Teens who go to church get into less trouble and have higher values.
Teens who go to church have less trouble!
Teens receive much bad publicity. Newspapers and television highlight youth drug and alcohol problems, teenage suicides, vandalism, gang violence, teen pregnancies, and an increase in the number of street kids.
Some parents think good teens exist only in old movies, and the only way to keep them at home is to create a happy home and let the air out of their tires. But from studies in Australia, the United States, and Britain, one section of young people is defying the general trend. It is church youth — young people who regularly attend church.
Positive results from church youth
In Australia in the 1990s, results of a four-year study of the social and religious attitudes of 310,000 church attenders showed encouraging signs among youth. This National Church Life Survey published its results in a book, Views from the Pews.
The results showed that 62 per cent of churchgoing Australian teenagers identified with the statement “I do not believe in evolution. God created the world in seven days as described in the Bible”. This teen percentage of 62 per cent was much higher than the 43 per cent of creationists aged more than 70 years. It was also higher than the average 51 per cent among all responders. (Not all churches took part.)
Overall, results varied widely among the major denominations. The highest number of creationists were in the Assemblies of God, Lutherans, Baptists, and Salvation Army. A slightly lower proportion belonged to Churches of Christ and Presbyterian churches. The lowest number attended Anglican and Uniting churches.
Strong in other areas too
The young people who believed so strongly in creation and rejected evolution also shone in other areas. They showed the strongest disapproval of sex outside marriage. They opposed racism. They had the highest assurance of everlasting life.
Those in their twenties were most likely to read the Bible daily.
With few exceptions, churches that rated low in accepting the Bible's account of creation literally were also shaky in other important areas. Their members expressed lack of growth in their faith, lack of assurance of everlasting life, doubts about God, and confusion in their beliefs.
Church teens have better quality of life
In the United States, a major study of Christian youths showed a better quality of life among teenagers who regularly attended church than among teens who didn't.
A Search study interviewed 47,000 teenagers. It found that those involved in church life were less likely to be sexually active than non-churchgoers were. They were also less likely to take part in drug use and binge drinking. They were more likely to stay in school and to refuse a ride with a drunken driver. This is all positive for building a better society.
One reason given for the difference was that religious institutions teach values and create a foundation on which young people can make positive life decisions. Non–church-attenders don't receive that healthy reinforcement.
True love waits
A church-run campaign promoting “no sex until marriage” — the True Love Waits campaign — caught on in the 1990s. It is still having much greater success than school-run abstinence programs. It saw many teens in America, Australia, and to a lesser extent Britain, wearing T-shirts saying “Stop at the lips” and “Do the right thing — wait for the ring.” Youth groups circulated pledge cards which teens signed and displayed to keep their dates on the right moral path.
At a time when youths have to fight peer pressure assertively, church youths are doing a better job of fighting for a moral, values-based society than many give them credit for.
There are lessons here for the churches. Liberal churches may think the result from the creation–evolution question in the Australian survey is surprising or doesn't mean much. But from experience talking with youths and parents, we know that creation–evolution beliefs are an excellent key to showing whether people are likely to get other values right too. (“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” — Psalm 11:3.)
Churches teaching their young people to trust the whole of the Bible, beginning at the Genesis six-day creation account, are most likely to produce Christ-honoring adults and stronger church congregations.
And that will benefit everyone.