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Home > Issues > 2012 > Winter > 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

Young Exodus

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."

Posted: January 23, 2012

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Rev. Reginald Gabel

September 11, 2013  8:59am

So often I hear that "young people leaving the church" is a new thing, just started in our generation. When my wife's grand father died a few years ago I was given his sermons from over 50 years of preaching. As I went through them I was amazed at the information and topics. One I pulled out and set to all of my pastor friends. The title, "Our Youth are Leaving the Church". He talked about how if the withdrawal of young people did not stop, the church would be dead in 50 years. He gave number and ages of what he saw. He blamed music, drinking, drugs and the addiction of the culture to sex. As I read on I realized that we too, as he did, look at just our own generation to often, thinking we are the only one going through these issues.... His sermon was dated March of 1943. 70 years ago... just a thought... our enemy is the same as his was, Satan. Greed, sex, power, lust hit every generation and when you look deep in the soul, the only answer is a relationship with Christ.

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April 30, 2013  9:12pm

Dirk - you're talking about keeping kids in church like it's some sort of prison. This article is not just for those 'raised' at church. What about those kids who attend from non-churched backgrounds? Your plan will never attract nor reach them. If the church is only planning on surviving by trapping kids in the church, then the church is doomed.

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April 16, 2013  1:01pm

In response to Dirk.... really, are you serious? So how are we the salt and light if we avoid the world? I hear what you are saying but I do not think the gospel calls us to cloister ourselves and lock up our children. We create an us vs. them environment and from all I understand of the Bible it would seem that Jesus came to redeem everything .... to include people in the world through interacting with Jesus followers. We are to have life and that life more abundantly.... the world was created for us to use and be pleased with it. I think parents can raise Christian kids that will continue in their walk with the Lord without putting a blindfold on them and tying them to a chair.

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February 27, 2013  5:22am

The reason young people leave the church is because they are raised with worldly standards and not biblical standards. If you raise the kids to be of the world, they will be. Bring back a biblical lifestyle of separation from the world in dress (head coverings, long modest dresses on woman and long pant, collared shirt on men), lifestyle changes of no socializing with the heathen secular world, no professional sports to be played or watched, no worldly entertainment permitted like TV's in the home, no attending movies or theater, no subscriptions to worldly magazines, no memberships in secular organizations, etc. and perhaps modern worldly churches will retain over 85% of their youth in the same way the ultra-conservative Christian churches do. Yes Christian, if you want to keep your kids in the church, you first have to be of Christ and not of the world. Being of Christ means shunning the ways and delights of the world. For they are of the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes.


February 12, 2013  8:29am

its true that youngsters get bored to go to church but because of this anti christ say that they are true religion jesus said i am giving u freedom because u r my children feedom doesnt mean that we have to leave christ and follow the satan and it is our duty to follow christ

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