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The new president of the Southern Baptist Convention said he is disturbed that many teenagers are leaving church once they graduate from high school and that churches need to find ways to connect with the younger generation.

Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., was a member of the 2006 SBC resolutions committee that declined to bring forward a statement urging Christian parents to develop an “exit strategy” from public schools. The committee instead recommended, and the convention approved, a resolution calling for Southern Baptists to “engage” and reform, rather than abandon, public schools.

According to Agape Press, Page said he agrees Christian students are under attack for their beliefs in many public schools today, but he believes those who are firmly grounded in their faith can be a “salt and light” influence on their peers and teachers.

But he said he hopes more churches will begin offering Christian schools, both for families who can and cannot afford such education.

In 2002, the SBC Council on Family Life reported that 88 percent of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return. Many advocates of Christian education, including the sponsors of the proposed exit-strategy resolution that died in committee, blame secularization of government schools.

The resolution passed by the convention acknowledged that “humanistic and secular orientation pervades much of the public school system” and charged that public schools “continue to adopt and implement curricula and policies teaching that the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable.”

Bruce Shortt, a co-sponsor of the failed resolution that would have called for developing an exit strategy from public schools giving particular attention to the needs of orphans, single parents and the disadvantaged, said he his “very encouraged” by Page’s statement.

“This clearly confirms the timeliness of Dr. Mohler’s call for development of an ‘exit strategy,'” Shortt said. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said last year in an article and reaffirmed in May, “I believe now is the time for responsible Southern Baptists to develop an exit strategy from public schools.”

“Moreover,” Shortt continued, “by recommending to our churches that they develop schools and that in the process make an effort to leave no child behind, Dr. Page is encouraging the SBC to take the first step in undertaking the most important domestic evangelistic initiative in the history of the SBC.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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