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A recent Barna study of responses from nearly 25,000 teens aged 13-17 across 26 countries may shock some… and raise further questions.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk I offer food for thought about possible paths forward.

Data

Some data that caught my eye

  • Most teens around the world have a positive perception of Jesus. For example, about half of all teens, across faith groups, describe Jesus as “loving” (49%) and believe he offers hope to (46%) and cares about (43%) people.
  • Only half of teens overall (47%) believe Jesus was crucified, [in spite of clear historical records] while one-third of all teens (33%) says Jesus rose again. Teens’ perceptions of Jesus are more about the past than the present.
  • Teens do not see Christians nearly as positively as they see Jesus.  Teens believe that Jesus is more “loving,” “wise,” and “peaceful” than the Christians who follow him. And Christians are seen as more “judgmental” or “hypocritical” than Jesus.

Before going any further I suggest you think about the implications and questions about each of these statements

Sources of their impressions?

Not from the bible!

When researchers for the American Bible Society’s annual State of the Bible report saw this year’s survey statistics, they found it hard to believe the results. The data said roughly 26 million people had mostly or completely stopped reading the Bible in the last year.

(Uh, when was the last time you picked up the bible to read it … outside of Mass.)

People used to hear the bible at least once a week. What does the lessening church attendance mean about hearing “Good News” today?

Hardly anyone reads the bible. So why are we surprised that our children don’t?

Paul described the issue a very long time ago.

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  Romans 10:14

Solutions?

Do as I say!

Let’s have more classes, whether reading the bible or learning some form of catechism.

A question. Did telling children they must not lie speak louder than the actions of so many adults who lie?

Show them by example.

Of course, that is much more than just reading the scripture or being able to quote verses. It means living the scriptures. And how will that happen if we ourselves don’t see ourselves in the stories Jesus told… and then… help them to recognize themselves in the stories.

Whet their appetite.

Here I think immediately of two ventures that are doing just that… and from the numbers seem to have ignited interest in knowing more about Jesus.

I have written before about the world-wide impact of the imaginative series The Chosen. The last time I looked its various episodes of the first two seasons attracted just under 500 million views across the world. The trailer for the not yet released Season 3 had nearly a million viewers in its first 24 hours! They consstantly encourage reading the scriptures.

In a similar fashion, He Gets Us uses true-to-life vignettes from everyday life as the backdrop for showing how Jesus experienced the same human reactions we have. (The trade journal AdAge reports the well-funded campaign has 30 and 60 second slots at the upcoming Super Bowl!)

The main goals of “He Get us!” is, one, to increase the respect and the personal relevance of Jesus, and then, two, as we do that, to call up Christians to reflect that authentic Jesus in how they treat each other.

Both ventures are geared toward encouraging viewers to engage with the source of their material… the Scriptures.

Your reactions???

Click below for an early audio version of the Vincentian Mindwalk

25,000 teens and Jesus
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