While reviewing a report on teen sexual behaviour I noted a comment that should sound a serious warning to the modern church. The comment points out that the church is irrelevant in impacting the behaviour of teens.
Oh, and I don’t mean it is irrelevant to all those people who have never been to church, I mean it is irrelevant to the very teenagers who attend church twice a month! I’m talking about the kids who are connected to the church and attend more often than many other people attend church.
The report I was reading came from a study of 1,000 thirteen year old students in America’s south-eastern states, in 2006. The purpose of the report was to establish the impact of the mass media on the sexual behaviour of teens, compared with the influence from their parents, school, religion and peers.
The particular focus was on the impact of the mass media, since previous studies had looked at the influence of family, peers, religion and school.
The particular research, by L’Engle et al, confirmed that family did play a part an important part, including the child’s relationship with their mother, the level of hands-on parenting (arguing for a stay-at-home parent) and clear sexual values provided by the parents.
School grades, sexual attitudes of the school teacher and the sexual activity among the peer group also serve as indicators of sexual behaviour, so they have an influence on the choices children make.
Demographic factors were a high predictor of the child’s sexual behaviour. So the community in which the child is being raised has a strong influence on their choices and behaviour.
That last point is one which all parents need to take into consideration. Those involved in spiritual impact on their community should also take note. There is something about the prevailing condition of each local community which has impact on the behaviour of those who live there.
The Irrelevant Church
You will recall that the family, school, peers and religion were all taken into consideration. Of these factors, the most irrelevant is the church. Now, that is not because these kids are secularised heathen who never go to church. This finding was the same among those who did attend church regularly.
To quote the report: “None of the religious variables was significantly associated with sexual intention or behaviours.”
Rather than this comment referring to children who have no connection with the church the researchers were concerned that the sample group may have been “more religious than most adolescents”.
The report then explains, “almost two-thirds of the sample reported attending church two or more times per month”!
Did you get that? These kids are mostly good church attenders. Yet they are completely unaffected in their sexual behaviour by their church attendance. That is, the behaviour of those who attend church compared to those who do not is exactly the same. Church attendance is irrelevant to their sexual choices and behaviour.
Wake Up Parents and Churches
The foolish idea that going to church will make a difference must be removed from the thinking of both the parents and the church leaders. Churches were not always irrelevant, so it is the modern expression of church which has become impotent in bringing value and transformation to its members.
Parents cannot wisely abandon their responsibility thinking the church will do the job for them.
Churches cannot continue to do what they are doing and think that they are providing value to their audiences.
Families and churches need a new level of wisdom and function to empower them to bring value into the lives in their care. If youngsters as young as 10-15 can find no value in the church then how can the church assume it is giving value to any of its members?