Reason #6: The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt

June 14th 2013 No comments yet  

Six ReasonsEven if they have grown up in church, young adults are apprehensive about letting on that they have doubts. Two of the most significant trends are not feeling able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36 percent) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23 percent) that they don’t feel comfortable addressing.

A young’n’s perspective

Along with being a place to worship, the church is intended to be a place of instruction and guidance. Why do young adults feel like this isn’t the case?

There was a time from my junior to senior year of college where I didn’t attend church for almost a year. You could attribute it to late Saturday nights, but underneath there was an internal struggle of doubt. Did I really believe what I had been told in church, or had I always needed my parents to drag me out of bed? Did I truly want to be there for the right reasons, or was it what I had always just done?

After a few months of skipping, the last place I wanted to show up was church. How could I show my face to friends at church who knew about my recent drop off? How was I supposed to address the questions I had without seeming like I was ready to hop off the bandwagon again?

A “prodigal period” from church is a common phenomenon with people who leave the house for the first time, especially college students. The combination of being out of the house and getting bombarded by the agendas of old hippies disguised as philosophy professors is lethal to a mind still in the midst of its formative years.

In my opinion, the first year of college is where the majority of the damage is done for students with Christian backgrounds dropping out of church. With so many ideas, lifestyles, and freedom suddenly thrust in their face, it’s difficult for even the strongest Christians to not veer off course. As students are exposed to different religions and philosophies, it’s perfectly natural to question their beliefs. Many have a period of evaluation where they examine the options and determine Christianity is indeed the answer. Many more abandon their faith.

I believe at least part of this occurs because of the trends Barna discovered. Young people aren’t comfortable bringing up opposing viewpoints in church. Personally, I shied away from asking questions for two reasons:  fear of admitting you struggle with a particular element of the faith and the risk of looking stupid (funny how that dissipates as I get older). It’s legitimately scary for someone in that stage of life to admit they are struggling. For those of us who have grown up in church, asking questions about things like atheism, the veracity of other religions, premarital sex, and other topics is as blatant as admitting we’re considering them.

Churches, don’t treat these questions as a dip of the toe into sin. We may certainly be considering something that isn’t Christian, but well-informed answers and understanding are much more effective than stern looks and “don’t you dares”.

On the flip side, students need to realize they can trust some people with their questions. It’s just a matter of finding the right person and having the guts to be vulnerable. How are you going to find out the answer to a question if you’re too afraid to ask?

Just because you got a B- in philosophy your first semester doesn’t make you the grand dispenser of knowledge you may think you are. Be open to answers you don’t want to hear and reevaluate your doubts. You don’t have all the answers, but having the humility to ask questions is a step in the right direction.


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