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Greg Stier is founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries and author of Firing Jesus.
If we're honest, when most of us see those young, clean-cut Mormon missionaries knocking on doors, we quickly assume that the hip, relevant, "just show up" youth ministry strategies in our Protestant circles are vastly superior.
But are they? Mormons expect a lot from their teenagers: They ordain their young men into the ministry at age 12, expect their young people to attend seminary every day of high school, and ask them to serve in the field upwards of two years. Needless to say, we don't.
Mormonism pushes its kids harder and takes them farther than even the most ardent Protestant youth ministry. Can you imagine a youth group that challenged each of its teenagers to meet at 6 a.m. every day of the school year to learn about Christianity? That's exactly what Mormons do with their high-school students. We get excited if our teens gather around a pole at 7:15 a.m. to pray once a year.
When typical Christians graduate from high school, they grab their books and go off to a college dorm. When typical Mormons graduate from high school, they grab a bike pump and go on mission.
Those high expectations pay off. Young Mormons know what they believe and why they believe it. They've hammered out their theology on evangelical doorsteps. Their hearts and minds have been steeled and sealed into Mormon orthodoxy through their intense commitment.
Maybe that's why Mormons give more and work harder than their Christian peers. Maybe that's why the religion is expanding while a majority of former Christian youth-group attendees are fleeing the church.
Don't get me wrong. I don't want our teenagers to believe Mormon theology. Trying to earn God's favor through human effort is not going to help any teenager, whether Mormon or Protestant.
But what if we had higher spiritual expectations for our teenagers? What if ...