As a pastor, I get the opportunity to be a part of some interesting and impactful circles that really lift my world. One of those is a local organization here among the four villages making up the Lincoln-Way community. No group is like it in our area–being made up of exemplary and active leaders within our community from almost every school, all the park districts, chambers of commerce, volunteer organizations, and churches. It’s amazing, really, sitting in the same room with these difference-makers talking about LIFE AS IT SHOULD BE. (It’s a delicate set of relationships and conversations given all the cultural assumptions about separation of church and state, but everyone involved navigates it elegantly and appropriately. It’s actually a pretty uplifting encounter to be in such a place doing what every community should be doing together.) More than just talk and theory, there’s probably not a room in our community that could comprehensively actualize these ideals more than this one. Of course, we don’t make people’s choices for them, but the hope is that we can knit the fabric that leads us all to the beautiful and greater good.
One intriguing thing emerged from this month’s T.E.A.M. Asset gathering. Our local Lincoln-Way high schools just compiled responses from a survey of our out-going 2010 class of seniors. (They will continue to survey incoming freshmen in addition to future senior classes to track our community’s effectiveness at influencing the upcoming generations into the greater good.)
The survey was designed to assess the overall health (family, social, intellectual, relational, and religious lives and behaviors, etc.) of our community’s young people. (T.E.A.M. Asset calls these qualities of personal health “assets,” but no matter what you might call them, we’re all endeavoring towards the same end goal: “Are our future generations adopting lifestyles that are healthy, sustainable, and positive as they move into adulthood?”)
The survey results about one asset in particular struck me strongly: only 22% of seniors said they participate in at least one hour of activities each week in a “religious institution.” 22%. One out of five. In other words, 4 out of every 5 local teens we encounter rarely participate in a faith community that helps in the growth and trajectory of their soul. (This number is sure to reflect not just high school seniors, but, most likely, their families, too.) 22% sounds lower than it should be, doesn’t it?
That’s really strange because one recent poll revealed that at least 32% of Americans believe in UFO’s. So, by a fair margin, more people believe in flying saucers than local folks do the relevance, responsibility, relationships, and rewards of church life. Not to be too harsh or prophetic against what is most certainly a tender age of development, but, what does a generation like that look like in the future? Moms, Dads, grandparents, coaches, and teachers, something more than our kids’ religious habits and preferences are staked to the future of their morality and faith. It’s not just THEIR futures, but the future and trajectory of our culture. The future of “love thy neighbor.”
The author of Hebrews said it like this: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:24-25–niv). Love and good works are “spurred” on, somehow, by our “meeting together.” Is this an apologetic and plea for greater engagement in church life? You bet it is. Consider yourself spurred. 22% goes up one person at a time.