According to our research, teenagers today are the most unreached people for Christ in the nation. Less than 10 percent of America's youths have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Our research team has interviewed hundreds of young people. In the course of these interviews we came to understand and appreciate them even more.
Among the many areas where we learned so much, perhaps the most revealing was hearing about their fears.
There are two basic reasons churches today do not reach youth. The first is that they simply do not try to reach young people with the gospel. There is no intentionality. The second is that many leaders and laypersons do not understand youths. It is my prayer that this brief background will help you understand teens better and thus have a greater passion to reach them.
In this article, I look at the 10 greatest fears of our young people.
Fear # 10: "I will never have a happy marriage and family."
A majority of youths do not believe they will have an intact and "good" family when they reach adulthood. One of the greatest desires for their future is a good home life. Among the youths we surveyed, 73 percent believe that children of divorced parents have more problems than children of non-divorced parents.
Among their clearly articulated desires, having one marriage partner for life was near the top. And most of the youths we surveyed expressed a deep need to have a spouse and children within a few years. But they fear that the trends of culture mean that very few of them will see these desires fulfilled.
Fear # 9: "Someone I know or love will die of AIDS (maybe me!)."
For the teens of today, AIDS is not some distant problem known only through the evening news. To the contrary, the disease is ever-present in the minds of these young people. And though a superficial discussion may not uncover this fear, our interviews confirmed their numerous concerns about the disease.
The American Board of Family Practice discovered this fear when asking youths to cite their greatest concerns for the future. Among the top five concerns was the fear of AIDS, specifically someone close to them getting AIDS.
Not only are the youths fearful of AIDS for the future of their nation and world, they fear the disease infecting someone in their families. Almost every teenager we surveyed had knowledge of someone in his or her school, church, neighborhood, or community getting the dreaded disease. For this generation, AIDS is a real and present danger getting ever closer to them and their families.
I remember well a discussion with a 17-year-old male who seemed extremely agitated about AIDS.
"I've got this buddy that really gets around. I bet he's had sex with 10 to 12 girls in the past year," the young man commented. "What are the chances that he's been infected? How soon before he notices something is wrong? Can he be tested for AIDS? If he has it, how long before he dies?"
I had little doubt of the identity of the young man's "friend." He was sitting across from me in the interview.
Fear # 8: "I feel like I have to have sex to be accepted."
This fear was particularly prevalent among the female teenagers, where two-thirds of the adolescent girls feared the pressure to have sex. The pressure came from different sources, but the most commonly mentioned source was boyfriends or dates. But other sources of pressure were almost as great.