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A prominent Christian researcher recently warned that “we’re on the precipice of Christian invisibility in this nation,” as new research shows that preteens are rejecting beliefs associated with a biblical worldview. In a recent statement, the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University shared data about the worldviews held by children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.

The Cultural Research Center contrasted the views of the preteens with those of parents of children younger than 13, pastors of Christian churches and teenagers. The findings of the research are based on responses from 400 preteens collected in December 2022, 600 parents of children younger than 13 gathered in January 2022, 600 pastors of Christian churches collected in February 2022, 400 teenagers gathered in November and December 2022, and a January 2023 survey of 2,000 adults.

When asked if they believed that “Jesus Christ is the only way to experience eternal salvation, based on confessing your sins and relying only upon His forgiveness of your sins,” just 36 percent of preteens answered in the affirmative. Thirty-four percent of parents and 54 percent of children’s pastors said the same. Twenty-five percent of preteens agreed that “the Bible is the true word of God that should be a guide to knowing right from wrong and living a good life.” Significantly higher shares of parents (44  percent) and children’s pastors (62 percent) agreed with the statement stressing the value of the Bible.

Less than half of preteens (21 percent), parents (28 percent) and children’s pastors (36 percent) believed that “there are absolute truths — things that are right and things that are wrong, that do not depend on feelings, preferences, or circumstances — those truths are unchanging and knowable.” While similarly small percentages of preteens (27 percent) and parents (33 percent) agreed that “the main reason to live is to know, love and serve God, with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” a majority of children’s pastors (56 percent) identified knowing, loving and serving God as the purpose of life.

Only 17 percent of preteens defined “real success in life” as “consistently obeying God,” along with 19 percent of parents and 42 percent of children’s ministers. Additional findings about the views and spiritual lives of preteens included in the report state that 26 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 12 “consistently consult the Bible when trying to determine right from wrong” and that 21 percent of preteens surveyed “believe turning to the Bible is the best way to distinguish right from wrong.”

In other cases, the views of preteens closely mirror those of adults. For example, 36% of preteens and 35% of adults believe that “the means to eternal salvation is by confessing their sins and asking Jesus Christ to save them from the consequences of their sin.” The research attributed the lack of a biblical worldview among preteens to the fact that adults shaping the opinions of the children also fail to embrace the biblical worldview. It measured the frequency of a biblical worldview among children between the ages of 8 and 12 at two percent. Among children’s pastors, that figure rises to just 12 percent.

Barna elaborated on the importance of focusing on worldview development at an early age: “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 and satisfying life.”

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