Robrenna Redl isn’t the kind of person many pastors would expect to stop attending church. The Lincoln, Nebraska, resident still wants to be a faithful Christian. She has a long history of involvement with church ministries. And she’s older than 40.

Redl came to know Jesus in her 30s, and for the years that followed, she was a model member of a conservative nondenominational church.

“I was very involved as a Sunday school teacher for elementary for seven years and for middle school for six or seven years,” she said. She served on the women’s ministry leadership team and worked for the church for five years. She was, by every description, a faithful member.

But in 2018, after 17 years of service, she walked away.

Redl is not alone. Patterns in church attendance show that people over 40—that is, Gen X and baby boomers—are at least as likely to stop attending church as millennials and Gen Z.

There was a time when pastors would look down from the pulpit at the gray-haired congregants sitting in the pews and consider them safe bets. These were the people whose faithfulness they didn’t worry about.

“People took it for granted,” said Ryan Burge, a pastor and researcher, that “the Golden Girls are not leaving. They’re going to be there every Sunday no matter what.”

But according to Barna, some of the biggest declines in church attendance over the past three decades have been among adults 55 and older. “We can’t just blame the young people for the drop in church attendance,” said Savannah Kimberlin, Barna’s director of research solutions.

People are leaving church from all age groups, and older generations are no exception. According to ...

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