I spend much of my time with seminary students, but I also spend time with young men who have been raised in church, but who aren’t preparing for ministry. Often, I connect with this group when I speak in collegiate ministries or serve as an interim pastor. Many of these young men, I’m learning, struggle with church. Here are some of the reasons why:
- They’ve been told what to believe, not taught why to believe it. No one’s ever helped them think through their beliefs; the message they’ve heard is instead, “Just believe it because we’re telling you to.” That reasoning doesn’t hold much water for this group.
- They long for older mentors but can’t find them in the local church. To be fair, the young men don’t always ask – but when they do, it’s hard to find anyone willing to take on this task. Too often, these young men find their heroes outside the church.
- Their churches have sometimes forgotten them after their teen years. No church I know intentionally does so, but our structures and programs sometimes leap from youth ministry to young couples ministry. At a time when young men are often most open to being challenged and stretched, churches aren’t ready for them.
- They’ve been raised in a culture that questions or denies the moral standards of Christianity. Couple this reality with the truth that churches haven’t discipled well, and young men question why Christians take the stands they take. In fact, they sometimes see the stands as mean and arrogant – at times, because that’s the way some believers come across even as we stand for biblical truth.
- They make no assumption that the Bible is the Word of God. “Thus says the Lord” means little to a generation that’s been exposed to contradicting truth claims and other world faiths. They’re not opposed to Christian conclusions, but they don’t automatically accept them.
- They’ve sometimes come from Christian homes marked by hypocrisy. When what they see from their family on Sunday is not what they see the rest of the week, they almost can’t help but question the validity of Christianity.
- They don’t know well many strong believers. It’s not that their church doesn’t have any strong believers, though; it’s just that the young men have seldom been connected with them. In my judgment, though, it’s not the responsibility of the young men to come to us; it’s our job as older believers to reach out to them.
Let me know your thoughts. Have you experienced something different?