59% of young Christians disconnect permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age of 15. A 5-year research project carried out by the Barna Group sought to identify some of the factors which significantly contributed to the attrition rate among teens and young adults.
One of the key reasons highlighted, was that:
“Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.”Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church, September 27, 2011
The weight of the church’s expectations around chastity and sexual purity, and its response to individuals who do not meet those expectations is an issue that resonates deeply with the guest featured on this episode of Man Ting.
Andrew Williams is 24 years old. He is single, a committed Christian and at one point, harboured a desire to study to become a minister. I’ve known Andrew for something like 18 years – he is the second of three boys and his older brother was one of my best friends throughout secondary school… Oh, and Andrew has a daughter. She’s deeply affectionate, inquisitive and the love of his life.
She’s also 6 years old.
Andrew and his girlfriend at the time found out she was pregnant when he was just 17, and as you’ll hear in this episode, he confessed to me that he was more scared of what he thought his church’s response would be, than he was of his mother’s. His experience with the church in this regard has been one that continues to affect him to this day and very nearly resulted in him leaving it altogether.
At 16 years old, Andrew started preaching in his local church and discovered a passion for ministry. For such a young man at the time, the experience of being entrusted with that responsibility helped him grow immeasurably both personally and spiritually. We start this episode with Andrew talking about his ambition for ministry and his research into universities that could offer him a route towards achieving that goal. But, as you’ll hear, those plans were derailed when his girlfriend fell pregnant with his child and his church took the view that he should be ‘censored’ in response to their indiscretion.
This meant that he was banned from leading or participating in any part of the church service in an official capacity.
For me, the issue of censorship does far more harm than good, and listening to Andrew’s story, you’ll hear why.
This was one of the most riveting conversations I’ve had on the Man Ting podcast so far. So much so that Andrew and I went wildly over time and I’ve had to split this episode into two parts.
Part 2 of this episode will be released on Monday 9th March, so make sure you’re following the show on Spotify so you don’t miss a thing. We delve further into how the church has inadvertently socialised us into believing sex to be dirty or disgusting, and something we certainly can’t have open conversations about. We also talk about growing up as children to Afro-Caribbean parents for whom conversations with their children about sex is not something that was commonplace. We discuss the accessibility of sex, the impact of young people’s exposure to sex is having on them, and the pressures they face from their peer groups.
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