Survey: Youths Want An Authentic Faith
WILL our kids keep the faith? To a large extent, that depends on parents and the church. A 2010 survey on the spiritual state of Malaysian Christian youths revealed some areas for improvement.
The survey found a lack of interest towards traditional religion among youths, but a desire for spirituality. Pastors interviewed for the survey felt that while youths were less inclined towards formal religion, they wanted a more "experiential" encounter with God.
Additionally, youth were hungry for authenticity. Some felt that Christian leaders were impersonal, non-relational or too busy. In some cases, parents who themselves are not spiritually disciplined were viewed as a hindrance to youths being drawn to the church. Parents had to emphasise the importance of God's Word at home and to show their faith to their children by example.
These were among the findings of a qualitative survey on the "Spiritual state of the World's Children" conducted by NECF Malaysia and One Hope, a USbased international ministry to children. The survey among English-speaking Malaysian youths was done between May and June 2010, and released in August 2010. Nine focus groups of students, two groups of youth pastors, one group of evangelical leaders, one group of English-speaking pastors, one group of parents and one group of teachers, were interviewed.
Pastors described youths today as being "very creative". Pastors thus recognized that churches needed to provide a "fun" environment for youths which at the same time allowed them to have a genuine encounter with God.
Church leaders also recognized several weaknesses in youth discipleship. One, was the lack of resources allocated to youth ministries, and especially for youth mentoring. Since youths only spent a few hours a week in church, youth pastors did not have adequate time to mentor them.
Of concern was that the overall cultural emphasis on materialism was not being adequately addressed among youths. This, and the stress parents placed on academic and financial success, were cited as reasons for the decline in youth interest in traditional religion.
Church leaders described this declining interest as a situation in which they were finding it hard to "pass the baton" on to the next generation of emerging leaders.
In developing outreach strategies for youths, the survey revealed two significant areas that need to be dealt with: the influence of the Internet and the call of materialism. Pastors also believed that strengthening the Christian family should be a priority for churches.
(Source: Extracted and adapted from Spiritual State of the World's Children - A Qualitative Study: English-speaking Youth Report, Malaysia, August 2010)