May 18, 2017

George Barna Tells Adventist Delegates, “We are in a Crisis”

Costin Jordache, Director of Communication & News Editor, Adventist Review

On May 10-14, the Seventh-day Adventist church hosted a milestone conference in Budapest, Hungary focused on issues impacting families, women and children. Three General Conference departments—Family, Women’s and Children’s Ministries—came together to discuss and dialogue about some of the most pressing realities for these three distinct, yet interconnected groups. Over 400 delegates from over 60 countries attended the event. The following is an excerpt taken from a longer article published about the Reach the World, global conference. To read the article in its entirety, click here.

A notable aspect to the Reach the World conference was the presence of Dr. George Barna, well-known author, researcher and statistician, whose research has informed the Christian community around the world for decades. Barna, who delivered two plenary session lectures, informed the crowd that even though his ancestry is Hungarian it was his first time in the Eastern European country.

Barna spared no time unleashing a slew of new US-based statistics, gathered by his current firm, American Culture & Faith Institute. He encouraged those from other countries to understand the principles behind the numbers pointing to trends around the world. He spent most of his time unpacking the concept of worldview—a set of filters by which we perceive the world around us—and the impact that society is having on younger generations.

His 2017 survey revealed that while 58-70% of parents see value in their children being exposed to extended family gatherings, church services, art exhibits and the Bible, children on average spend only two hours per week on these activities. In contrast, 33-43% of parents do not see value in their children being exposed to professional sports, television news, online content and current movies, yet children on average spend seven hours per day on these and related activities.

Barna then announced that statistically a very small amount of younger people have what he called a “biblical worldview”—only 4% of 18-30 year-olds and 7% of 30-49 year-olds. “We are in a crisis,” Barna said. “If the Church does not wake up and solve it, biblical Christianity in the United States is in jeopardy.”

The researcher then turned his attention squarely to parents, offering a statistical call to parental responsibility. He pointed out that while children form their worldview by the age of 13, only 5% of parents with 5-13 year-old children in the US have a biblical worldview. “Our children usually make their spiritual choices by default, acquiescing to cultural norms,” he concluded.

Barna ended on a positive note, emphasizing that though not easy, worldviews can be changed through proper asking of questions and meaningful dialogue with children and teens, in an effort to “dislodge what culture has placed in their minds.”

Barna sees tremendous value in the Seventh-day Adventist Church organizing a global summit to address family-related issues. “The world is changing so rapidly and so radically, that traditional approaches and strategies are not enough,” Barna told Adventist Review. “The Church needs to understand the latest research available, and the meaning behind the data if we are to effectively grow disciples.”

Organizers, emphasizing the conference’s Reach the World motto, resonated with Barna’s conclusion. “Parents must be intentional about making sure sound biblical values are passed on to their children on a daily basis through family worship, and by modeling godly living,” said Willie Oliver, director of Family Ministries for the world church and one of several organizers.

“You can't get more missional than this. Because, when we have strong families, we will have a strong church, that can share the gospel with power and joy, and help hasten the coming of Jesus Christ.”

Attendees also reacted positively to Barna’s research. “Dr. Barna has done practical research on practical issues,” said Samson Nganga a member who traveled from South Africa for the conference. “So as a church, we can’t remain naïve about the things happening around us. Sometimes we preach from the mountaintop and we’re totally disengaged with the people in the flock. We need good research to give us insights into leadership.”