This weekend we attended the fifth annual ReThink Youth Apologetics Conference in Costa Mesa California. It was our fourth trip to the event (We missed the first year), and it just keeps getting better each year. Brett Kunkle and the crew at Stand to Reason do an outstanding job putting this conference on. If you’ve never been, and you have students in your life, you need to make it a priority to attend.
I’ve been to many youth camps and conferences in my work with Christian youth, and this is hands down the most valuable of any i have attended. Many of these other gatherings focus on experiences of Jesus, or having a personal relationship with Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, these are important aspects of our Christian life. But, as pointed out by Brett this weekend, if you don’t know who Jesus is, it’s hard to have a relationship with Him. Ask as student a question about pop culture, and they can usually come up with the answer pretty quick. Ask them to give you a Bible verse that demonstrates the Deity of Jesus, and most of the time they will come up empty handed. And our students aren’t alone in this. Most of us in the pews would be hard pressed to answer the same question.
If you are as concerned about the state of the Church today as I am, I invite you to look around your Church and see which age group we should be most concerned about. Who is it that is leaving the Church? Is it people 45 and over? No, the age group we need to be concerned about is our youth. They are the ones that are walking away. Studies vary, but most put the number somewhere between 60-80% of students involved in youth group will walk away from their faith in the first year of college. Those are staggering numbers!
So how do we reverse this trend? ReThink is a great first step, but a one weekend conference can’t make they type of impact we need to reverse the trend of students leaving our churches. We need to change the way we treat youth in our churches, and we need to change our priorities as parents.
Typical youth groups are totally focused on fun, food and a surface level teaching on Jesus. Lessons are typically about how to live a better life, stay off drugs, and stay celibate until marriage. All worthy pursuits to be sure. But this is bottom up thinking. The problem is our kids are being taught by the culture that Christianity is just a matter of opinion. Anything you choose to believe about God is acceptable, and no one has the right to say your version of God is superior or more true that anyone else’s view. And if what is acceptable to God is simply a matter of opinion, then all the worldview lessons we give our kids are going to be made impotent if all they have to do is change their opinion about God. We need to be more focused on training our students to be able to understand what they believe about God, and why they believe it. And, they must be able to defend their beliefs in the face of opposition, because they are going to be on the firing line sooner rather than later.
It’s easy to just dump this problem at the feet of our youth and church leaders, but we as parents need to step up as well. Our priorities need to change. Most of us will spend money on tutors, football camps, soccer camps, band camps and other extra curricular activities our students are involved in. But are we willing to devote the same resources and time commitments to our kids spiritual development? J. Warner Wallace made a great point at lunch on Saturday. We as parents worry so much about our kids education and extra curricular activities. These are all things the school system will gladly teach our kids. The one think they will not ensure is that our kids share our same values and beliefs. As a matter of fact, if you send your student into the California university system, you will pay upwards of $125,000 per year for the privilege of having them teach your kids values that are the exact opposite of what you would want them to hold. It’s time for US to show our kids what is important.
So where can we start as parents? ReThink is a good place to get your students feet wet. I would also recommend a two week summer stay at either Impact 360 or Summit ministries. Both do amazing world view training for students. It’s also time to do your own studying! The person your student is most likely to turn to with difficult questions is you! Learn enough that you have knowledge of some of the most common questions or objections students face. A good place to start is right here with 65 apologetic questions that every Christian parent need to learn how to answer. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers, but if you can’t answer something, don’t let it lie. Do the research with your student and answer the question together. Help them begin to search for answers on their own. And if you really cant figure something out, reach out to a pastor or other leader that might give you the answer you are looking for.
ReThink is something I look forward to each year. I enjoy seeing familiar faces and friends almost as much as the training itself. It’s amazing to watch Jr. and Sr. High students pressing up against the glass waiting for the door to open, and then racing to get to the front rows for a good seat. This isn’t something you normally see at church or youth gatherings! At the time of this writing, it’s only 364 days to ReThink 2017! I’ll be counting the days.
Yours in Christ,