Reasons Why Young People Leave the Church: Their Experience of Christianity is Shallow

Posted: 02/04/2013 in church, iconoclasms, music
Tags: , , , , ,

This is a continuation, of the series on why young people leave the church.   The idea of this series  to suggest possible right turns and solutions.  This next section has proven increasingly difficult to write.  Primarily because it deals with Christianity becoming “deep.”  This faces problems of its own because depth in spiritual experience is a notoriously subjective thing.  Ultimately, this issue will be dealt with in two parts.

Here then is the problem according Barna.

  • One third say ‘Church is Boring’
  • One quarter say ‘Church is not Relevant to my Career Interests.’
  • One quarter say ‘The Bible is not taught clearly or often enough.’
  • One fifth say ‘God is missing from my experience of Church.’

This blog addresses the first two.

Church is Boring

If the church is boring, than it seems the obvious solution is to make church exciting for young people.  While this might be intuitive, what if if it makes things worse?  Let’s be honest here: we’ve been doing the Christian rock thing, we’ve had all kinds of contemporary worship, we’ve gotten all the young dynamic pastors youth group games, hell we’ve even had Christian videogames and collective card games.  This has been going on for at least thirty yearsand it still isn’t working.

Entertaining, exciting, Christianity actually backfires.  One Redditor put it nicely:

At least in Protestant churches, it seems that a lot of youth ministries try to be “hip” by portraying Jesus as their buddy, like a dude who hangs out with them but also happens to be God (see “Jesus is my homeboy” paraphernalia for example). By extension, a lot of youth pastors will try to be a friend, like they’re “just one of the guys” instead of an adult mentor. Instead of attracting young people to the church, I find this approach very alienating and annoying. Young people don’t need another friend, they have plenty of those already. What they’re looking for is answers to the bigger questions, and if you fail to deliver on that because you’re just trying to look cool, pretty soon they’ll stop taking you seriously. –Reddit

As further evidence consider this.  High church liturgy is, by many people’s account, rather boring.  If young people are leaving the church for lack of hip pizzazz, than any church that centers on the smells and bells, cannot hold a youth’s attention.  Consider though, that a Catholic colleges can still pack a mass.  Also consider that there has been a resurgence of interest in high church liturgy among the emergent (or whatever we may call this group) over the last decade.

044-Youre-making-rock-n-roll-worse

If young Christians are bored in church, entertainment is not the solution.  If they need to be entertained, they can find plenty of ways outside church.

Relevant to Career Interests

What about the next issue?  That is, Christianity is not relevant to career interests.  Here the intuition might be to find ways to make Christianity relevant to anyone’s career path.  In many cases, I believe this is needed and laudable. Right now, I enjoy working under the guidance of a faithful Christian.  Patience, as a Christian virtue, is something that certainly applies in a businesses context.  More generally, if we consider the financial collapse of the last few years.  We all understand why some businesses could have benefited from Christian ethics (or really, ethics of any kind).

The risk though, is same as entertainment: an individual can get everything they need outside the church.  What then is the need to Christianize them?  Wouldn’t this annoy people who have spiritual needs, but get only baptized businesses advice from the pulpit?  Too much “relevance to your career interests” can produce a sermons that are a re-wash of cultural values.

Maybe the question itself is wrong.  Perhaps answering the question “How is Christianity relevant to Career interests” but rather, “how are your career interests relevant to Christianity?”  This question does two things.  First, it forces a serious reconsideration of what we actually value.  Maybe the church isn’t wrong, maybe we’re doing something wrong with our lives.  Maybe we need to look again at the parable of the builders and concentrate on those last verse, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”  A second, and less radical, application of this question flip is this: no matter who you are, no matter what you do, God calls you.  God called both humble fisherman (our usual heroes), but he also called doctors (Luke), scholars (Paul), soldiers (Cornelius), and priests (Joseph of Armathea).

Rather than looking for Christianity to help our careers, perhaps we should consider what place our careers have in God’s kingdom.

A Right Step

What then is the solution?  We cannot simply keep offering young people something they can get elsewhere.  Careers and entertainment can be had elsewhere.  It seems the better thing to do is to offer something that cannot be found in the world.

While this feels very simple, I think maybe a little simplicity is needed.  That of course, is a the subject for another blog.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Jin roh says:

    Looks like I am finally drafting the next post on this subject.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s