Six Reasons Young People Leave the Church
Isolationism. One-fourth of 18- to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture, and technology that define their generation.
Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.
Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.
Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a "just say no" philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.
Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.
Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they'd like to discuss.
—Adapted from a list by David Kinnaman in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church … and Rethinking Faith
Six in 10 young people will leave the church permanently or for an extended period starting at age 15, according to new research by the Barna Group. And for the generation now coming of age, it's more than the usual "driver's license to marriage license" joy ride, according to the pollsters. For church leaders, the question is, what will we do about it?
Today's young adults are marrying later, if at all, are technologically savvy, and hold worldviews alien to their upbringing. Barna Research president David Kinnaman, after a five-year-study, declared that church leaders are unequipped to deal with this "new normal."
Their response is mostly at the extremes, both dangerous. Many ignore the situation, hoping young adults' views will be righted when they are older and have their own children. These leaders miss the significance of the shifts of the past 25 years, Kinnaman contends, and the needs for ministry young people have in their present phase—if it is a phase.
But the opposite reaction is just as problematic: "using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults." This excludes older members and "builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God," Kinnaman said.
Kinnaman prescribes intergenerational ministry. "In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body - that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God's purposes."
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
Click here for reprint information on Leadership Journal.