Here is some disturbing news from the Ivy Jungle:
The Dual Life Trend: At Urbana and two state youth conventions, the Youth Transition Network met with more than 500 high school students asking them why so many students fall away from church when they go off to college. One of the consistent top reasons among the two dozen given was hypocrisy among youth group members. Students said that many live an “intentionally deceptive” “dual life”. They believe that between 75% and 95% of the students in their groups lead such dual lives. (YTN Memo April 17, 2007)
This is especially disturbing to me. Charlene and I work with youth in our church and have worked with youth for around 20 years. We know hypocracy exists in the church youth community–just as it exists in the whole church body–but the notion that church youth are leading “intentionally deceptive” “dual lives” at the rate of 75-95% is hard to believe.
Really. Teens gravitate to people who are “real” in their walk with God. Most of the teens I have mentored are struggling with sin, just like I do. But to be intentionally leading a dual life deceptively is a rare occurance to me. I can think of several reasons for the survey results:
- I’ve been completely fooled by all the youth I’ve mentored over 20 years and they really are leading intentionally deceptive, dual lives.
- The youth surveyed have misinterpreted others’ struggles trying to reconcile their sin on the one hand with their desire to lead a life pleasing to God on the other. (I think all Christians struggle with their desired walk conflicting with their actual walk. Can someone really desire to act one way but actually act another? Absolutely!)
- Maybe I’ve gravitated to the teens who are the 5 to 25% of teens who do not live “intentionally deceptive” “dual lives”.
Regardless, the survey tells us that teens are human. We all want to protect our darkest secrets from the people whom we respect and admire. Thus, our focus in youth ministry–indeed any ministry–needs to be on God’s grace rather than God’s judgement. God’s grace, as disbursed through His ambassadors, allows people to shed their facade; reject their dual lives; live in the Light. When the threat of judgment is removed, people can become brutally honest.
I believe we spend too much time in ministry trying to “disciple” folks into a set of rules instead of encouraging people into a loving realtionship with God. God want’s to forgive. God wants to wrap His arms around everyone and give them love and peace. God wants to accept people the way they are.
When we communicate judgment, we force people to hide their real selves from us and try to hide their real selves from God. When we communicate grace, people are free to be themselves and to allow God to work in their lives…