Monthly Archives: March 2013

139 Pages

Just read through the complete text of the EFC report Hemorrhaging Faith.  

HemorrhagingFaith_cover

Although it is somewhat skewed by its biases, it’s a valuable document.  A solid research effort went into interviewing several thousand participants and analysing their responses.

All of the participants were between 18 and 34, and all had some kind of church background.  The study examines the extent to which they are currently engaged with the institutional church, and their reasons for their level of engagement.

It’s a welcome document, not least because it is firmly rooted in the Canadian context.  For once, we don’t have to rely on American materials to understand our culture.  The unique religious environment in Quebec is examined, as are the churchgoing trends of first-generation immigrants.

Unfortunately, the report doesn’t go far enough.  It recognises the large number of young people who have rejected the church, and carefully notes their reasons, but doesn’t really allow that their criticisms might be valid.  The report sometimes feels as if it has been written by a group that used to enjoy a position of influence and prestige in society, and is frustrated that now it needs to compete on a level playing field with other sources of information and ideas.

Despite that, I’d recommend the report to any church leader, and I’d recommend thinking long and hard about the implications of the report’s findings.

 

Hemorrhaging Faith

At Vox Alliance church (the new name for Redwood Park Church) this morning, we were treated to a review of the report Hemorrhaging Faith, a publication of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.  This report looked at the reasons why people, and especially those in the 18-34 year old age group, are leaving the institutional church in Canada.

In some respects it addresses the same ground that has already been covered in the excellent book unChristian, but does so in a Canadian context.

I have yet to read the entire report, but several points caught my attention from the overview we were given.

Firstly, people’s attitudes towards the church are shaped by a variety of sources.  The primary influence on young people, perhaps surprisingly, is still their parents.  Whether positive or negative, our family experiences have a huge influence on the choices we make in life.  After parents, respondents said that their attitude towards church was shaped by their experiences or lack thereof of God, whether their church communities had felt authentic or hypocritical, and the nature of their churches’ formal teaching.

Another important point that was raised was that the biggest drop-off in church attendance is not at the end of teenagehood, but in tweenagehood.  The transition between Sunday School age and youth-group age, when kids start taking more responsibility for their own use of time, is one of the most critical life-transition events they will experience.

Unfortunately, however, the publication did not actually survey anyone in this age group, and so I feel missed out on one or two important reasons for kids choosing to leave church.

I attempted to correct this oversight this evening, with a couple of interviews with representatives of this age group, and learned that kids may choose to cease church attendance for the following reasons:

  • They do not feel they are able to ask questions, or engage in honest dialogue.
  • They are made to feel unwelcome.
  • Their time is constrained with growing responsibilities such as homework and jobs, and and there does not seem to be a clear sense of purpose in church attendance.
  • They have no age-group peers, and feel isolated.

But most importantly, I learned that kids also leave church not because they choose to, but because they are kicked out.  Kids who look wrong, dress wrong, talk wrong, or ask difficult questions are made to feel unwelcome or even asked directly to leave.

I appreciate the insight of the EVF report, but I feel that it is incomplete if it does not address the way that as well as failing to retain young people, at times the church directly drives them away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards a True Kinship of Faiths

For the past year or so I’ve been engaged in what I like to call a Church Crawl, whereby I visit different churches to get a feel for the varied and diverse expressions of Christianity in the city.

In his excellent book Towards a True Kinship of Faiths, the Dalai Lama goes several steps further, and provides a sympathetic and extremely well observed review of the teachings and practices of the major world religions, along with a well reasoned consideration of the challenges facing us as a global society as we figure out how to live side by side with people of different cultures and faiths.

One of his most interesting points is the way that he has seen first hand as a citizen of India the ways in which it is possible for those of different religions to live next door to each other peacefully.  He also fearlessly approaches the very real philosophical differences between the monotheistic, polytheistic and non-theistic traditions.

He makes no bones about his commitment to Buddhism, and yet his treatment of Christian theology is one of the most succinct and accurate that I have ever read.

Strongly recommended.

Online Development Tools

A couple of really neat tools caught my eye this week.

Try F# – F# is a functional language built on top of Microsoft’s CLR, drawing on languages like Haskell and O’Caml.  Every language should have a site like this, it’s a great way to explore the syntax and start getting your head wrapped around the design philosophy.

SQLFiddle – A brilliant little tool that allows you to create a SQL database schema and execute queries against it directly in your browser.  It supports Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Postgres and Oracle.  It even gives you a nice query planner output to help you understand the cost of your query.  If you choose Postgres, it provides you with a direct link to http://explain.depesz.com, a neat tool for visualising the output of the Postgres EXPLAIN command.

Postges provides some very powerful mechanisms for profiling and optimizing your queries, but they can be a little arcane to get started with.  These tools could really help speed up your workflow.

SQLFiddle is clearly inspired by JSFiddle, a tool I’ve used for the last year or so for trying out short snippets of javascript and sharing them with others.  It automatically gives you access to popular javascript libraries such as jQuery, and allows you to quickly prototype HTML, CSS, javascript and even Coffeescript with zero setup costs.