Making Faith and Science Matter to Youth
Every year about a million youth are leaving the faith. TENx10 has a heart to reach them, by empowering and equipping the Church to lead them back.
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I’m not a scientist, but I do appreciate them. Having worked in Christian higher education, I have seen firsthand how students studying the sciences desire to take both science and their devotion to God seriously. I’ve been privileged to journey alongside them and see how science oftentimes informs and strengthens their faith, rather than threatens it. However, I realize that this is not always the case. Sadly, many young people are leaving the Church and walking away from the faith altogether. One of the reasons is because of a perceived conflict between faith and science. It doesn’t have to be this way though.
I have a heart for helping the next generation grow deeper in their faith. I want them to know that faith is still relevant today. That they don’t have to walk away from their faith or Church. There are faithful ways to resolve perceived tensions between Scripture and any other topic they are wrestling with today, including science. I want everyone else to know that young people matter to God, to the Church, and should matter to us all.
Young People and the Church
Young people are leaving the Church in staggering numbers every year. One study (by Pinetops) revealed that over 1 million youth are walking away from the faith each year. At the time of writing this article, that number is estimated to be closer to 1.4 million. In 2022, Pew Research Center projected a similar decline: by 2070, for the first time in US history, less than 50% of the US population will identify as Christian—with young people leading the charge out of the Church.
But why are so many young people leaving the Church? One of the reasons is how Christians and the Church engage with science. In fact, this isn’t just a concern that young people within the church wrestle with, but one of the reasons (according to Barna) that about 31% of people with no faith affiliation doubt Christianity. The number one reason is Hypocrisy at 42%.
What does this mean for Christians and the Church? This means that we must press into the issues that are being raised and the questions that people, especially young people, are asking. I’ve lost count of the number of times a student has shared with me disappointment in how their pastor or youth leader discussed topics of science. Often their leaders drew inaccurate conclusions about science and used Scripture to do it. Christians cannot afford to dismiss or misrepresent science to the Church. The next generation may be at stake, as well as our own credibility.
Young people are leaving the Church in staggering numbers every year…One of the reasons is how Christians and the Church engage with science…What does this mean for Christians and the Church? This means that we must press into the issues that are being raised and the questions that people, especially young people, are asking.
Let’s not forget that there were moments in Church history where some scientific discoveries were incorrectly deemed heresy. It is my hope that the Church learns from its own history and does not repeat such mistakes.
One of my favorite quotes from Augustine is “all truth is God’s truth.” For me this means that all truth, wherever it emerges (including science), emerges from the mind of God. This also means that when we seemingly encounter contradictions, Christians must be prepared to actively wrestle. Tension isn’t always a bad thing. The Church must guard itself from making reductionist and overly simplistic conclusions that dismiss findings in fields like science. Science isn’t actively competing against Scripture. It is not trying to replace the Divine. The Church also should not simply dismiss something that it doesn’t understand just because of the tension.
God leaves room for mystery, and so should we. I’ve seen Christians who believe that science is a deterrent away from God, and that science inherently stands in opposition to our Faith. But I’ve also seen Christians who believe that science reveals God’s intimate care and creativity, and for whom science deepens their Faith. It is my hope that more of the Church can see science as a gift from God.
Hope for the Next Generation
With many young people leaving the Church and walking away from the Faith altogether, I couldn’t sit still and do nothing. This in part inspired me to join TENx10, a collaborative initiative dedicated to seeing faith matter more to the next generation. We are seeking to help make faith matter more to 10 million youth over the course of the next 10 years. We aim to do so through a collaborative initiative that emphasizes relational discipleship. Truth is often best discerned in a community. But a community is only as strong as the relationships within it. We believe that the future is ancient and that we must walk the path of Jesus: discipling people in the context of relationships. Our hope is for people to engage in discipling relationships that press into the big questions people are asking. And we hope to help equip leaders with resources that can help them in their journey.
Our collaborative effort focuses on reaching the next generation by equipping youth leaders and senior pastors, with tools that will help them develop trusting relationships where critical conversations (like questions that science often poses) can take place. With partners like BioLogos, our hope is that those leading the youth will find support, encouragement, and resources to help them navigate some of the big questions they might be asking—like the compatibility of faith and science.
This collaborative effort through TENx10 is aimed at raising the priority of youth discipleship, in part by connecting youth leaders with leading resources curated by our partners. Within the collaborative, you have denominations, networks, parachurch organizations, training and resource organizations, research organizations, and beyond, seeking to make a difference for and with the next generation. From Orthodox to Catholic to Mainline to Evangelical, Christians from different theological backgrounds are working together out of a shared love for Jesus and young people. Our hope is that we will help walk alongside those on the front lines of youth ministry, to ensure that they know we have their backs and that we see them.
With partners like BioLogos, our hope is that those leading the youth will find support, encouragement, and resources to help them navigate some of the big questions they might be asking—like the compatibility of faith and science.
Join the conversation on the BioLogos forum
At BioLogos, “gracious dialogue” means demonstrating the grace of Christ as we dialogue together about the tough issues of science and faith.