I was in Chicago yesterday for a meeting, and one of the participants was Dr. Rob Maupin, a missiologist from Lincoln Christian University (www.lincolnchristian.edu). Rob shared some of his recent research concerning 18-24 year-olds. He said that in this age group the brain prunes 70% of all synapses and neural pathways and then begins to rebuild them. Young adults begin to rethink everything including worldview, values, and beliefs. 70% of what they developed from childhood is pruned and redeveloped.
Now, imagine that a child raised in the Christian faith goes off to college where he or she is taught that the Bible is all myth, God doesn't exist, and we evolved from blobs of goo. If that young adult did not receive a solid foundation of biblical teaching (what we believe) and apologetics (why we believe it), there will be greater likelihood that the redeveloped worldview, values and beliefs will be incongruent with what the young adult believed as a child.
So what do we do about this? Two things. First, we need to make sure we are providing a solid foundation of biblical teaching, apologetics, and Christian spiritual formation for our children. Second, we need to walk alongside our young adults and pour into them as they are reshaping what they believe and why they believe it. Here's a scary statistic that tells us how serious this issue really is: 1 out of 10 people 65 and older are "nones" (non-religious people; i.e., completely secular). 1 out of 3 people under the age of 30 are "nones." 1 out of 3! We have our work cut out for us.
Back in the year 2000 I was in the Philippines for a convention, and I was asked to teach at a youth camp. I expected youth camp to be similar to my youth camp experiences--you play a lot of games, go swimming, have a little bit of teaching and a great worship service at night. When I was told that every student in the camp was selected by the elders as part of an equipping and leadership development process, I knew I was in for a surprise. I received the camp schedule on the first day and saw that the students were taking courses on apologetics, hermeneutics, christology, and spiritual formation, and I was shocked! This was summer camp! Yes, they had fun and played games, but by the time these students returned home, they were ready to teach others what they had learned. The elders of their churches said, "We don't have time to waste if we want to see our churches multiply to impact our nation for Christ." They are raising up an entire generation who will be ready to evangelize, disciple, lead and teach others, and all done from a character that is forged in the likeness of Jesus Christ (servanthood, humility, graciousness, integrity, holiness).
I think we have a lot to learn from these Filipino elders. Let's join together in a prayerful commitment to pour into our children and mentor our young adults. Let's set the bar high in order to make disciples who make disciples. Whether you are 35 or 95, you have a significant role to play in how you live your life for Christ as a person of humility and character, how you pray daily for children and young adults, and how you identify those in the next generation with whom you can spend time as a mentor and friend. And perhaps the 70% of synapses and neural pathways that are rebuilt for 18-24 year olds will be rebuilt for the character and mission of Jesus Christ.