Originally published 10.24.10
This has been an on-going conversation between myself and youth for many years.
I have personally watched young people shun religion for various reasons whether it is the pull of “the world” or outright disgust with what they see. They’ve told me that they gravitate more to television, the street life, reality shows, and social media more than going to one of the houses of worship.
Instead of writing a blog this, I asked 17-year-old college student, blogger and speaker Salih Muhammad of Oakland to weigh in on it. He has been raised in a Muslim home and since I’ve known him he has exhibited an energetic spirit towards learning more and doing more. He’s in love with Islam and is an active participant. I asked him “What’s driving youth away from religion?”
This is what he shared with me.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Now, more than ever, we need God. Today we are plagued with problem after problem, as leadership wanders blindly for a solution. The root of our problems today is basic immorality where greed, lust, and an inordinate self-interest have become the way of life.
More simply, the root of our problems is spiritual. If the problem is spiritual, then the solution must also be spiritual.
It is within this context of problems that we find young people absent from Church, Mosque, Synagogue, and other places established for the reverence of Almighty God.
The question I pose is why? What is occurring within these institutions that are designed to bring the people closer to God, that they are sometimes inadvertently pushing a particular demographic away?
In Matthew 19:14 it reads, “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Even Jesus, himself, realized there was a spirit within the Houses of God that deterred youth involvement. At its root “suffer” means to endure or undergo. The youth of today endure an extreme amount of pressure due to Satan’s increase in power. In the Book of Genesis the devil is a mere serpent, but by the time we get to the zenith of his rule, he’s a mighty dragon. More importantly, this dragon intends to devour the child.
The youth are the target. In addition to the pressure of being alive during the zenith of Satan’s rule, young people find no solace at the house established to help us stand against the wiles of Satan.
With the above mentioned as a contextual prelude, I would like to address what occurs in Religious Institutions that hinders youth engagement and participation:
Or as we say, “Frontin'”. Many within religious institutions have a tendency to judge, youth in particular, as if they are perfect to the law. Since none of us are perfect to the law, none have the right to cast judgment (Matt 7:1). Young people are naturally observant. If elders walk around being “chesty” about their “righteousness” we see the bluff! Just BE REAL.
2.) Cheap Talk
This refers to those who are only talking abstractly and non-contextually about lessons from scripture. I need to know how to apply spiritual principles in my everyday life. If I cannot do this, then you are not helping me! The youth are not here to be quotologist. We need a practical understanding of scripture.
You can’t FORCE Religion on ANYBODY! And at the same time you DEFINITELY can’t let youth do anything while blindly wandering on. There has to be BALANCE. You must be a nurturer and a provider. You must rebuke (in the proper manner) and ALSO reward. BALANCE!
3b.) Balance pt. II
Being “devout” means nothing if you’re unwilling to spend time and energy to uplift and HELP young people.
Mom, Dad, Pastor, Minister, YOU’RE NOT LISTENING! Learn to LISTEN to young people. The scriptures teach that in this day old men will dream dreams but young men will dream visions. You’d be wise to listen up, before you miss something!
Let young people GROW into the beauty that God has planted. God has planted seeds in each of us. However, if the seed is placed in the wrong environment it may never get the opportunity to blossom.
6.) The Golden Rule!
Treat youth with dignity and respect. The way YOU would want to be treated.
7.) Fear Tactics
Don’t try to control youth with fear. It won’t work! In fact, when it is attempted, it can DRIVE us away!
8.) MOST IMPORTANTLY, LOVE LOVE LOVE!
LOVE IS THE SOLUTION!!! LOVE EACH OTHER and DEMONSTRATE the level of Love YOU have through your actions! Take a more hands-on approach with youth. For example, take us and show us the ropes. Create a strong bond with us.
Thank you Brother Salih. Houston Belief readers, What Do You Think?
Photo Credits: Shay Malden