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Teens Shape Modern Christianity

( [email protected] ) Apr 22, 2004 03:09 PM EDT

Despite a Gallup poll that was released in March, which showed that whereas 50 to 60 percent of young Christians say religion is important in their lives, only 30 –40 percent said they have attended services in the past week, churches across the nation are noticing changes among the service attendees.

As more churches are paying greater attention to attract young Christians by holding separate youth services and forming youth small groups, there seems to be a slight increase in service attendance among young believers across the nation.

Researchers call the younger generations as the influential age groups, who shape modern Christianity and urged Christian leaders to pay more attention to youth. George Barna of the Barna Institute, which analyzes cultural trends in Christianity, also said, "The church must earn the time and attention of teens - and that means becoming a provider of value well before their high school graduation.”

Even the Bible has been transformed to attract Christian teens. Bible publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. released Revolve: The Complete New Testament, last year, which is a repackaging of the Bible in a book that looks more like a fashion magazine, with easy-to-read translations.Revolve was the best-selling Bible of 2003. Zondervan publisher also has released two new teen Bibles, True Images for girls and Revolution for boys, in November.

Zondervan's Bibles try to help teens sort through potentially harmful messages from music, television and the Internet, said Paul Caminiti, Zondervan's vice president. "We're constantly studying the trends," Caminiti says. "Our sense was that there had been a cultural shift in the world of teens that merited another teen Bible."

Vineyard Christian Church in Burlington, Ohio is one of the contemporary interdenominational churches that offer services with multimedia message instead of a standard sermon. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, local churches in Cincinnati have already started or are planning to start youth or college ministries.

Churches in Ohio with thousands of members such as Vineyard, Crossroads Community Church in Oakley, and Essential at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Milford, where the majority congregation are young adults, have adopted new methods to attract younger generation. It has become very common for a praise band to lead service with upbeat contemporary gospel music rather than hymns.

Young people are "very excited about God," says John Wentz, 27, campus minister of University Christian Church in Clifton.

"I see it happening here and across the country. Religion is almost like a wave through the younger generation."

"Church is not all about sitting in one place and listening to someone talk. It's about communication," teaching pastor Brian Wells at Crossroads Church said.

"It was relevant. That was the biggest thing," Rob Seddon, who attends Crossroads, said, "Every week I would go and hear something I was actually going through, all the way down to the music."

Faith Evangelical Free Church used to lose a great number of young Christians as about 80 percent of youth-group graduates never returned once they hit college. But now they are focusing more on youth by organizing new Bible study programs, self-led by young Christians, focusing more on the life of Jesus rather than the religious components of the Bible.

"In the age of modernity, we rationally deducted everything into very scientific truth-telling until the story was lost," Bradley Reith, who directs young adult ministry the Essential program at Faith Evangelical Free Church. "Now you see a generation that values art, subjectivity and mystery. They want stories."

Calvary Baptist Church, is one of the churches in the San Francisco Bay Area that is active in mobilizing young, teenage Christians. Shawn Allen, Youth Pastor of Calvary Church, told Christian Post of the activities that Calvary Baptist is doing to attract young believers. Calvary Church holds a separate gathering for young adults and is actively engaged in outside activities for youth to participate. He said, “We try to make appropriate for young people. We meet on Wednesdays to teach them something that would be applicable to their level and to show them the importance of church so that they could have good patterns as young adults and those patterns can be carried over when they become adults. We do Bible Study for about an hour and we provide dinner afterwards.”

Young Christians at Calvary are also attending Sunday service in the morning, although it is not youth directed. Allen said, “Besides Wednesday meeting, we meet once a moth to do Sunday night activity. About 40 to 45 teens do attend morning service on Sundays.”

Interestingly, not all young people are only interested in contemporary service. According to Colleen Carroll, who wrote “The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Orthodoxy,” plenty of young people still relish traditionalism. Carroll, who spent a year researching the attraction of young adults back to orthodox religion, found there is a hunger for liturgy among young Christians. She said, “"Many people are attracted to the mystery and the reverence that is not rock bands and screens."