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'They Want to Be a Light in Darkness': Church Leaders on Challenges of Raising Next Generation

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DALLAS, TX – The moral and spiritual decline in today's culture is on the rise, especially among young people who don't have a Biblical foundation and are searching for meaning in life.

Examples of the toxic culture are all around – from the growing gender identity crisis to the lure of drugs, porn, and social media addiction.

"The pressure of sex and drinking, so many things they're being bombarded with," said Pastor Bryan Carter of Concord Church in Dallas.

In an interview with CBN News, Carter said the fight for America's youth has never been greater. 

Parents: Stay Involved

"It becomes incredibly important for parents and mentors and churches to stay heavily involved to give those young people safe places, models, healthy outlets, a place to process all they're dealing with."

Studies consistently show that the number of Millennials in the church is decreasing. Barna Research recently found that 59% of Millennials raised in church have already left.
That's a trend Pastor Carter and others hope to change.

How to Reach Millennials and Gen-Z

"The recent studies about Millennials and Gen-Z are a bit alarming because they do indicate the most un-churched generation," said Carter. "You have a generation of young people that are basically raising themselves and discovering their own spiritual identities."

For that reason, Pastor Carter and his congregation focus on helping youth relate to scripture and even let them take the lead from time to time.

His church recently hosted a back to school event called, "LIT," which stands for Living in Truth. Students at the church did everything from the opening prayer and worship to reading and expounding on Scripture.

"They want people to be involved, coach them," says Pastor Carter. "It's crucial that churches begin to re-examine how do I disciple this generation well. How do I help them cultivate a love for God and a love for people? How do I help them have their spiritual identity solid so that they don't run around trying to find their identity from something else?"

You May Not Believe it, but Youth are Spiritually Hungry

Earlier this year, CBN News reported on a camp that helps young people defend their Christian faith.

"Youth are spiritually hungry," said Alex McFarland of Truth For a New Generation.

McFarland says parents and the church community must be ready to answer the tough questions young people have about God and about religion.

"Does truth exist? Does God exist? How can we know God exists? What about the Bible? Is the Bible true and trustworthy? What about Jesus? Not only the question of did Jesus rise but is there evidence Jesus actually existed?" said McFarland.

Meeke and Wil Addison of the radio show "Airing the Addisons," admit that raising kids to love God can seem like an uphill battle. But they say there is hope for parents.

"I often go, 'wait a minute. Gen Z'ers – these people are still eating at your table'", said Meeke Addison. "You haven't lost them yet."

Teaching Teens to Be Bold with Their Beliefs

"Even in their schools you'll see where they have teachers in the colleges and universities who are against what we believe," explained Wil Addison. "And they will be really bold about it. And I think our kids have to be equipped to withstand that and not crumble under it."

"Especially in a public school, people around you aren't always the most Christian-like," said high school senior Gray Harmon, who has attended the camp for two years. 

Meanwhile, church leaders are hopeful about the next generation as they seek to lead them in the way.

"They are bold," says Meeke Addison. "They are courageous. They just need to be armed with the truth. They want to be a light in the darkness, but we need to make sure that we pass on that light to them."

"Over time I think we're going to be surprised by how this next generation takes this faith, uses technology and reaches people that we never could reach before," says Pastor Carter.

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