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The book Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It is written by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer. It arouses feelings of dread and concern in parents and ministers who wish to see young children and youths walking in Jesus Christ. The statistics presented depict a worrying trend where the church constantly loses its young generation. The book seeks to provide reasons for the mass exodus and proposes measures that can be implemented to remedy the situation.1
The survey is conducted by a renowned researcher Britt Beemer whose influence is evident in the high standards by which the research is conducted. Todd Hillard’s finesse as a writer is evident as he makes his contribution to the flow of the text. This paper is a critical analysis of the findings detailed in the book, the proposed solutions and the how the book will impact my ministry.
The report is about a survey in which one thousand youths aged between twenty and twenty-nine years are interviewed. The researchers discover some startling statistics about youth exodus from the church. The survey finds that, contrary to popular opinion that youths develop skepticism towards Christian principles while in college, almost half of the current young generation leave the church by the time they are in high school.
According to the study, approximately forty percent of children begin to have doubts about Christian doctrines and the importance of attending church services while in middle school.2 I believe in the philosophy of shaping the attitudes of children while they are still young. The revelation by Ham’s survey serves to strengthen my resolve to participate in shaping the way youths view the Christian faith and church attendance.
While young, children have many questions about many issues. If these questions are not addressed properly within the context of the church, the children may seek advice and solutions elsewhere. The advice may not necessarily be Christian. It is important to address the issues raised by children properly using the scripture and to refer them to church leaders or Christian advisers if the parents cannot address the issues raised.
Another baffling revelation that comes out of the survey is the finding that youths who attend Sunday school as children are more likely to develop skepticism towards the Bible and its authority. The study also reveals that children who attend Sunday school are likely to possess unscriptural positions regarding controversial issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality.3
Sunday school-going children are likely to see church attendance as irrelevant and the church as hypocritical. This revelation indicates that Sunday school does more harm than good in building children’s Christian foundation. If this is true, then the way Sunday school is taught is a contributing factor to the mass exodus from the church by the young generation.
The reason behind the failure of Sunday schools in their mandate to build Christian foundations in the young minds is perhaps in the technique used. In Sunday schools, children learn Bible stories unlike in formal schools where children are taught current events, science, fossils, and rocks.
It is my conviction after reading the article that if Sunday schools teach children based on current events and practical issues using biblical reference, the young are likely to have a more biblical perception of world issues. Though the stories in the Bible are important, they should not form the entire Sunday school curriculum and should be used in relevance to current events.
The authors of the book propose a number of solutions to the mass exodus from churches by the youth and the constant loss of faith. Their solution includes a solid grounding in Apologetics and biblical teaching to understand the creation story as portrayed in the book of genesis. According to the authors, the main problem lies in the way children are taught about the account of creation by parents and the church.4
The book emphasizes the value of addressing controversial and difficult topics that the young generation faces on a daily basis. These controversies include the place of evolution in Christianity, the authority of the scripture, some alleged contradictions in the Bible, the origin of differences in races, ethical problems, the dilemma concerning the origin of evil and suffering, and the truthfulness and possibility of miracles.
These issues need to be comprehensively addressed as the children grow to enable them develop a view of worldly phenomena using scriptural standpoints.
Many pastors and church leaders today choose entertainment and music as a way of attracting young people to churches and keeping them interested in church services. However, the book poses an interesting challenge to these pastors to focus on solid Christian teachings in order to build strong Christian foundations in the youth.
The authors emphasize the value of selecting and making use of good scriptural teaching materials for Sunday school curricula. It is also important that Sunday school teachers are accustomed to these materials. The book reminds parents that the role of building Christian principles in children is their duty, and this includes shaping the way their children perceive the world.
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My Take on the Proposed Approach
I believe that the problem of youth exodus from churches is real and that radical measures ought to be taken to remedy the situation. It is true that the youth need to be actively involved in church processes and that this requires laying Christian foundations as early as Sunday school level. The solutions proposed by the authors are applicable and will help me in my ministry to ensure that the young do not stray off the Christian path.
However, in my view, the suggested solutions are slightly insufficient in addressing the problem at hand. The authors fail to factor in the modern trends of individualistic thinking among the youths and the inclination of the current generation of youths to reject authority. Youths and children today are influenced in their thinking by mass media and peers more than they are influenced by the church.
Though proper parenting and building of strong Christian foundations is important, it is also vital to seek ways of dealing with worldly influences on the Christian youths. I believe that the church should listen to the youths more and offer a ministry, which they can relate to without compromising the basic scriptural teachings.
The book also fails to take into account the huge number of Christians who attend government schools and the role played by the school curricula in influencing their faith. The church needs to counter the secular teachings of these schools on controversial topics in a way that does not compromise the quality of the children’s education.
This can be done by making sure the children know that the secular teachings are just ways and theories of looking at the world and should not be taken as absolute truth. They should be taught that the Bible is the absolute source of guidance for Christian faith. The doctrinal conflicts that leave the youths confused on what is true and what is not should also be addressed. Doctrines might change, but the scriptural teachings must always remain the same.
Already Gone is a good expose on the exodus of youths from the church and Christian faith. It carries with it a very important message, that though the situation is bad, it can be remedied. The solutions suggested therein will help me in dealing with the young and strengthening their faith.
Ham, Ken, and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It. USA: New Leaf Publishing Group, 2009.
1 Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It (USA: New Leaf Publishing Group, 2009), 12.
2 Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone, 25.
3 Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone, 37.
4 Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone, 96.