Jump directly to the content
May 19, 2014

Are Youth Groups Bad? A Rant on Bad Research

Research show that youth groups are bad for our students, right? Not so fast. |
Are Youth Groups Bad? A Rant on Bad Research
AllStarYouth / flickr

Now, everyone makes a mistake. But, sometimes, an article just proves a point about bad research.

So, let's dive in and look at four factors that show this is bad research.

First, authors don't usually pick headlines, but this headline makes quite a claim: "Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith."

Really? Twenty seven thousand people liked the article, so maybe that is true!

But where is ANY real research that says that? That "youth groups driv[e]... to abandon faith" is a quite a claim and needs some evidence, I would think.

Thankfully, they provide an awesome poll show us these truths...

Second, do you really think that a poll on an article against youth ministry is representative of true views on youth ministry?

The article said, "According to a new five-week, three-question national survey sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), the youth group itself is the problem." And, when you take the poll (and give your email), you get a free copy of a book that shows youth groups are bad! Awesome.

Also, according to a poll of people visiting the site, www.PresidentObamaIsBad.com, 98% of people believe that President Obama is bad! So, it must be true!


Third, how do you report a poll in progress?

Really? REALLY? You are going to tell me that the results SO FAR say this but if we vote now (and sign up and give our email!) we can help sway these awesome, statistically sound results.

By the way, the "survey" is still going on long after the survey "results" were published in this article. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, the "survey" is to gather emails of people who share the same view.


Fourth, one of the people at the organization that does not like youth groups is not surprised that the poll at the site that does not like youth groups shows that youth groups are bad.

The story explains: "Adam McManus, a spokesman for NCFIC, is not surprised by the church's deep concerns about youth groups."

I have no statistical evidence to say that youth groups are good or bad.

But, he is encouraged by the results of the poll of people who go to the site against youth groups, now referring to "American Christians."

McManus explains, "I am greatly encouraged by the results of our survey. American Christians are finally waking up to the disconnect between the clear teaching in Scripture in favor of family-integration and the modern-day church's obsession with dividing the family at every turn."

So, are youth groups bad?

Well, I don't know.

Here's the case that McManus makes, excerpted from the article:

"Today's church has created peer dependency," McManus says. "The inherent result of youth groups is that teenagers in the church are focused on their peers, not their parents or their pastors. It's a foreign sociology that leads to immaturity, a greater likelihood of sexual activity, drug experimentation and a rejection of the authority of the Word of God."

That's a reasonable argument, actually. Again, they may be on to something and I am sympathetic to the possibility.

I've written about how educational systems are found in societies with teen rebellion—which, I would think, might support the thesis of this group. I also posted a blog post last week, recapping an article I wrote in Modern Reformation magazine about the dropout rate of young people in the church.

If your youth group is lacking true ministry and the preaching of Jesus, and seems more like a holding tank with pizza, as many are, you're not going to have much difficulty proving that youth groups are bad.

Yet, the fact is that there is little research on the subject because even homeschool kids, for example, are often in youth groups. So, maybe they are right. I'm willing to entertain the idea that McManus may indeed be correct, if there was data to prove the idea.

But, this research undermines my confidence, not strengthens it. It should undermine yours as well.

Of course, I work at LifeWay (and we sell student ministry materials) so some will say I am biased, so let me be clear: I have no statistical evidence to say that youth groups are good or bad.

So, like I said, maybe they are right.

While I have no research to prove or disprove this claim, I do know that this article does not help anyone know ANYTHING about what American Christians really believe about the subject.

At all.

I have no competing research. I have no agenda to disprove this "news" story other than I wish we would not pretend it involves research.

Let me point you again to my article, "Three Ways to Spot Bad Statistics." This is a perfect case that should be easy to spot.

Rinse and repeat.

Rant over.

BTW, I'm trying really hard not to comment on this "survey" and the front page Drudge story is spawned (including the backlash).

Related Topics:Church; Youth; Youth Ministry
Posted:May 19, 2014 at 11:00 am


To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

More From This Blog

Introducing EvangelVision: A New Resource from Wheaton College

Introducing EvangelVision: A New Resource from Wheaton College

EvangelVision is a helpful resource for the both the veteran and the anxious evangelist.
Morning Roundup 7/30/14

Morning Roundup 7/30/14

Wikipedia Wars; Not Willing That Any Should Perish; God is NOT Good
Learning How to Fail: An Interview with J.R. Briggs

Learning How to Fail: An Interview with J.R. Briggs

People who do ministry are going to fail. The question is: "What are you going to do about it?"
Morning Roundup 7/29/14

Morning Roundup 7/29/14

Seminary Debt; Confusing Emails; Grand Narrative

Follow Ed Stetzer

Exchange Logo

Kelly Rosati, the Vice President of Community Outreach at Focus on the Family, joins Ed Stetzer on this episode of The Exchange to discuss civil and successful cultural engagement and Irreplaceable the movie.

Cast: Ed Stetzer

Tags: Kelly Rosati, Focus on the Family, Adoption, Marriage, Cultural Issues, Civility, Parenting and Culture Wars

Read ED Stetzer's Books

See All

Follow Christianity Today

Christianity Today
Are Youth Groups Bad? A Rant on Bad Research