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Asian churches in the United States are discovering that despite their spectacular growth they are simultaneously losing their children. At an alarming rate, many young believers who have grown up in these Asian congregations are now choosing to leave not only their home churches, but possibly their Christian faith as well.

In many respects, the Asian church in the United States has been hugely successful since the mid-1960s, when immigration restrictions were dramatically relaxed.

The surge in Asian immigration led to an explosion of new churches. But the flip side of this success story has been a silent exodus of church-raised young people who find their immigrant churches irrelevant, culturally stifling, and ill equipped to develop them spiritually for life in the multicultural 1990s.

"The Korean church I attended as a child was uncomfortable for kids, with no English sermon or children's program," says 34-year-old John Lee from Venice, California. "Church was more for my parents. There wasn't a lot for us in terms of learning about the Bible and Christianity."

Many in younger generations either immigrated with their parents at a very early age or were born in the United States, placing them in a stressful bicultural context of balancing the oft-conflicting Asian parental and American cultural influences.

Of those young people who have left their parents' churches, few have chosen to attend non-Asian churches. "The second generation is being lost," says Allen Thompson, coordinator for multicultural church planting in the Presbyterian Church of America. "They are the mission field we need to focus on."

MAKING MINISTRY RELEVANT: Dave Gibbons, a half-Korean, half-Caucasian pastor, spent five years working in a first-generation ...

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Silent Exodus
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In the Magazine

August 12, 1996

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