There's a study out that shows that Episcopal teenagers tend to score lower than the national average (for teens) when asked questions like "Do you feel close to God?",and "Is faith an important part of your life". They did score ABOVE the average when asked if the adults in their churches were hypocrites.
So what do I think of this study? I'm familiar with the basic project and have found it quite useful. They seem to be doing an excellent job. Do the numbers surprise me? No. Do they disturb me? Only sorta.
I believe that the numbers are in fact affected by the questioning phase of the teen years. That's aided and abetted by the overall poor job we're doing as a denomination in translating our faith into terms the teens understand. We are by and large a rather laid back intellectual denomination. (By intellectual I'm not saying we're smart or even well educated but that we tend to approach our faith lives from a cerebral rather than visceral point of view) This creates a problem in that our kids don't see us being passionate about this part of lives. They are far more likely to see passion about our favorite sports teams, politics, music, TV or whatever. Is it surprising that they don't feel "close to God" or that they see too many of us as hypocrites? When I ask an adult how they would explain their faith life to someone else (of any age) I tend to get long discourses either on tradition and practice or a helpless shrug.
The questions our young people are asking is "Why should I care?", "What affect will it have on me?", "Why is this more important than the fun stuff? (Because they clearly see that damn few of us get any joy out of all this church stuff)"
This is not ECUSA's fault. The national church is not interacting with our kids. It's not the dioceses fault because we're not interacting much more with the kids (I'll see any given youth maybe twice a year except for the very active ones whom I'll see about 6-8 times). Plop down in the pew this Sunday and look around. That's who is failing our youth. Then pop out a mirror and include yourself (me too. I'm dealing with a fairly large hairy crisis in my own personal ministry life because I'm not sure I'm making a damn bit of difference).
If a young person walked into your parish this Sunday as a total stranger what would they see about the life of a Christian in the Anglican tradition? Where would they see, hear and feel? Are you offering something that would change the numbers in the survey up or down?
I wish I had a quick easy answer. First because it would be such a boost to the church I love. Second because it would make me rich and famous. I'm working on it. What are you doing?