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CRC Staff | February 7, 2024 |
From the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University

GLENDALE, AZ –America’s preteen children are showing massive resistance to traditional biblical teachings, resulting in a troubling lack of foundational beliefs among today’s 8- to 12-year-olds. Unfortunately, by following in the spiritual footsteps of their parents, preteens are on track to abandon biblical Christianity in record numbers, according to new research released by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.

In fact, the latest research from Dr. George Barna, CRC Director of Research, shows that only 25% of preteens agree that the Bible is the true word of God and provides value as a guide for life. And just 21% believe in absolute moral truth.

Troubling belief patterns of preteens (ages 8 to 12) were identified in five key areas of biblical belief:

  • Viewing the Bible as the true, reliable word of God and a guide for life
  • Recognizing the existence of absolute truth, rooted in Scripture
  • Acknowledging Jesus Christ as the means to salvation
  • Finding life purpose by serving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength
  • Defining success as consistently obeying God’s principles and commands

Even more stunning, the research shows that the most important influencers in the lives of young people—parents and children’s ministry leaders—are rejecting these five basic principles at similar levels. Only 2% of today’s parents and just one out of eight (12%) children’s pastors have a biblical worldview. And tragically, this void in worldview development is being filled by the single most influential input into the hearts and minds of children—media content.

“The worldview development of children is the existential challenge facing the American Church today,” according to Barna.

“Because of the strong correlation between biblical worldview and genuine Christian discipleship,” Barna explained, “we are on the precipice of Christian invisibility in this nation unless we get serious about this crisis and invest heavily in fixing what’s broken.”

In his latest bestselling book, Raising Spiritual Champions: Nurturing Your Child’s Heart, Mind and Soul, Barna identifies a limited number of biblical teachings that form the necessary worldview foundation leading to biblical discipleship.

Specifically, the following five beliefs central to the Christian faith are being widely rejected by children ages 8 to 12:

  • The Bible: America’s children are receiving an inadequate introduction to the Bible. Currently, only 60% have read even part of it. Just half say it contains information about how to lead a good life. A mere one out of four (26%) consistently consult the Bible when trying to determine right from wrong. Even fewer (21%) believe turning to the Bible is the best way to distinguish right from wrong.
  • Absolute Truth: Today’s children are not being raised in an environment in which the concept of absolute moral truth receives favorable treatment, and the widespread doubts about absolute truth are clearly affecting children. While a robust 97% of 8-to-12-year-olds believe that there is an identifiable difference between right and wrong, a paltry one out of five (21%) believe that absolute moral truth exists.
  • Means to Salvation: One out of three 8- to 12-year-olds (36%) believes that the means to eternal salvation is by confessing their sins and asking Jesus Christ to save them from the consequences of their sin. That is the same proportion as found among adults (35%). The fact that preteens display a higher likelihood of acknowledging Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life than do teenagers (21%) raises the probability that the current percentage will decline as today’s preteens age, unless there is a concerted effort to prevent such a drop.
  • Life Purpose: Although nine out of 10 preteens believe that they have an important reason for living, only one-quarter of preteens (27%) identified knowing, loving, and serving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength as their chief purpose in life. The most common life purpose listed by preteens was making the world a better place, while the other popular description related to facilitating their own happiness.
  • Success: Only one out of six (17%) young people consider the most accurate definition of life success to be consistent obedience to God.

Levels of adopting these five basic beliefs are also low among the most significant influencers in children’s lives—parents and children’s ministry leaders.

  • Bible: A minority of parents (44%) believe the Bible is the true words of God and provides a guide for knowing right and wrong and living a good life. Six out of 10 (62%) of children’s pastors have this view of the Bible.
  • Absolute Truth: Slightly more than a quarter (28%) of parents and one third of children’s pastors (36%) believe that absolute truth exists.
  • Means to Salvation: Only 34% of parents and 54% of children’s pastors believe Jesus is the only way to experience eternal salvation.
  • Life Purpose: A mere 33% of parents and 56% of children’s pastors ascribe to the biblical view that the purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  • Success: Only 19% of parents and 42% of children’s pastors believe that real success in life is achieved through

These statistics are daunting. As Barna noted, “Children are intellectual and spiritual sponges in their preteen years. They are desperately trying to make sense of the world, their identity, their purpose, and how to live a meaningful life.”

He continued, “Unfortunately, as the research shows, American kids are not being discipled to think and live like Jesus. “ The full report from Dr. Barna and the Cultural Research Center, “Survey Reveals Most Preteen Children Reject Basic Bible Views,” here.

George Barna is a veteran researcher of 40 years and author of 60 books, including his most recent, Raising Spiritual Champions: Nurturing Your Child’s Heart, Mind and Soul, which immediately became a bestseller on Amazon when it was released in late 2023.

Raising Spiritual Champions, published by Arizona Christian University Press in collaboration with Texas-based Fedd Books, covers a variety of topics helpful to parents and Christian leaders, including research-based descriptions of how a child’s worldview develops; the relationships between worldview and discipleship; how parents can develop a simple plan to guide their child to a biblical worldview, and to become a disciple of Jesus Christ; the role churches and godly church leaders can play in that process; measuring the worldview of children; and more.

For more information about Raising Spiritual Champions—including discounts for quantity orders—visit www.RaisingSpiritualChampionsBook.com.