I’ve been doing groundwork for the past couple of weeks on a feature story I’m working on about teens and faith. Or, more specifically, the willingness of teens to take a stand on their beliefs and share their faith with their classmates and peers.
I’ve put more work into this story than any I’ve ever done, and I hope it will turn out well. As I’ve talked to various students at local high schools, some have said that they’re made fun of because of their faith, others say that they haven’t been made fun of at all, but that most of their classmates actually respect them more because of their faith, even if they don’t share their views on Christianity and religion. But, to a person, they all agree that they won’t allow a fear of how they’re being perceived by other students to silence them or cause them to hide their faith.
Considering that these are impressionable teenagers, that’s quite impressive. And it’s certainly refreshing. There’s growing hostility towards Christianity and Christians in today’s culture. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen, in fact. For example, Easter afternoon I was reading the VolQuest.com messageboards to get Brent Hubbs’ thoughts on UT’s coaching search, and someone posted a thread stating, “He is risen.” The mean-spirited backlash that followed was eye-opening and telling. The days when atheists and agnostics would simply turn the other cheek to Christians is gone. Now there is outright hostility and intolerance of Christians. Of course, those who believe Bible prophecy are not surprised by this, but even amid this trend, more and more teenagers in our community are standing up and being counted as Christians. Is part of it a fad? Certainly. Even among this intolerance of Christianity, it’s cool in today’s society to throw around the word “God,” even by people who have no clue who God is. But there’s also a lot of sincerity, and that’s what I’ve found from the students I’ve talked to.
White Rock Baptist Church associate pastor Ashley Ellis says a big part of it is churches allowing kids to take on a bigger role in worship services instead of relegating them to different parts of the church during services.
“They’re youth in age, but they can still request prayer, and that sort of thing, and the best way for them to see the reality of faith is to be a part of it,” Ellis says.
Ellis says one of the keys is a change of approach for churches from his generation and mine to the current generation.
“The common approach (back then) was to use manipulation,” Ellis says. “That would change people for a couple of weeks, but kids today are too smart for that. They want you to be truthful with them. They want the truth, but they want it real.”
In other words, “Don’t force them. Let it come natural to them. And, then, even if they are ridiculed for their faith, it doesn’t matter as much because it is their faith and their beliefs,” Ellis says.
I’ll explore the issue much more deeply — and several different teenagers from the community will speak out in their own words on the subject — in an upcoming issue of the Independent Herald. In the meantime, this subject has been a refreshing one for me because, amid all the talk about how our younger generation is in trouble — too lazy, too immoral, etc. — it turns out that there are many teenagers within the community who stand firm on their beliefs, try their best to do the right thing, and have a keen interest in changing the culture around them for the better.