The Rise (and fall) of Atheism Among Youth

In this Teen Decade (2013-2019) we are seeing a major rise in something that should concern the youth leadership in the church. It is the rise of atheism in the youth culture. The increased 'nones' in culture who have no interest or investment in a religion.

The Huffington Post has sent the alarm a clear shot across the bow of religion. In a recent article about religion, the Post has stated that "the obvious implication is that this is a manifestation of the New Atheism movement," said Ryan Cragun, a University of Tampa sociologist of religion who studies American and global atheism.

As youth leaders it will require that we understand the religious lean of this generation. Although we may be familiar with our faith and how prominent it is in our own circles, the religious dominance of Christianity is lessening in America.

"For a very long time, religiosity has been a central characteristic of the American identity," he said. "But what this suggests is that is changing and people are feeling less inclined to identify as religious to comply with what it means to be a good person in the U.S."

So, what do we do about teen atheism on the rise? Here are my 4 action steps for youth leaders wanting to impact a culture in transition:

1. We must be biblically centered in youth ministry - The literacy of teens in the church is disappointing. And that is the fault of youth ministry as much as it is the family. To define good and evil in our generation may be the easiest way to love them with strength and compassion. When the programs become more important the theology, we will see a shallow student produced in our ministries. Our teens can take a whole lot more than we think they can.

2. There is no replacement for the Presence of God in youth ministry - As Brennan Manning has well said, "Christians who declare Jesus with their lips but deny Him by their lifestyle are why an unbelieving world simply sees us as unbelievable." We need a manifest presence of Christ in our lives. There is a power in 'withness'. Being. One of the main roles of the church should be contextualization.

3. We must see the miraculous and the divine in youth ministry - One miracle of Christ in our culture will convince our generation that God is NOT dead. How can an atheist argue with the reality of the supernatural? In a day when the supernatural is common-place (The Walking Dead, numerous movies, and an infatuation with the surreal and para-normal) the supernatural aspect of the kingdom should be central to our life and message.

4. All of this is dependent upon our willingness as youth leaders to be more spiritually mature - Spiritual authority rises out of spiritual discipline. The practice of prayer, fasting, giving, and simplicity place us in a position of spiritual influence. And this spiritual health will show itself in the life of our youth ministry. The leadership model that we place in front of our students will impact them greatly, and, in turn, empower them o reach an unbelieving world.

If the kindness of God leads to repentance, we have a lot of kindness to spread. A kindness that defines the reality of God to our generation more clearly than we have ever explained it before. Atheism rises when godly men do nothing. Atheism will diminish as godly men take their place. Our kindness and presence in the middle of a searching society can create a draw. We must turn the 'nones' into Christian commitment.

When the youth of America see mere Christianity,  they will be drawn to religious faith again. Of that I am sure.