On sunday our church had its annual giving of Bibles to first graders. A very cool thing.
As I sat there watching these 29 kids I wondered what their lives would be like in 10 or 20 years. Here’s a very quick estimate. Lest you think these are based on the general population and don’t apply to our sweet little evangelical gems, think again. This is based on statistics of evangelical Christians, and where known, specific to white or middle and upper income evangelical Christians.
In 5 Years (6th grade)
Family – Four of them will have gone through a divorce of their parents and over half will have divorced grandparents.
Faith – 27 will still be attending church at least somewhat regularly and consider themselves Christian, if for no other reason than their parents take them to church.
Sex – All but two or three will be very aware of their own and others sexuality and will be at least somewhat interested in coupling. One of the girls will have had consensual sex and four girls and two guys will have fooled around with each other’s bodies some. About half the guys will have discovered their own road to enjoyment. One guy or gal will have been sexually assaulted.
Other – One or two will have experimented with illicit alcohol (EG, apart from their parents), and possibly have smoked some pot.
Parents – Almost totally oblivious. It’s fascinating, and sad, the number of parents who will get upset and say that a sex ed curriculum or even just a survey will corrupt their innocent child, with no realization that their child is not only not so innocent, but less clueless than their parents have become.
In 10 Years (11th grade)
Family – Eight of these kids, almost a third, will now live in divorced households, splitting their time between their two parents. One or two will have parents and grandparents spread out among six different households.
Faith – While 23 are still attending church, about a third of these are having very serious doubts about their faith. Many will attribute this to hypocrisy and shallowness they see in their church and parents. They can’t connect much of what their parents and church say about Christianity with what’s actually written in the Bible. Most will not think it OK to discuss their doubts with anyone lest they be labeled a weak Christian.
Sex – 18 will have had consensual (or at least technically consensual) sex with at least one other person, five of these will have had at least three sex partners, many within their church youth group. All but one of the guys will have discovered themselves and most will do so regularly, often with some porn. Three will have an STD, but only one will know it. One or two of the girls, likely who are still attending church regularly, have gotten abortions. Three of the guys and three of the girls will have experienced some form of sexual assault.
Other – Five will have smoked pot, 20 will have had some illicit alcohol. Numerous will have begun perfecting the art of lying and hypocrisy – about how strong their faith is, that they haven’t sinned, and for the most part are living happily in the little good-Christian box.
Parents – Largely oblivious. Many seem to know, at least in their speech, what’s going on, but they’re afraid to talk about it. Or perhaps think their kid is excempt. Some parents are too strict causing a Katy Perry syndrome in their children.
In 15 Years (College Seniors)
Mortality – By now one or two will likely have died, probably in a car crash.
Family – 11 will have divorced parents.
Faith – In ‘You Lost Me’ David Kinnaman provides a good synopsis of what has happened to today’s youth and what likely awaits these cute 1st graders. As they approach graduation from college, six are prodigals, have forsaken Christianity entirely and only one will ever re-commit their life to Christ. Another 11 will have disassociated themselves from institutional church but still consider themselves Christians. About half of these nomads will go on to lead strong, Christ centered lives, though not all within traditional churches. Five are effectively exiles within the church, they’re involved but feel alone – there is a disconnect in what the Bible says and what they’re taught as well as between what they’re taught and how they see other Christians act. One or two of these exiles will eventually forsake Christianity for good.
Sex – 24 are no longer virgins and many have had numerous sex partners. Virgins and non-virgins are equally split among the various groups of still practicing Christians, exiles, nomads, and prodigals. While sexual activity is higher than during high school, use of birth control is as well, so only one or two more will have gotten an abortion.
Other – For most of those at Christian universities lying is now an embedded part of life. Why, of course they all attend chapel every day, and never touch alcohol, go to R movies, or hold hands with the opposite sex (or same sex).
Parents – Wondering what they did wrong.
In 25 Years
Family – 13, almost half, will now have divorced parents. According to some psychologists the ones who were adults when their parents divorced may be impacted the worst.
Faith – 13 of the original 29 either attend church or consider themselves serious Christians. However, many of the church attenders do so from a bit of an ‘I just should’ standpoint – now that they are married and have their own children. Only about five or six are serious about their Christian faith. According to surveys of those who’ve forsaken Christianity, extremely few, if any, did so because of anything in the Bible. Their issue was with the fruit of modern Christian pop culture – hypocrisy, judgementalism, and shallowness.
Marriage – As they stand at the alter about 85% of our original cute 1st graders have had sex with someone, and likely many someone’s, other than the person they are marrying. About 75% of the guys will not remain monogamous in this marriage. Half of these marriages, perhaps more, will end in divorce.
History does often repeat itself. We just like to convince ourselves that it doesn’t.
Something I often say about statistics is that they must pass the smell test. Over the past 30 years I have worked with a number of high school youth groups and in a Christian high school, I can attest that these statistics certainly pass the smell test and appear accurate.
The above synopsis represents where kids are today who once stood where these 1st graders are now. We know where these cute kids are headed. What are we going to do about it?
 Mark D. Regnerus. Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers.
 Kenda Dean. Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church.
 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, National Survey of Youth and Religion.
 Data sources: WorldBank, UNData, Guttmacher Institute, and Regnerus Forbidden Fruit. About 2% of US Women under age 44 get an abortion annually with slightly higher rates among those under age 24. According to Regnerus and others, evangelical Christian teens have lower rates of birth control use, thus higher probabilities of pregnancy per intercourse. My estimate of one or two over a five year period is, if anything, low.
 Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me. Baker Book Group.