are the kind of conversations going on the home they mean Jean and I have had the same discussion we want our boys to go to a great Christian University bio length somewhere where they could also get biblical teaching, but that doesn't guarantee anything. I mean it's nice then it may be, is predictive but what happened in your case, well it was a crazy set of discussions that my daughter, my family had her senior year, junior senior year and she applied a 27 schools or whatever when she's a science whiz yeah yeah she's really interested. She studying molecular, cellular biology, I'm just a maze or member. The three working order and and so she she was really interested in the mainstream school and I went to Christian school and University. My wife did and and so we we had this great discussion about what she wanted and where she was going on in a like I had to realize and in those discussions that it wasn't my vision for her future. She had to live into God's calling. We we pray that I was so touched by the Lord in that period of time because my heart was completely yeah Berkeley is the last pleasure to go. You can take and how that is a safety school on your list of 27 schools to apply to.

But that's not a big place you go and over the course of seven different things of the Lord really spoke to me this a place for her to go and her faith, her faith is actually grown stronger in that environment. Now my middle daughter is Abiola and in her faith is growing strong in that environment, but your rewrite site just because they're in outward trappings of the Christian environment is like Mark was a little bit ago.

Just because you're in the building in the youth group in the Christian University.

Part of this message of digital Babylon is that screens are influencing us in deeper ways to becoming our our counselor, our best friend, our sex educator are in a confidant, and so we gotta recognize even if they're in the building unit there in the program. They may not actually be with us in terms of heart, mind and soul and it's really important. It's hard to let go and let God take over your child's journey market.

A similar situation along after David dropped his daughter gallantly same weekend he was and he was dropping off in the Bay Area and I was in New York City in Manhattan dropping my daughter off at Parsons school of design, where she's in a steady fashion. And yet we were.

We are concerned like what will this world be like for her. You know I grown up I went to Viola's well before David did in. I was wondering what kind of support system will be around her. How will that influence are going to California. I wasn't in the Bible Belt. My daughter grew up in the Bible Belt, and so I was a little worried because she'd always come to push back a little bit on things and was always asking deep questions about faith in God and his existence, and as I because you're in Texas because one taxi right right now as many of the Bible Belt. Yet in Texas and I'm going once again to be like when she goes to New York is this her hand on the door moment because we been studying generations realizing there's generation as her hand on the door church is my daughter's hand on the door moment and what happened was really interesting because in some ways like David's daughter she for the first time saw the potent impact of having Christ in her life she started seeing how light shines in dark place because of the discrepancy right because of the distinction yeah Jim was having a hard time seeing the Bible Belt, frankly, and she was kind of like going. Wow. You know what's going on there and I remember being at Rift Valley Academy talking some seniors in there is literally a wall around that school is, it wasn't like you growing up and going to school inside a wall and one of the seniors told me is like being a candle in a well lit room and that image really stayed with me this idea that when we're around people of faith all the time. Sometimes we don't see how impacting Christ is in our life in the world around us.

So for my daughter this really started incredible journey and awareness of just how deep her faith went and how effective it was. In life, so that is good yeah working to get into the research.

Just a moment in the book were talking about is called faith for exiles.

We've got or call 800 K in the word family and while you're at the website. Be sure to learn more about bring your Bible to school day happening this Thursday, October 1 we got all the info right there for you about encouraging your team in their faith through that event at gentlemen in your research. You identified four different Christian exile types. Let's get into it. What were those for what do they mean yes as researchers we love to put people in the buckets we don't call those people the names in the research that we use survey data to help us understand a person's spiritual journey.

So it's if it's a fun job.

Try to really understand where someone is at based on not just in the building and church building. But you know can we understand their heart set their minds and their beliefs so I've been studying ghetto religion America for 25 years and doing this with with with the Barna group and so with with young adults. We we were trying to understand the spiritual journeys of people grow Christian. And so we interviewed 18 to 29-year-olds who asked him reflect back on their teenage years and where they were today and so we came up with fork buckets for categories. The first group are the resilient disciples and that represents one in 10 young people and these are people that believe in the authority of Scripture.

They believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and they want their faith to matter in the world and so that was our definition of a resilient disciple and that's you know what were here really talking now actively engaged in the church as well, but was another. That's right. And that's only 10% of people who grow Christian and as teenagers or witches should be a really sobering you know that finding for us, because it really tells us this is not easy.

As he says in a sort of easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but we can also talk would sort of paraphrase that it's easier for a young person to grow up as Christian and then sort of walk away from faith and really have resilient faith today and so that was the first group and in most of our work in this product was understanding what makes for resilience left the first go to the attributes of that group and I get that one of the other three of the second group was habitual churchgoers and that sounds bad but when you drive well. These are people that are active in faith.

They attend church. They call themselves Christians. They love Jesus but there other factors about their faith are much diminished.

They don't have the same orthodoxy of beliefs there really there sort of disliked Christian in churchgoing only.

Is that often the phrase of being a societal Christian social Christian I think so. I think this pandemic is really affecting a lot of these habitual questions were who are going to church out of habitual reasons, but they're not there. Not really deep in the words are not sort of people of prayer that are not engage in Christian community outside of it so that represents about 38% of young people have that sobering. But what's great about that is we have 38% that are in the church within reach. But if we can have those conversations we can disciple them in this area. Resilience in digital Babylon realizing and engage that there within reach.

You know, so that's the encouraging part, these are 18 to 29-year-old 18 to 29. The audience hears that Garrett was the third one third group as we called nomads, and this is the individuals who say capsule question that is never show up in a church that would've been marked talking about this person's got their hand on the door. They have walk through that door. They still think fondly about Jesus. They sort of say there is no aligned to Jesus, but there are really cultural Christians and in the final biblical particles and fasting is 22%.

One in five, 18 to 29-year-olds twice as large as the young resilience say they're no longer Christian. Now here's a fast one time identified as a creatinine. I no longer do I got the questions lined up to go for a yeah well it's it's fasting because 10 years ago we did the lossy project that number was only 11%, and so over a decade. When smart phones arise when it's the gospel according to YouTube, you got all these pressures you got this huge disaffection of huge loss of faith among this generation so that the people who have lost their faith is growing to 22%. They 15, whereas is this a look at the contrast that the 10% who are the most resilient in their faith went in that group you know again I'm speaking to parents, and I really want them to be equipped to maybe even change their strategy about how to engage the young people spiritually.

But what were the top one or two reasons for that disaffection that group in the prodigal's, what did they say well it's a range of different reasons. The church is antiscience. The church is repressive, the church is judgmental, it's hypocritical.

We see a huge correlation to and I want to talk on this really is sensitively and humbly like self-righteous Christianity where we make Jesus all about following rules and we met you know it's like Jesus is just as concerned with our self-righteousness, as he is in an unrighteous the regular prodigal's yeah the older brothers also proper that's exactly right. Right. And so we see a lot of rejection of that kind of you know older brother Christianity in the stories of these people and I just wants her to say to parents and listeners who are going through that, you know, we've interviewed people. It's heartbreaking piece, but there's also hope and there is this real sense of I've got the sort of sacred job of listening to people who've lost their faith and I consider that a real privilege because I respect and honor.

Every person story, of course, I don't agree with the spiritual conclusions that they come to that but I think to parents who just we grasp on so tightly to the faith of our children because we think it reflects on us but you know it's it's a really important realization in this data that you know there are a lot of people lose their faith and God still cares about them.

You can still pray for them.

You can still ask the Lord for wisdom about how to speak to them about spiritual things. But it's also like it's okay to let the Holy Spirit do you know its work and in the lives of our children, and even when they've lost their faith in David and Mark you know what's so difficult with that his parents and I think particular Christian parents. This issue of control is huge and we go for behavioral control and we think we achieve it if were unaware and we believe they're behaving well you know they're not promiscuous sexually than not doing drugs are not drinking alcohol, etc. and we can uncheck the box of know we have good kids that can actually be like one of the one of the interesting things and you lost me, will you look at these particles is that there were some prodigal's that were injured by the church.

They were hurt, wounded, may be some type of sexual or spiritual abuse or something of that nature. Then there's another group that are just like it's, like an air of polite atheism works like I just come to the conclusion that I don't believe any of this and a lot of them even wait until there is a graduate because they don't want to upset their moms and dads because they respect them so much of the being polite there being polite and I think that's a unique thing because as David mentions is antiscience and some of these things they're looking at. Facts are looking at information in their same just doesn't add up to me and it may be that there are ways that we express or understand our faith. We haven't properly integrated those things and so we need to be looking for those other men and women that have integrated those things that can help them on their way. I've had incredible conversations with teenagers that were ready to leave the door they're going into a stem related field science, technology, engineering, math, and they were like Christianity does not at I sat down with them open up their mind the idea that maybe science was more in cahoots with the Bible than they realize.

Right. And in in that conversation turn them back into a conversation about how the Lord you would be involved in their life that they followed in this path.

So I think that some of it with a look for his parents is we may not our kids may be thinking about their faith on a level that we are not and we need to be figuring out where those men and women we can bring into their life to help with okay look, we set the groundwork were just at the end of the program here. I want to mention the five practices that those 10% that resilient disciples possess enrolling and have time to cover one of the five today but what are the five and what is the first one in more detail. So the five themes that we found that were true of resilient disciples.

And when you look at these five themes compared to the other profiles is a huge difference. There's a huge gap between it's not just a minor difference like so it's significant and it's a really remarkable special between the visuals and the resilience kids are going to church with about the same frequency but they're having really different experience asked. So the first one is experiencing Jesus.

The second is meaningful relationships. The third is cultural discernment. The fourth is vocational discipleship, and the fifth is living in countercultural mission. So those of the five Practices that we saw in those resilience yeah and let's get into the first one was experiencing Jesus. What does that mean to those 10% well and just put up a little codec to the description there is that what we learn is that you are trying to develop resilience isn't as simple as do these three or four things right, but it's a it's most like guidelines and guardrails.

These five themes. The more that you do the more resilient your faith is brilliant. At the very beginning of the program's source said this isn't just about discipling young people. It is that but it's also about how we can be more resilient in our own digital lives in a discipleship with Jesus.

So experiencing Jesus as a researcher, one of the most remarkable fact that most people overlook is that 7/10 Americans say they've made a commitment to Jesus. That is still important in their life and it's just I remember just absolutely stumbling on that data.

In my early years at Barna and so I've been on a 25 year class to understand what was really me to follow Jesus when virtually everyone. 7/10 Americans say they do right and so what we find in this study is this idea of clearing the religious clutter. There are things that we do that have sort of lost their meaning or have lost their meaning in the lives of the discipleship process that were intending to have for people.

So how do we help people reach their identity not in and of their gender or their the team that they root for, or their favorite outdoor brand, but in and who Jesus is and what he says about us and so we find that society a really rare thing, and most people say you have got the Jesus T-shirt, but I don't accurately love him. I don't hear him speak to me in real and personal way.

So into one great example how we as parents and others can influence the selection ration is just asking the Lord to speak to us and demonstrating this notion of of our lives being open to the Lord's leading and ghetto tell the story of of Emily and I it was like you're not going to UC Berkeley. You're not going to UC Berkeley is like okay… Ask God what he thinks and so present her saying that exactly so you know the overarching period of several weeks. I'll let Michaela Rahman really ask you for your wisdom and there were like seven things that were really miraculous, as the Lord showed me and I just wept when I sort of like this is actually where God wants my daughter to go and so we have to demonstrate that an actual trust that a real God is speaking to us as parents. And it's not about controlling our kids about you influencing them towards Jesus, but I might have to develop more influencing us as their parents that it is about them. So this idea of allowing God to speak in our lives at the good example of experiencing what I want to jump in because what it demonstrates is humility which the Scriptures so precise on that pride kills us in so many endeavors. Whether it's our business or vocational efforts or parenting and what a beautiful example is a parent of being humble and listening to Emily your child say dad, let's let's pray about it. Let's talk to the Lord about and see if he agrees that it be okay for me to go to Berkeley I could.

There's two ways you go. At that point either. Humble yourself or you dig in with prideful parenting and say no I know what's best for you. I know that's not to be a good environment you're not gonna go in the Lord setting out what will backup you trust me and I think about the fateful decision we made than because it was not easy and drop it off Emily at school and in a she's amazing kids. But it's a more than the cages young lady now and just by her so much but I think about that. The week before we drop her off and a bit of a personal story for us is that my wife's been struggling with brain cancer for three years and and she had just come through some surgeries that summer was really having a hard time keeping track of just details in the event that the most lucid moment that my wife had was praying for her daughter to go to Berkeley that the weekend before we drop her off during that stretch of time and so so it's pretty amazing that the way God's faithfulness shows up when we do choose to allow him to speak in our lives and they were obedient to that well and I so appreciate that vulnerability David and both you and Mark have done a wonderful job with this book faith for exiles again. It's aim for young people, but all of us that people of all ages that can benefit from the content in here and we covered one of those five attributes of the resilient Christian really come back next time.

If you guys are willing and cover the other four, but I love the beginning number one is that intimacy with Jesus and what does that mean a great start to the discussion and folks, if you want a copy of this book and there's a couple ways to do that one ordered from Focus on the Family.

If you can make a gift on a monthly basis will send you a copy as our way of saying thank you. If that's too much and I get that if you can make a one-time gift of any amount will send it to you and again know we are Christian ministry. If you need the book and you can afford it we will get it to you. Just let us know and trust that others in the community of believers will cover the cost of that so I think you hear my heart there. I believe in this content so much I want to get it in your hands. It's that important. And if you can join us in ministry. Even better yet, donate. As you can and get the book when you call 800 the letter a in the word family or stop by the episode notes we've got the link, therefore you, David, Mark, again, thanks for being with us and I look forward to our conversation next time obsolete our pleasure to conform to and I know our listeners are looking forward to the conversation as well. And certainly, as we close, there's been a lot happening in the last couple of days to affect elections on November 3 will be talking about some of that on Wednesday with our special guests John Stonestreet and Tim Daigle, the lawful reminders about the importance of letting your voice be heard of you sure you're an informed voter. That's Wednesday for now on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting back tomorrow as we once more help you and your family thrive right

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