New York, NY - In a recent survey conducted by the American Bible Society, 70% of 12-15-year-olds surveyed said there are correlations between the messages of the Bible and the way they apply those messages to their lives. African- American teens were significantly more likely to agree with this statement than teens of all other races and ethnic groups. More than 1,600 12-18-year-olds participated in a six-question survey conducted by Weekly Reader Research on behalf of the American Bible Society. The survey also revealed these newfound statistics:
- 51% surveyed were introduced to the Bible by their parents, with African-American (60%) and Hispanic teens (50%) leading among the surveyed ethnic groups.
18% of teens said a pastor or a priest introduced them to the Bible; 12.5% were introduced by a youth leader.
- Roughly 56% of the respondents were introduced to messages of the Bible before age 10.
- Children who read the Bible before age 10 were more likely to read the Bible regularly as teenagers.
- More than half of the teens surveyed read the Bible daily, weekly, on Sunday or sometimes and an estimated six percent of the 30.2 million 12-18-year-olds in the United States read the Bible daily (with no significant age, race or gender differences).
American Bible Society president Dr. Paul Irwin explained, "We conducted the survey to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the role the Bible plays in the lives of teens in America. All of us were very excited to see, and have reinforced, the important role parents play in introducing the Bible to children at a young age.There is much in these figures to suggest optimism. We have to be pleased that young people are being introduced to the Bible, predominantly by their parents, and with some frequency.
But statistics are often the enemy of faithfulness. There is a widespread, lamentable tendency to measure the quality and effectiveness of Christianity by statistics (membership rolls, baptisms, etc.). And these are precisely the kind of statistics that tempt some to conclude without warrant, "If we're gonna reach people, we must do it before age 10 or 12." The presupposition is that the gospel needs to be aided by our timing, that the gospel is not quite "the power of God unto salvation" unless we "reach 'em young."
That kind of reasoning, particularly coupled with the sometimes intense pressure from parents for pastors to baptize their little ones, results in younger and younger baptismal ages as a "rite of passage" or "entitlement" rather than as a sign of committed, informed discipleship. A wrong use of age-related statistics, sometimes coinciding with a good desire to see young people follow the Lord, produces manipulative and shallow evangelistic practices. And then there is the seemingly indomitable feeling of failure when youth programs and energy-draining outreach to children doesn't result in visible success and speedy fulfillment of the "build it for the kids and the parents will come" prophecy.
We desire to see disciples, not just professors. We want our children to follow and obey the Lord, not praise Him with their mouths while keeping their hearts far from Him.
For example, the study reports that "When asked if they turned to the Bible for education about sex and sexuality, 21% of all teens answered yes. Among those who said yes, 29% were African-American and 20% were Caucasian-White."
Any enthusiasm at a 50% or better Bible reading rate has to be tempered by a 20% application of the scriptures to an area of life as important as sex and sexuality. After all, following Jesus isn't as simple as merely reading the Bible from time to time.