Six Reasons Young People Leave Church Discussion

Posted: 06/03/2013 in American Civic Religion, church
Tags: , , , , , ,

Young people leave the Christianity they were raised with.

Now that is hardly a headline.  Every young person who was raised a Christian has either seen this happen or gone through it themselves.  It is a shared cultural experience.  It happens despite the efforts of many youth and college pastors.

This means that despite the grandiose so-cal mega churches, the inspiring baptisms, and the stories of conversions you hear on Sundays, faith is not passed from one generation to the next.  If there is any church that lasts, it is probably perpetually a church “first generation” Christians.  In sum, Evangelicalism is great at marketing, but terrible at retention.  Somehow, I do not think this is what Jesus had in mind.

Why is the younger generation leaving?  Barna research group noted six reasons why young people leave:

1. Churches are over protective.

2. Teens and Twenty somethings experience of Christianity is shallow.

3. Churches come across as antagonistic towards science.

4. Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.

5. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.

6. The Church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

One of the most important points of the article is this one:

David Kinnaman, who is the coauthor of the book unChristian, explained that “the problem of young adults dropping out of church life is particularly urgent because most churches work best for ‘traditional’ young adults – those whose life journeys and life questions are normal and conventional. But most young adults no longer follow the typical path of leaving home, getting an education, finding a job, getting married and having kids—all before the age of 30. These life events are being delayed, reordered, and sometimes pushed completely off the radar among today’s young adults.

I am sure that many people reading this blog can relate to these six points.  I also know that many (myself included) can relate to the “non-traditional” lifestyle.

Many of these problems stem from, in my opinion, the mistakes and oversights of Christianity in the United States going back at least fifty years.  So these six points need to be put in a bit historical context.

But we’ve all beaten the problems to death by now haven’t we?

The real turn that we need to make is not discussing problems, but discussing solutions.  That is what the next few blogs will be about.  We need to talk about what Christianity would look like if it had some depth in it.  We need to really get down to the issue on this science thing.  We need to discard some excessive protectiveness for the young.  We need an entirely new sexual ethic.

We need to do some things different.

Over the next few weeks, every Monday, I will post short blogs on each of these issues.  My hope is to generate discussion on solutions.  I hope that everyone will contribute in comments.

As final caveat, I realize that many of the things that people suggest will be dismissed or not taken seriously.  Some things suggested will even look like “compromising with the world” or “being soft on sin” or a myriad of other complaints.  This perspective remains important.  Nonetheless, if we want different results we will have to reconsider what we are doing.

  1. brad says:

    I don’t mean to sound glib or simple, but what if we just read our Bibles more, did what it said and did our level best to live like Jesus? I mean, if we have to sit down and strategize how to re-reach the lost generation, isn’t that kind of like saying that the Christian story isn’t compelling enough? I just fear that discussions like these tend to get away from us, and we tend to get away from ourselves.
    But we need to think about this generation.

    • Jin roh says:

      Brad, what I feel needs to be put for questions is whether the Christianity that the younger generation is shunning really has the Christians story and the Bible’s message correct to begin with.

  2. Good points, especially #2. Christianity is so often watered down for students, but we can handle so much more than we’re given. If we can do AP classes, we can handle to hear the whole truth and get a better, more unshakable foundation.

    “Somehow, I do not think this is what Jesus had in mind.” Definitely true. He was all about teaching, but even more so discipleship. I don’t think a lot of churches have that focus. I’m blessed to have a church that does.

    • Jin roh says:

      Chelsea, I think I am going to reference the point you made about “AP Classes” in future blogs. That’s very wise. What do you mean “the whole truth” in this context?

      • The whole Bible. We leave our faith because we never really knew it to begin with. We know all of the popular verses, but we don’t have enough to stand on when we’re challenged by science, teachers or peers.

  3. Michael Snow says:

    And there are many who have are uncomfortable with the bondage the American church to the culture. Unlike many evangelicals and reformed of today, there are great examples of those who exposed one of the favorite sins of our church culture:

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