Here's a fascinating article about teen-aged xians. While the author of the featured book seems to suggest that even more intense evangelicalism is the answer, I doubt that this is a practical answer. While a significant portion of Americans do identify as evangelical, the notion that more parents and pastors are going to become even more "hard-core" in order to get teens fired up about their religion seems far-fetched to me.
What I find really interesting to consider is how a similar study of Pagan teens would turn out. I doubt many Pagans (the author of the study is xian) would even advocate that Pagan parents and priestesses/priests get more "hard-core" in order to get Pagan teens fired up about their religion. I think the study of xians stands, mostly, for the unremarkable proposition that most Americans self-identify as xians. Thus, most teens do, as well. That doesn't mean that they're fiercely passionate about their faith. I imagine that, in predominately Pagan societies, some small percentage of the population was passionate about their religion, while the majority, although identifying as a member of the locally-predominate religion, happy to celebrate a number of holidays, and very willing to propitiate the Goddesses/Gods, really didn't spend all that much time thinking about religion.
And, you know, THAT'S OK. As Thorn Coyle recently noted (I'm paraphrasing here, any errors are my own), some of us (/raises Piscean flipper/hand) are called to live lives based as completely as possible around our religion. And for some of us, religion is an adjunct to our lives, which are mainly focused on art, or growing plants, or programming computers. We aren't all called to serve exclusively in the temple.
It might behoove us to open up our ideas of priesthood. Not everyone need go through the same initiation. The hierarchy of current initiatory systems only works for a few people. Why? Because the mystery of their particular service, creative spark, or connection to the Gods is not served by the rituals that exist. Those rituals are most often rituals to help people lead covens, or teach a certain pathway of magical practice, or marry a particular set of Deity forms, or often, to pass on that particular initiation.
What about the priest who whispers to the plants in the garden at midnight or dawn, and is initiated by the fecund powers of the earth and the effects of the moon and sun? What about the priestess who is the weaver of fine cloth and who ministers to us all through the mystery that flows together on her loom? What about the priestess who serves as a paramedic, doctor, or nurse? Or the priest who cares for children or the dying? All of these are sacred acts with their own trials and rites of passage. Each of these has a power that I cannot begin to understand. When did we cease to "labor along different paths of holiness" in order to best serve our own souls, our own Gods, our own communities? When did we begin to believe the lie that equality means equivalency? My theory is that because we come from broken traditions, we forget the householders and physicians and set our sights only at those who sat on the high seat or made the sacrifices for the community. We forget that every person had a different role to play and that this helped to keep the community healthy and strong.
~T. Thorn Coyle
Wicca, in particular, is known for attracting teen-agers who may or may not practice a religion that differs in significant ways from various tv shows. Some of those teens may go on to live a life full of passionate Paganism, some may go back to the xian faith of their parents, from which they were momentarily rebelling, some may become "mere" festival Pagans. And, you know, it's all ok. I'm not about to advise Pagan parents and priestesses to get more hardcore about our experiential religion in order to make sure Pagan teens can mouth what we want them to mouth or live as we want them to live.
Picture found here.