Friday, March 12, 2010

Rejecting Adolescence in the Church - Part 7

A Reasonable Response to an Unfounded Psychological Theory
by McKrunk
Part 7
[Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

Is There a Baby in this Bathwater?

While recognizing some fundamental problems with modern youth ministry, some may yet argue that what is needed is that the ministry be reformed, and that we should not “throw out the baby with the bath water.”  There is ultimately no reason to maintain all or some part of a model of ministry when there is a Biblical alternative which can be administered in its stead.

While very few studies can be found to show that those raised in youth groups are more likely to remain faithful to Christianity and the Church, by far the more significant findings are that most go astray.  The Barna research group has found that:
In fact, the most potent data regarding disengagement is that a majority of twentysomethings -61% of today’s young adults -had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying).  Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences.  Another one-fifth of teens (19%) were never significantly reached by a Christian community of faith during their teens and have remained disconnected from the Christian faith (Barna, 2006).
The weight of the data is that youth groups have failed to produce spiritually mature adults, and even when some correlation is seen between spiritual perseverance and youth group attendance, there is likely a third cause for the phenomenon, such as parental involvement.  As the church has consistently witnessed the fact that young adults are leaving the faith en mass after their youth group days end, instead of coming to grips with the fact that the youth group is a failed experiment, they create more youth groups for college-aged “kids.”

Arguing that any positive results produced by youth groups justify their existence is fallacious.  If it is seen that those who smoke unfiltered Marlboro cigarettes for thirty years have a cancer rate of 70%, but those who smoke filtered Camel Ultra-Light cigarettes for a period of thirty years have a cancer rate of only 50%, one should not conclude that one ought to smoke Camel Ultra-Light cigarettes, but only that Camel Ultra-Light cigarettes are less damaging than Marlboros.  Youth groups’ practices of isolation, segregation, and infantilization of young adults contributes to the cancer of the myth of adolescence.  While the presence of Bible teaching, fellowship, and prayer most certainly counteract or minimize at least some of the negatives of the adolescent ethos, one does not need “youth group” to accomplish Bible teaching, fellowship, and prayer.

Thus, the wise course of action is to cut out the cancer-causing elements of the youth group.  As soon as those elements of age segregation, infantilization, and collusion with the myth of adolescence are removed from a youth group, the group can no longer meaningfully be identified as a youth group.

We are not aware of any studies that have been conducted in recent years on how integration into church and adult life effects the permanence and maturity of the Christian faith among young adults.  However, homeschooled people in general have more integrated contact with adults, and less segregation with a narrow age group, and many studies have been conducted demonstrating that those taken out of just one element of age-segregated society receive a great benefit.  Even though few homeschoolers reject the myth of adolescence, just one small step away from an institution built around the myth of adolescence has fairly potent results.

In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families was released.  It was entitled, "Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America."  The study demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, outperformed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects.  A significant finding when analyzing the data for 8th graders was the evidence that homeschoolers who are homeschooled two or more years score substantially higher than students who have been homeschooled one year or less.  The new homeschoolers were scoring on the average in the 59th percentile compared to students homeschooled the last two or more years who scored between 86th and 92nd percentile (Smith, 2004).

The effect is not only in the realm of academia, but life in general.

[Graphic tables pertaining to Activities in Local Community, Style of Living, Happiness Quotient, and Perspective on Life —]

History confirms that those generations of young adults who were integrated with older generations have a much higher rate of acceptance of the values and traditions of their parents than those generations who were not.  As previously noted, since the widespread acceptance of adolescent age segregation, defining generational mores shift at a rapid pace.  It is not a coincidence that the first widespread rejection of authority and traditional values, which happened in the 1960s, occurred shortly after the myth of adolescence had been fully integrated into society and age segregation had finally established itself firmly in the church.

Cont'd.  [Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

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