The intellectual and moral challenges facing our young people are immense. It's time for the church to step up the training and discipleship of our students. At Stand to Reason, we're doing our best to help parents and leaders with this task. That's why we held our very first Rethink Student Apologetics Conference the last weekend in October, at Crossline Community Church in Orange County (by the way, a huge thanks to the Crossline team of Erik Williams, Matt Smyles, Grant Gunther & Jourdan Svajda for partnering with us to pull this off). More than 400 people showed up, from junior high kids through college students, as well as parents, youth leaders, youth pastors, and other adults. Many were local to Southern California, but people traveled from NorCal, Nevada, Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, and even Canada.
So, how was this apologetics conference tailored specifically for students? Here's what we did:
#1 - We elevated our expectations: When it comes to the spiritual training of its students, the church has set the bar low. Indeed, it's so low that the majority of our young people now are almost completely inarticulate about their faith. Many churches are satisfied if their students come to youth group once-a-week and hear a 30 minute inspirational message. Not us. We know students are capable of handling a lot more, so we gave them a ton of content: six teaching sessions, each over an hour-long, and two additional Q & A sessions. We fit all of that into a Friday night and Saturday (all day on Saturday, from 9 am to 9 pm). We elevated our expectations for students and they ate it up. We heard student after student rave about the conference.
#2 - We made it accessible: I was careful to pick speakers who not only know their stuff, but can make the content accessible to young minds. No, this does not mean dumbing down the content, but communicating it in ways students can grasp onto. When we don't make apologetics accessible, we run the risk of making it seem irrelevant and then students write-off the whole endeavor. So, having a Ph.D. or being a well-known author were not prerequisites for our speakers. Being an engaging speaker and excellent translator were.
#3 - We made it interactive: We weren't satisfied with students merely sitting through some teaching sessions. We wanted them interacting with the material and reflecting on it throughout the conference. Therefore, we built in 15 minutes of Q & A at the end of every single talk, giving students an opportunity for immediate interaction. In addition, we scheduled two one-and-a-half hour "cohort" sessions, where we broke attendees into three smaller groups for more Q & A with our speakers. We received a ton of good feedback about the cohort sessions. Finally, most of our speakers were able to be there for the majority of the conference and were intentionally "out and about" amongst students, rather than hiding out in the speaker's green room, away from conference attendees. This gave students access to our speakers beyond just their teaching sessions.
Overall, it was an excellent first Rethink conference. The positive feedback from students, parents, and youth leaders was so humbling and encouraging. Indeed, there is such a huge need for this kind of student conference, we're planning a second Southern California Rethink conference for the Fall of 2013 AND another one in Alabama. Start looking for more info at the beginning of next year.
Who’s waiting for your kids? In a few short years, they will leave
the safety of your home and church and head off to college. Who will they meet? What ideas will they encounter? What moral choices will they face?
For most adults, it’s been quite a few years
since they’ve set foot on a college campus. Let us bring you up-to-speed on who and what is waiting for your
Oakland University psychology professor Todd Shackelford, offers class
PSY-315 entitled, “Evolutionary Psychology,” where he provides an evolutionary
explanation for how religious individuals come to “hold and to have beliefs for
which there is no evidence.”
Yale, Brown, Harvard, and other U.S. universities
sponsor an annual on-campus “Sex Week,” where porn stars and sex workers lead
various activities and workshops.
According to a 2006 study by sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard University and Solon Simmons of George
Mason University, there is a much higher percentage of professing atheists and
agnostics (26%) among the ranks of college professors than the general U.S.
population. In addition, 51% of professors described the Bible as “an ancient book of fables,
legends, history and moral precepts,” while only 6% of college professors said
the Bible is “the actual word of God.”
In 2006, the Secular
Student Alliance, had 50 student-led atheist clubs on U.S. college campuses,
but by 2012, there were more than 300 clubs nationwide.
Welcome to college in the 21st century.
Clearly, there are enormous intellectual and moral
challenges awaiting our Christian students on the university campus. So here’s the next question you must
answer: Are your kids ready to
face these challenges? Well, if
they are the typical Christian student in the U.S., the answer is clearly no.
According to Smith’s research, American teens: 1) are almost completely inarticulate
about their faith and unable to explain its most basic tenets, 2) are largely
moral relativists and religious pluralists, and 3) view God as a distant being
who exists solely to make them happy, but who is irrelevant to most aspects of
their lives. Furthermore, students
who abandoned the religious beliefs they were raised with did so primarily because
of intellectual skepticism and doubt.
Teens said things like, “’It
didn’t make any sense anymore,’ ‘Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to
believe,’ ‘I think scientifically and there is no real proof,’ and ‘Too many questions
that can’t be answered.’”
The data presented
here can be put in the form of an equation:
How do you suppose
this equation plays out for many of our Christian students over the course of
four years at college? The results
are tragic. Study after study after study confirms that many of our students leave for college and shortly thereafter,
leave the church for some period of time. Some come back, but many do not. Indeed, you most likely know several young people who have walked away
from God during their college years.
A close friend’s kid, a student from your church, or even a child within
your own family.
hemorrhaging of youth from our churches won’t stop until we get intentional
about solving the problem. On the university
campus, secular college professors are very
intentional about indoctrinating your kids. In a candid moment, prominent atheist professor Richard
Rorty tells you exactly what college faculty like him plan to do with your
“...we try to arrange things so that
students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave
college with views more like our own…we do our best to convince these students
of the benefits of secularization....So we are going to go right on trying to
discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist
religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather
Make no mistake, there are plenty Richard Rortys out there,
waiting for your kids. So, what
are you going to do prepare them for the serious challenges ahead?