Why Young Christians Leave

September 28th, 2011 / 64 Comments

A recent five-year study indicates that nearly 3 out every 5 young Christians disconnect from church permanently or for an extended period after age fifteen. Why? Here are 6 reasons from the George Barna five-year study:

Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.

Many young Christians experience Christianity as “stifling, fear-based and risk-averse.”

Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.

One out of every four Christian young adults said Christian faith, as they understood it, is not relevant to their lives.

Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.

About one out of every three polled said “Christians are too confident they know all the answers.” (35%) and about the same number said “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%).

Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.

Among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”

Reason #5 – Young Christians wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.

Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths.”

Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to young Christians who doubt.

Many young people feel they are not able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and have “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%).

As one who works with university young people, has daughters in their teens, and also teaches many twenty-somethings in Christian ministry, these reasons are no surprise to me. Here’s the longer report from which this material originated.

Are you surprised? What can and should be done?

Add comment



The church *IS* over-protective.  There is a tendency for the church to “cloister” itself away from the rest of humanity.  There is a tendency to bring up Jesus for a solution to all problems even though that is the last thing that most people want to hear.  It’s a cancerous type of subtle legalism.  A canned-answer that most people don’t want.  Jesus doesn’t take away our problems, he helps us pick ourselves up when stand back up and brush ourselves off from having survived them.

In addition to that are the christians that have never experienced any kind of real hardship in their life.  Most people outside the church can’t identify with them. 

I could go on and on about this topic, but to sum it up, would we rather try and heal peoples’ wounds by accepting them with compassion and dignity? or would we rather give them a heavier burden than the pharisees placed on their people in time of Jesus by being judgemental and self-righteous?

“God loves everyone, except for _________.”

If you found yourself mentally filling in the blank with any group based-off their beliefs, their politics, their culture, their criminal history, their race, or even their sexual preference, then I have bad news for you. 

You are the type of person that drives the people away from God that probably need Him the most.

Would Jesus have invited them hang out and eat and talk with him?

Go and make friends with one of these people.  Try and put yourself in their shoes.  Don’t throw your beliefs and faith out in front of them.

Dennis Carter

I believe this is a huge cultural shift in our society, in which the institution of the church no longer has a central cultural influence. The sooner we realize it, the more likely we are to be able to address it. The issues are complex, and there probably isn’t a “single fix”. If we care, we must change.

1. Recognize that the cultural trends are real and alarming. If they continue, the trends suggest that after another generation of two, church as we know it will largely die and we will become a “post-Christian nation,” similar to European countries. We must have a passion for reaching the younger generations.

2. Emphasize “Missional” over “Attractional” approaches to reaching people. Attractional means we design a great program and invite others to join. Missional means we go to where they are, rather than inviting them to “come to church.” We must learn to expressing faith and experience faith community through relationships, within the marketplace, in our communities, and in our homes rather than just in church. Christians need to have many meaningful relationships with people who are not believers, in which we are transparent with our faith and lives and get to know them, whether or not they have the same perspective or ever accept Christ.

3. Recognize the positive trends as well. For example, younger generations are perhaps more interested in “spirituality” than ever before in the history of the US. They might be skeptical about Christianity, but are also very open to faith discussions with us IF we have a meaningful, accepting, and trusting relationship and engage in TWO-WAY dialog.

4. We must get back to the front lines. “Normal Christians” must learn to “be missionaries”. We must learn to think of America as a missionary does. If we were in Papua New Guinea, we would recognize that they have a vastly different culture and history than us, and study the culture. We would try to come up with meaningful cross-cultural ways to develop relationships and communicate. We would recognize that we are “foreigners” and have a very humble, respectful, accepting approach. We would sacrifice ourselves, not just our money.

5. We must learn to ask lots of questions and listen long before we speak. We must have deep relationships with those who are not believers, so that we are still around when they are ready to ask questions.

6. We must experiment and take risks… with God, with relationships, and with how we experience church.

7. We must rediscover the spirituality of God, such as praying for others like we mean it and expecting God to show up in miraculous ways.

Cody Marie Bolton

Wow. I didn’t realize how high those numbers actually are. From personal experience though, I can understand why. I have dealt with all of those problems and more. And it’s really a shame that the church (in general) places so much judgment on our young people. Didn’t they remember what it was like when they were this age??

John W. Dally

While the study addressed youth, I am nearly 60 and would agree with most of the points. So would many of the people I work with as a Hospice Chaplain. I work with people outside the church, usually over 50. They feel the same as those in the study. Many I work with have abandoned the church for the very reasons mentioned. When I have an opportunity to share a well thought out, non-judgmental approach to Christian Faith I find little resistance.

I am afraid that some are going to argue that we should not “compromise the Truth” to satisfy society. I am sure someone will address the verse on “tickling their ears.”  However, the need is not to compromise the truth nor became acceptable at the cost of being faithful.

If the church (small “c”) is to be relevant for any age it must be scholastically honest, hold to intellectual integrity, and listen, listen, listen to others.

Mark W. Wilson

I wonder if #2 reflects the egocentric way we have “marketed” Jesus to this generation. Our emphasis on what Jesus can do for me—rather than on a call to radical discipleship—may lead many to conclude they don’t need Jesus when other products meet their needs. (Many feel better after a latte than after prayrer.) We live in a consumer culture, where relevance often equals whatever fits my style and personal taste. Trying to present a more stylish and cooler Jesus may be the wrong path. Many paths to God sounds cooler and more tolerant than the exclusive claims of Jesus. Maybe we should scrape off the barnacles of cultural paradigms from the gospel through good biblical scholarship and recover the call to follow Jesus. The church’s youth are hungry for a cause worth dying and sacrificing for, but see many in the church as passionless and unwilling to forsake the material comforts of our middle-class lives. God is fine in small doses, it seems.

Hans Deventer

Seems “fear” is the connecting factor. We operate out of fear rather than faith.


Am I surprised? Sadly, no. As someone who is answering God’s call to become a pastor, I think that #2 is the most troubling. If the experience teens and twenty-somethings are having of Christianity is shallow, then the onus falls on those of us who are speaking into their lives to make it something deeper.


Well I would have to say, being one in that age group that leaves the church, I am really saddened that the church has not done anything about it. Must people my age in ministry undo what previous generations are doing without any help?

I am willing to accept people. I am willing to listen to science. I am willing to address the tough topics in a relevant manner, and make church a place where anyone can go.
But I need the help of those who are currently in leadership roles in the church. I need the help of the people who attend church weekly who are 30+ and believe they have all the answers to life.
Very simply, all I need from these people is an open mind and an open heart for the gay person, the tattoo sleeved individual, the homeless person, the skeptical young person, the pregnant single girl… You know who I’m talking about. Make room for them in your heart in the workplace, the mall, your home, and the church, and- make no mistake- they will come to church if they see Christ’s love in you.

Luke Taylor Cochran

These questions, and their answers, all seem to stem from the same fundamental problem. For some reason, in the American Church faith in God quickly turns into certainty. Belief and certainty can not co-exist by definition, but for some reason when we are all encouraged by either our local pastors, passing evangelists, or lay ministers to be “sure of what we believe”, most of our brothers and sisters take that to mean that there is no room for doubt, error, unbelief, or experimentation within the confines of the faith.

However, I am not sure if embracing doubt, change, reverence, and exploration in the American church is preachable. :/

Martijn van beveren

Sadly, no I am not surprised. I do have a deep connection with the CotN and its VERY good news. But as soon as we forget what it means to be a church, to be molded, willing to learn, to grow in understanding, to be deeply relational, to be in the world and relevant,then we are in trouble.
As long as we are just waiting on Heaven to come down at a certain time and in the meantime go on with a mediocre faith that is a subculture with access rules we might as well throw in the towel.

We can make a difference in young lives as long as we understand that we are the reflection of Christ through the Spirit and it is our responsibility to act, rely and invest on Him. Are we willing to let The Almighty’s Love shape us?

We need to take young people serious. We need to learn their culture, we need to invest heavely in them! That means to get out of our comfortzone and into their world.
We need to share a faith/life(not separate but in unity) that is challenging! And one thing I know is that Gods Love can definitely be challenging when it comes to shaping your/our life(s)! If we know how to do that then Christ is relevant for future generations. (He always is and will be but we churchpeople, the incrowd are the ones who need to step up)

Thx for posting Tom. This helps me again to tweak my senses…

DinkyDau Billy

Innerestin’, but hardly new. All that and more is why I walked away from the church (the One True Church, too, given that I’m a Recovering Catlick) fifty years ago. The only reason I’m back is because of the influence of Leece, the Recovering Fundie, but I gotta tell you, I could walk away from it again any old time. It was good to go back, too, but it didn’t take long for the old churchly demons to raise their heads again. But I’m still there. I’m no longer afraid of the church, nor the neo-Pharisees.

More on that here:


and this one illustrates another attitude/behavior that drives young people, and not a few of we old gasbags, right up the wall about ‘traditional Christians’, the ones who seem to make up the bulk of the Christian Right:


I think much of this has to do with the influence of the so-called ‘Holiness movements’ on American churches. And that goes hand-in-hand with the Doc’s recent essay on God’s holiness factor.

Tabitha McLaren

Unfortunately I would have to say that I agree with most young people about the church. So why am I staying? I had a youth pastor who was not afraid of talking about the dirty things in life. He taught us that doubt was okay. He talked about sex and the importance of abstinence and why it is a God ordained gift. Basically he was everything that the reasons stated above were not. He was real and he knew that what we were struggling with was real and he was not afraid to talk about it. He left in the middle of ninth grade and the youth pastors that I had after that were the epitome of the given reasons. If it were not for my first youth pastors realness I would probably be included in the 3 of 5 that left the church.

That being said. I think that it is important for Christians to start living out their lives in ways that say “yes, humanity is dirty but so is Christianity.” If we let the young people know that sex is not bad but it should be saved b/c it is of God then maybe just maybe our young people will start valuing themselves again. If we talk about the realness of doubt and how it can be healthy to doubt then maybe they will see that questioning things is not bad. If they see the deep rooted love of God lived out and invested in them they will not leave.

It is time to get raw and dirty in ministry.

roy d oosthuizen

Hi Tom,

The issue is how do we, the church reach our generation (all ages and sorts) with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We can’t tamper with our raison d’être. If we do , the light on the hill goes out; the salt loses its savour; and the yeast becomes useless. Only the Holy Spirit can make the church what we must be – a loving, agent of moral change.

As Christians, we must have the moral courage and humility to identify for ourselves from Scripture and by prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit, (self examination is both Scriptural and necessary, 2 Cor. 13:5) what in our own lives and organisational structures, are genuine obstacles preventing us from co-operating with the Lord and with each other in achieving God’s redemptive purpose for our generation.

God is not married to any denomination or group who happen to name His Name. Church history is replete with examples of how the Holy Spirit by-passed established church organisations which had become calcified and He thereby created new opportunities for people to come to faith in Christ. “The wind blows wherever it pleases.” And there is no doubt that if we attempt to bottle up the wind for ourselves, or we try to redefine it, we will be blown away.


lige Jeter

The cost of discipleship is costly. Jesus said, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  I do not know of any Christian, those who have repented and accepted Christ, who did not surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in exchange for a new life. I know I did.

I believe the real problem today is more excuse making rather than surrender. We have an example of this found in Luke [9:] When some said to Jesus “I will follow you wherever you go.” And after Jesus laid down the ground rules concerning the cost of discipleship they began to give excuses why they would not follow.

When I was in the service, in boot camp, we learned three little words, “No Excuse Sir.” If you goofed up intentional or not and was called on the carpet for it, you could only offer up in your defense these words, “No Excuse Sir.” When I was in they didn’t accept excuses. That training has served me well to this day. Before Christ I will be without excuse if I should follow the pattern of excuses that some of these young people have set for themselves.

No one wants to take responsibility today for their own actions and it becomes easier to blame others, including blaming the church. As long as the church acts under the direction of the Holy Spirit there will always be those who will find fault regardless of the truth. The church cannot change its message simply because some do not like the cost. Others have tried and failed.

DinkyDau Billy

Good day to you, lige Jeter. After reading your comments, I could not help but think, “This attitude epitomizes why people leave the church, or never embrace the church.” Your military analogy is a false analogy. The military always accepts excuses. The old saw “… for the good of the unit …” allows a multitude of organizational sins to be swept under the rug; every time I heard the phrase I knew some colonel’s career was in jeopardy, or some favored lackey had screwed up and needed protecting, and they were trying to justify whatever it was they were going to do to cover it up. The church, being a great monolithic bureaucracy, is no different. But continuing on the main thread … it is not up to you to determine who is properly following which ‘rules.’ Christ was a master of the metaphor, and he rarely gave a direct answer. Even his New Commandment, and his Great Commission, are open to interpretation as to how they should be executed. The mission objective may be clear, but the manner of execution of the orders is not. So Christ is in violation of a number of military precepts. Perhaps using the military as an analogy for how one should embrace the church and Christ is not a good one?

Carol Dikes

All it takes is for ME to be the hands and feet of Jesus.


I definitely agree with #2. I experience that now. I plan on going into ministry and I think church is not relevant to people. I hope to help correct that in some way. I think part of the reason people do not think church is relevant is the illusion of community. Many people go to church and think of it as fulfilling some duty they have. Church does not fulfill its role in fostering growth and service to the community. Making church relevant means breaking a lot of the “traditions” we have in order to make church real and communal and not some duty that needs to be fulfilled every week.

Lige Jeter

DinkyDau Billy,

Thanks for your comments, otherwise I would not have known that my comments were confusing to you, and may have been to others, which were never meant to be. Therefore, I feel compelled of the Lord to try and explain and remove any misunderstanding you or others may have. I will address my remarks primarily to you and include all others who may have been mislead as well. 

Obviously we both served in the military at different times, and had a very difference experience based upon your concept of the military always accepting excuses.

Mine was at the end of the Korean war, and the experience I shared in my earlier comment and took away from my service experience was personal and obviously different from yours, and was not intended to fit everyone. I recall a personal incident that happened to me that reflected the training I received in boot camp that served me well throughout life including my spiritual journey. Perhaps it is not for everyone.

It was while newly being stationed at Keesler AFB, Miss. that I failed to pull latrine duty. I failed to check the duty rooster on the bulletin board (I knew better, but failed to do so). That morning I was summoned to the First Sergeant’s office. When I arrived another person, who was up for discharge, was being chewed out for something else. When I was asked, why I did not pull my duty, my response was as taught in boot camp, “No Excuse Sergeant.” Apparently the other Airman offered an excuse which the First Sergeant did not accept. Because I offered no excuse The Sergeant showed mercy and I did not receive company punishment, and was merely told not to do it again. I got the message loud and clear.

I believe that when we come to Christ without excuse when the Holy Spirit shows us our short comings and we confess our need, Christ shows us His mercy. It has been my personal experience that if I try to offer up an excuse to avoid personal responsibility and correction, I wind up the loser. I hope this helps.


There are several good points made here, both in the blog entry as well as comments made.  I tend to agree with most of the the entry, but I also can’t help but wonder about individual responsibility.

I deal with a lack of individual responsibility/accountability quite frequently and I think there is some of it included AT TIMES when people leave the church.  For instance, #2 talks about a shallow faith.  For their part, the church certainly should be teaching and preaching appropriate, well interpreted theology to its members and those in the church should embody those teachings to others.  The member must understand that it is HIS/HER relationship and the only one that can make it less shallow and more meaningful is him/her.  That requires time, effort, study, etc.  I’m certain there are churches that are irresponsible and foster shallow faith, but if one wants a deeper understanding, there are a lot of churches who do a better job.

I can attest to having plenty of doubts as a Christian and church goer and identify with #6.  That being said, I go back to personal responsibility.  Could the church do better at having resources and/or being more up front and open for people who have questions?  You bet.  But, it’s still on me as to whether or not I want to push through those doubts, or just walk away.  I’m the one who sought out people to speak with, kept going to church (for the most part), and continued asking the questions to seek out answers.  I’m not special and I know my experience is not the same as others, but I tend to think it could be in line with the average guy out there.

I suppose what I’m saying is that our current cultural state has brought us to this point.  Church/religion seems to be further from “main stream” and can be lacking in showing how Christ is relevant.  Individuals look to others for what or why they are where they are.  These are generalities, but I feel there needs to be growth on both sides of the fence in order to have meaningful change.  Just my $.02.

DinkyDau Billy

Good day to you, Lige Jeter,

Thank you for your response.

I do not believe I am confused by what you wrote in your first post. This belief is reinforced by what you wrote in your second post.

I believe your black and white approach to life and to Christianity is without mercy and is unworthy of being linked to Jesus Christ’s teachings. You tell us that this approach, which you developed as the epiphanic result of failing to swab out some toilets and urinals, ‘… was not intended to fit everyone …’, yet you then insist that those who in your judgment offer ‘excuses’, are somehow slackers, failures at being Christians. You paint with a broad brush, brother, much too broad a brush.

My life experiences have shown me that this ‘no excuse sir’ approach is in itself a copping out. When I ask someone why they did something wrong, I react much more favorably to a reasoned explanation of why the behavior occurred. The explanation may be a valid reason for the alleged misconduct. The explanation may illustrate a failure to communicate effectively; it may illustrate a failing on my part to properly instruct the alleged miscreant; it may illustrate a failure of training; it may illustrate a failure of the command to allocate adequate resources … there are any number of reasons why ‘no excuse sir’ is so much horse excrement, which poorly serves the organization and the people in the organization. In the law, these would be considering mitigating or extenuating circumstances. They are hardly ‘excuses.’ They are valid circumstances for he who sits in judgment to consider before making judgment.

Matters of spirituality, of sin and of salvation, do not equate to failing to read a duty roster assigning toilet swabbing activities. Indeed, for a related discussion on this, though the connection may be difficult to perceive immediately, I draw your attention to Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, where in Question 88 of Prima Secundæ Partis he examines the nature of and relationship between mortal and venial sin. It’s clear to me that Saint Thomas would not buy into your ‘no excuse’ approach. Nor, I believe, does Christ.

Nichole Henselman

I am not surprised in the least by the title of this blog. I am not surprised that many young Christians choose to leave the Church. I do think it’s incredibly sad. I have many friends that fell away from the Church when they hit later high school years and early college aged years. I recently had a friend tell me that she wishes she would have never left the church and that she wants to start going back. She misses the community.
I sort of think that is key. I agree with all the reasons stated above, but I do think a lot has to do with community. Our churches have become so age segregated over the years. When I was younger I can remember there being a strong sense of community among everyone. When I got older it was very much stay with your own age group. I think this poses a problem. When high school teens are ready to leave the youth group they find that they don’t fit in really anywhere else. I do think that judgment plays a big part of it as well. I know that many people in the church tend to judge others for their actions or their not believing. It’s a sad reality.

I think that the church does need to do a better job of looking out, essentially, for our teens. I mean, those are the years when a young person is breaking away from their parents’ faith and trying to figure things out on their own. Their community needs to surround them. The community of all ages.

Sad reality.

Talitha Edwards

Personally, I feel that often the Church does not go into depth with theology, though perhaps that has something to do with educational needs for congregations.  My experience in the Church was fine for me personally but I did not often question the Church.  Once I got to college I discovered and learned a lot and realized a lack of discipleship in my life.  My greatest mentor was my father and he taught me a lot but, at the same time, there was a lot that I didn’t get from my local church.  I have also, personally, heard stories from various people of the judgmental side of Christianity.  Now perhaps this has some source in personal responsibility in the individual and not necessarily sourced entirely from the Church.  However, my thought is: Should the Church be individualistic?  How much have we lost community-wise and how much of the current issues of young people leaving can be sourced to an overly-individualized Church?  Now I know that in an individualistic society it is hard to be communal for various reasons.  At the same time how much can we point to personal responsibility when the Church should be an empowering community?  There is only so much the Church can do but are we doing all that we can do or is ‘less than’ good enough?

Jacey Wooldridge

Dr. Oord,
  Sadly I would have to agree with most if not all of the reasons that are listed above and they are no surprise for me. Reason #2 makes me the most upset I think. “One out of every four Christian young adults said Christian faith, as they understood it, is not relevant to their lives.” I think that if the church actually spent more time educating their teens we would find more of then understanding what they believe and how it is relevant to their lives.

Rachael Yacovone

I am actually not surprised (nice picture by the way!).  I have definitely experienced this in churches I have been involved in. It is extremly frustrating too, when you think “If we only just…. the people would stay in the church.” I appreciate you posting this, becuase if these are the reasons, and people are concerned about the entire community, then we should be asking what can be done? If the reasons why this age group is struggling bothers anyone, then they should ask themselves why they struggle with adapting to these ideas. Why is doubt wrong? Especially if it leads to finding a stronger foundation in faith. There are worse things that will lead people away from Christianity, and like these facts show, it is happening anyways! The only oppostion I had to this article is the need to make your faith your own, and being a grown up.

I do think we should be considering the needs of this age group, but I also know even with that sometimes we are just lazy. It is easy to go to church when our parents make us, or it is a part of our schedule, but once we graduate and hit college life,man, we are already packing our schedule with stuff. It is easy to make and excuse not to go be involved and learn in a faith community.  At some point if we all get frustrated and leave we are never going to see a shift or change in our comunity that will help our peers etc.  I know that does not speak for everyone.

Thomas Jay Oord

Talitha Edwards writes…

Personally, I feel that often the Church does not go into depth with theology, though perhaps that has something to do with educational needs for congregations. My experience in the Church was fine for me personally but I did not often question the Church. Once I got to college I discovered and learned a lot and realized a lack of discipleship in my life. My greatest mentor was my father and he taught me a lot but, at the same time, there was a lot that I didn’t get from my local church. I have also, personally, heard stories from various people of the judgmental side of Christianity. Now perhaps this has some source in personal responsibility in the individual and not necessarily sourced entirely from the Church. However, my thought is: Should the Church be individualistic? How much have we lost community-wise and how much of the current issues of young people leaving can be sourced to an overly-individualized Church? Now I know that in an individualistic society it is hard to be communal for various reasons. At the same time how much can we point to personal responsibility when the Church should be an empowering community? There is only so much the Church can do but are we doing all that we can do or is ‘less than’ good enough?

Talitha Edwards

Brianna Chapman

Dr. Oord-

These reasons, though true and visibly verifiable, are doubtful to be the sole reasons that people of my generation leave the church, but rather, seem like the root to many other complex issues that have created an age divide within the church as we see it today. In my own experience, I became burnt out on the church during my first two years of college and struggled to see beyond the churches flaws. While there is no such thing as a perfect institution and finding a specific church that meets your “needs” is impossible, it seems like there is also an unfriendliness to criticism within today’s church framework. I think the church should be willing to openly discuss and come to the heart of the problems it faces with age divide in order to regain community and holistic growth.

DinkyDau Billy

On the nature of ‘education’ and ‘community’ within the church, please see:


Tabitha brings up the idea of an ‘overly-individualized’ church as driving people away. That’s an interesting concept, and I think a complex concept.

The Catholic church has for a couple of millennium relied on the liturgy of the Mass to provide a foundation for worship and community. I love the Mass, though not as much as I did when I was a kid, when it was in Latin … you have to attend a High Mass in Latin in a Roman church of Byzantine design to really get a grip on that. (It’s OK. Protestants can go to a Catholic church. All those Papist heresies won’t rub off.)  But one of the major issues I have with the Roman church is … like the example in the Naked Pastor’s cartoon, The One True Church doesn’t encourage a lot of thinking. Kind of reminds me of the line in ‘GI Jane’: “When I want your opinion, Lieutenant, I’ll give it to you.”

Protestant churches are not much different; they are just less openly corporate – except, of course for televangelists and prosperity preachers. IOW, I don’t see a lot of individualization in any church. It’s pretty much toe the party line, and check your brain at the door, and when the Church wants your opinion, they’ll give it to you.

The church leadership doesn’t do well in coming to grips with the vital issues of the day. It just doesn’t. And when they try, it often falls flatter than Pope Alexander VI’s world, though come to think on it, The One True Church is still trying to pull those particular Chestnuts out of the fire in more ways than one.

On that Byzantine church thing? There’s a link to a magnificent example near the end of this blogpost, which is also a commentary of sorts on the failure of church leadership in the modern milieu:


Last thought … Our middle son, attending midnight Mass at the local parish last year, observed that all the doodads – Stations of the Cross, etc – helped him to focus on his prayers. Yep. It does. A variation on that Lectio Divina thing, don’t you think? Will he go to hell for that? Or is Rob Bell on to something?

Joshua Farmer

These results are not surprising to me. I think that the main reason for these results is because in the 60’s and 70’s there was a generation that revolted against authority. At this time, the main authority was the Church and the Church’s response to the rebellion was strict rules and a firm stance. I think that this was the wrong approach and was probably a result of scared parents. However, now that these teenagers have grown up and become parents, they have presented a bad representation of the Church to their children; causing the Church to loss influence in our culture. As a result, our youth has turned to science for answers which appears to contradict Christian doctrine. In order for the church to gain cultural influence we must turn to relationship building and logic. In a culture that is heavily influenced by science, we have to present logical theology. In order for the Church to gain a new representation in our society, we have to present ourselves to our society, rather than wait for our society to come to our churches.

DinkyDau Billy

Hello, Joshua Farmer,

I have to disagree with your premise that the ‘main authority’ was the Church, back in the sixties and seventies. It wasn’t. The government was the main authority. The Church was offering up the same pre-digested pap that it does now, and we weren’t buying back then any more than today’s young people are buying it now. The church was playing a very poor second fiddle to the government, for most of us. The church then, as now, is pretty much irrelevant to a really significant percentage of the population, Beaver and family notwithstanding.

OTOH, there were a number of church figures who joined the anti-war anti-govenrment movement, and the civil rights movement. Some of those pastors who joined the civil rights movement were even white guys.Jim Reeb and Gregg Liuzzo come to mind. So there was a component of the church that ‘resonated’ with us back then. Like the practical application of liberation theology in Central America by nuns and priests, much to the chagrin of The One True Church. The Church was an obstruction, but the real threat was the government and its support of right-wing despots.

Today, we don’t have that kind of stirring leadership in the church. Nope. What we have is the likes of John Hagee, who has anointed Rick Perry:


and who has recently been joined by fellow Perry endorser Bob Jefress, who calls Perry a ‘genuine follower of Jesus Christ’ and refers to Mormon Romney as a cultist. There ya go. If Hagee or Jefress are examples of church leadership today, my only question to myself is why I’m still in it. And, their followers really do not set much of a Christian example for we of the unwashed masses.

As for presenting ‘logical theology’ … huh. Now there’s a thought. What do you think of the premise that all theology is nothing but opinion?

Mark Wade

I agree that all of these reasons are and have been reasons that young people leave the church, but I think that the main two are that churches are often too legalistic and young people are too often scorned and looked down upon for their actions. They are not invited to be an integral part of their church. I think that instead of youth and their ideas being taken seriously and listened to they are being spoken “at” and treated as if they are spiritually immature. There are too few avenues by which youth are enabled to decipher Christianity in reference to their own live and the are in consequence unable to be intrinsically motivate to attend church.

Cecelia Pena

As a twenty-something, I can agree with a lot of the reasons why young Christians stray from the church. Most churches I have been to do not address issues such as sexuality, death and sin in an understanding way. I feel that some pastors take the easy way out and use the Bible in a very literal manner to avoid much discussion about those topics. If pastors were more open minded and more willing to talk about such subjects, less young Christians would stray from the church because they would be able to talk through these issues rather than just be told that we need to think this way because the Bible says so.

Niki D

Those are some of the reasons why I choose to stay out of anything related to “church”. When I became a twenty something I noticed that my values were changing and those values were different from the “church”. As I was exposed to more to the world after entering university I felt myself changing from what the “church” believed. The more I see the world and see what constitutes religion. I find the exclusiveness hard to reconcile with even now.

Kris Bos

I think I would have to agree with most of the reasons. A church can be overprotective but its what I want to put into it, is what Im going to get out of it. Teenagers start to understand church more thoroughly I think and its hard to be Christians twenty four hours a day. We all make mistakes but we can learn from them. If something happens we like to go to the church for help. In some phases I think churches can be trying to hard to teenagers. I myself love going to church but as a young teenagers youth group wasn’t such a high note for me. I learn more in the service then I did in youth group eating donuts and drinking juice.

Joe Crosby

I am not surprised at the results of the study. I interpret the goal behind these observations is to discover how to minister effectively. If the faith life experienced in Church is perceived as shallow, overprotective, antagonistic to new ideas, out of date, and exclusive, something needs to change. These adjectives describe an institution different from the movement started by Jesus. In drastic contrast, Jesus taught depth, “fear not”, unity, relevance, and inclusive ideas. Young minds who want to be a part of the Church are wrestling with why the Church at times functions in ways that is contrary to their understanding of God. An open discussion needs to take place where the youth represented in this study and current Church leaders are able to explain their theology and how this either affirms or contradicts the current practice.

Don Smith

Having worked with teenagers for over fourteen years I find that these reasons seem to hit the nail on the head. So, no I am not surprised. The issues that I have seen most are probably numbers 2, 5 and 6.
Number to especially as teenagers are coming to the end of their teenage years want to know the “whys” of things especially as it comes to their faith, and when church leaders cannot or will not give answers or at least guidance in answering some of the tough questions, or we give some pat answers then we come across as shallow . So, they begin to look into other options. This sometimes leads to the exclusiveness issue of number five, especially if we cannot give answers that would share why we view Christ as we do.
Then when people do not give answers , number six comes into play, even if it is not so, young people may feel this way if we dismiss their questions or try and trivialize them as I have witnessed some to do.
Answers to these issues, may be more complex than this, but what I see first and foremost is that we have to understand we , the church have failed these young people. I believe that we have failed them because we have not respected them because of their youth, and that with this lack of respect we have failed to listen even though they have been speaking for a while now by moving away from the church. So, with many of these issues we need first to be listening, then we had better be prepared to have legitimate answers, and have enough respect for them to share in a way that we will regain their respect.

Aneel Mall

The study and the answers given are not surprising as the Church has forgotten where they once came from. We as the church are sometimes guilty of being like the “Pharisees” with our self-righteousness guiding us instead of the Holy Spirit. Many of the young generation want genuine answers to their questions on faith and how it relates to the situations they are going through. Socially speaking we are more open as a society where we are sharing our problems with each other. The emptiness that is left in lives are being filled by the various self-help religions that a social media that allows them to find tailored made groups for them to join. At times the Church has been slow and even in reverse when it comes to dealing with the questions and issues that the younger generations is going through. The church has forgotten that Christ was a rebel in His times and His outreach to those with social stigma was not a program but a genuine love. Genuine love does not ask someone to conform who they are but accepts the person with all of their faults and weakness. It was this acceptance that was expressed in such a love that the person was is left changed from the experience. The church can begin to change this if it opens a true dialogue with the next generation allowing them to guide the church in its vision and ministry. The best people for this type of ministry are the people from the generation who has speak and live the language of the times. They know the challenges, temptations and the manner they have experienced God in their life gives them a genuine ministry. The church needs to stop being an entity and start living as unified living, breathing people with everyone having the same importance in the outcome.

Phil Michaels

Surprised? Not at all! I am not “young” anymore (despite the repeated efforts of boomers to keep calling me “young”…I am pretty sure they will still be calling me “young” when I am in my 50’s and maybe even still in my 60’s…), yet, I resonate with every one of these reasons in some way, especially number 1, 3, 5, and 6.

To me, the most telling thing here is: “Many young people feel they are not able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church”” – this is just so astounding to me. We are the real presence of Christ in this world, the ones to whom *anyone* should be able to turn, just as we have turned to Christ, and find answers – or at least a safe place to explore possible answers – for our deepest and most pressing questions. How can this be?

I believe it is because of fear. Fear of being ‘wrong’ or ‘not having all the answers’ or that such questions might lead to us actually having to change our thinking. It is seemingly fear of transformation, the one thing we are *supposed* to be about above all else. It’s like Jonah being angry when the people of Nineveh actually repent. He thought he signed up for doomsday and destruction and got mercy and grace and love instead.

For Jesus disciples, “there is no fear in love, because perfect love drives out fear.” We need to stop being afraid of questions and start loving people in the midst of them. I think that’s a key part of the Jesus Way.

David A.

I must say that none of those six answers are surprising and I have wrestled with all six of those issues. Somehow I stayed in the church, however, and I am not entirely sure why this is the case. I wish that it were more ok to discuss these frustrations in our churches and I also wonder why this isn’t happening. If we are going to be honest about these problems we don’t just get to dismiss them because “kids these days” (said in your best cranky voice) don’t get it. These are systemic problems to the organized church.

So if these issues are pervasive why aren’t they talked about in our churches as a source of concern? Are we afraid of talking about these things, too? Isn’t this exactly why the young people are leaving: we are afraid to grapple with difficult issues in public settings? The idolatry of certainty has been erected and placed on the altars of our churches, and like Josiah or Asa, we must clean out all the high places we have erected that replace a dependency on God. We need courageous pastors, leaders, congregants and instructors to face the hard truth that the church as we know it will fail if we do not stop to meet these kids in the multi-cultural, pluralistic, gender-bended, world that they occupy. A failure to do this is just putting on display our churches prefer idols of pretention over the humble seeking of a disciple of the Way.

Rosanne McMath

It is time church leaders be quiet and listen. Stop chasing people away who question our beliefs. Just stop and take a moment to really listen to the statements behind the questions. Twenty-somethings are in a developmental stage in life where life is wide open. As not only church leaders, but spiritual leaders, it is time that we take responsibility as mentors to aid in life’s road maps. We all have questions and doubts about church and faith and God. Personally, I need to stop trying to be the “fixer” to all these questions. I know that for me, someone who’s always trying to fix my problems (reaching me) does the opposite; instead of reaching these “helpers” push me away.
I read an article on ChurchLeaders.com entitled, “Dear Church, Here’s Why People are Really Leaving You (Part 2)” by John Pavlovitz. In this article he writes, “So yes, Church, even if you’re right, even if we’re totally wrong; even if we’re all petty, and self-centered, and hypocritical, and critical, and (I’ll say it), “sinful,” we’re still the ones searching for a place where we can be known and belong; a place where it feels like God lives, and you’re the ones who can show it to us. Even if the problem is me, it’s me who you’re supposed to be reaching, Church. So, for the love of God; reach already.”


So I open Facebook today and find this “Open Letter to all the People Writing Open Letters About What’s Wrong with The Church” (http://www.faithit.com/open-letter-people-writing-sharing-open-letters-whats-wrong-church/). I have to admit I am not a “Millennial,” so it would be hard for me to talk into why this group of people is leaving the church. The writer of the Facebook blog says maybe it is due to the fact that young people are “spoiled, selfish, uneasily satisfied, hypercritical, consumeristic and socially enlightened but biblically light-wiegth.” The writer is part of the aforementioned group. The writer points out that church going is like a marriage relationship. Are our spouses perfect? Do we focus on every negative aspect of the relationship or do we lean into what is good and pure with the hope of a better tomorrow. The Church will never be perfect. It is made up of people who need Jesus, people like you and me. Let’s make this the year of positive thinking and proactive change. Be part of the solution not part of the problem.

Francis Mwansa

The information is so informative and at the same time very challenging for the Church to re-look on the way we do ministry that addresses young people’s needs. I am so shocked on the figures and this calls for a serious attention to address the plight of young people. From this picture, we can draw conclusions that, the church is operating in the past mode when the world is advancing. In order to effectively minister to the young generation, the church should remain alive to the challenges caused by post modernity. The problem could be that, may be the church has so much focused on tradition and closed its door to contemporary. There is need to transform Christian Theology to meet the challenges of post modernity. Thanks for the information.



This is a very interesting research. I have always worked with youth and the main reason I have seen them leaving the church it has been mostly for the number two.

However, teens also are being raised in a very consumerist environment. The church is treated as a supermarket where you go to do your shopping. Instead of being a place where we bring our offering, it has become the place where we demand an offering from God.

We lead our youth group in German and many times we hear them say that they do no like the music, things are formal, people are cold, nobody really smiles etc. We always recall them to reflect on themselves. Do you do all these things? Now most of them are involved in worship and other areas of the church.

I think that biggest problem has to do with the way the church is organized. Jayme Himmelwright (Missionary in Portugal) said that the church is a place with the highest segregation. We have teens group, children’s group and church service on Sunday. While each of these groups is important, they should not take time during the service. We should all came together as a family to celebrate God. We must get the young people and children involved during worship. Only through meaningful participation they will feel they belong to the church.

Angela Lerena

First, how sad that 4 years later this is still relevant! How sad that we’re having these same conversations and that these facts are still as true as they were then!

I do have a struggle with all this though. My church is doing things differently. We are active and spiritual and all these things (not that there’s no room for improvement…) but we don’t live in a neighborhood with 20-somethings. Our neighborhood is older people or middle-aged renters who come and go. I feel like we have so much to offer, yet we struggle with how to reach them. Missional means we must be active agents in our neighborhood, which we are, yet it also means that we miss a lot of these 20-somethings who could find a home here…


I believe young people not only leave the church due to Christian’s antagonistic view of science, but also because many Christians treat the Bible as a science. The Bible is not science —it’s a story. It’s a narrative about a God who creates, rescues, gives judgment, redeems, frees and loves. Viewing the bible as a science text book leads many to use it as a tool proving and disproving others. It becomes a way to “defend” the faith. Anytime we try and defend faith we have assumed a lording posture of defensiveness rather than one of humility and love. How can the grace and peace of God be extended when we have our fists up?

Sarah Dupray

I found nothing in this post surprising. I have a teen son who is 15 and half. He is beginning to ask the hard questions about Christianity. I was thrilled to see him questioning because it means he is coming into his own faith. I meet with our DS’s wife for accountability and when I told her that with a sense of excitement. She became very concerned.

At my ordination interview they asked about my family and shared about my daughter who wanted to be a pastor on a farm. She recently fell in love with everything outer space and wants to be an astronaut. I told her maybe she could be the first pastor on Mars (half joking but also not joking), the DS’s eyes just about popped out of his head.

I think we have to quit acting liking we know everything. We do not have all the answers. I think we need to be transparent and let people know “Hey I struggle with this too.”

Maybe more than anything we need to not judge. Recently our youth pastor left for a different church. He left our inner city church for a classic suburban church. He contacted me to say the children’s pastor asked for his advice because a lady had asked to help with children’s ministry and she suspected that the lady lived with her fiancé. She was very upset about it. My friend’s response was, “I didn’t tell her that you sign probation papers for some of your teachers.” Now I am not saying it is okay to cohabitate or have a probation officer. I am saying we have to quit judging, take note of whom Jesus hung out, and not be so uptight.

Michael O’Neill

Allow me to try to communicate these six findings in a positive, response-focused way:
#1. Young Christians need room to have freedom to “breathe” – to talk, try, and even fail, in an accepting environment. They need freedom to take risks, and need a church willing to take risks in order to make a difference in their community and world.
#2. Young Christians need a faith that is deep and relevant. What does this mean? We must be willing to dialogue with young Christians about the important matters of their faith (learning things like success in life and self confidence are helpful, but peripheral and not primary to their desire for depth).
#3. We must be willing to have open dialogue across all disciplines.
#4. We must at least be willing to listen to young Christians about issues of sexuality, if not also re-evaluate our teaching methods for clarity and relevance.
#5. We must be willing to be open and accepting of other faiths, while knowing our own theology well enough (and being secure enough in it) to sit at the table of conversation with other religions.
#6. We must allow the doubts of young Christians, seeing them as opportunities to have honest exploration that leads to stronger faith.
And I would add #7: We must be willing to trust God’s prevenient grace!

Cassy Wynn

I am not surprised as I am one of those teens that strayed away until about age 21. My dad is a Nazarene pastor and did a great job of allowing me and my siblings to embrace faith on our own. However, youth leaders and other church leaders whose teaching I sat under left me with more questions than answers. That wouldn’t have been so bad but I felt that the questions I had would have been viewed in a negative judgemental light. I feel very strongly that had I had the courage to ask my parents these questions they would have given me open and honest answers.
I became pregnant with my daughter at age 19. My boyfriend left me and I was alone. My parents. family and church family welcomed me with open arms and were a wonderful example of Jesus. It wasn’t until I had a genuine transformation through Jesus at about age 21 that I truly understood my own faith an beliefs. I thank God for the people he put in my path that allowed come to it on my own and who modeled authentic relationships with Jesus in front of me. My parents were always the same in secret as they were in public. As Christians and church leaders we need to model Jesus at all times. We shouldn’t be pharisees in our churches. Instead we are called to love and listen without judgement.

Chris Nikkel

I have been involved with churches that were primarily younger and others that were predominately older. Not since I was in college have I attended a church that had a good representation of all demographics. A healthy church ought to be spread out generationally, but they are a rarity.
In a world where the Rolling Stones are performing concerts in their 70s it seems odd that the church would have this issue. While there will always be generational issues it seems that the church has a much more difficult problem in bridging the gap between young and old.
Our older believers must be willing to be uncomfortable if the gap is going to be bridged. To minister to younger people there needs to be a different worldview and worldviews simply don’t change easily, especially at an advanced age. Our older generation in the church must do things that seem unnatural. They must seek out to understand the younger generation, and, although it might seem unnatural, minister to them in a way that they can comprehend.

Jim Cendrowski

These statistics lead to a few questions. First, what part of these stats can be chalked up to young people asserting their independence and finding their own way in life? Second, if we agree that something should be done to keep young people in churches, what would that be?

First, obviously through high school and college, young adults are finding their way through life. They are working through issues of identity and independence. Faith may be something that they start doubting and questioning and perhaps does not play as big of a role in this part of their lives for one reason or another. We need to understand this and be willing to be open to their questions, and do not discount their experience to immaturity, but to value their present reality.

Second, how do we engage young people as churches? I believe that presently the crisis the church is facing is not only not being able to be open to reform, but the old guard not passing the leadership torch to the next generation. My generation has been overlooked for leadership because the old guard seem to be afraid of what would happen. What has happened is that good leaders of the next generation have become frustrated and tired of fighting the same old battles instead of being free to move forward. Many try to start new churches, but many more may have jumped ship altogether.

One way we can make sure young people do not find faith insignificant is to allow them to go through all the things they will go through as young adults trying to find their place in this world with all their doubts, maturing and seeking and still give them the reigns, but be there to help guide, not give answers, but to guide them as they begin to assume leadership.

I think this will start changing the landscape and future of the church as we give young people freedom to move the church in the ways they think will be most effective.


As I read this blog, I believe that many young people are leaving the church for another reason. As someone who works in the public school system I see first hand the attitudes that they are developing. It is not uncommon to hear students cussing up a storm as they walk up and down the halls. Years ago there would have been severe punishment; today it is almost the norm. Students would much rather be on Facebook or Snapchat than to hear a lesson that could forever change their future. They simply believe that their lives are too short, that now is all that matters, and that there is no better hope for them. What should the church do to turn this tide? How about actually loving them and reaching into their world instead of just pretending; or even worse, not even noticing them to begin with.

margaret tyler

Number six leads me to reflect on the work of Catherine Stonehouse, author of, Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey. At the earliest stages of learning Stonehouse invites children to wonder as they unpack the Biblical narratives. Many young worshipers are not given this invitation and/or opportunity. According to Barna’s findings, perhaps we have created too little space for questions or wonder. Unfortunately, simply changing the way we write curriculum will not necessarily create safe platforms for questions and wonder. It seems like it requires a shift where threat and fear are not looming for ask-er, hear-er and respond-er.

Rich Evans

As I was reading through the blog the one word that kept coming to mind was “our voice.” It is apparent that the biggest struggle is that the church is dealing with is finding the connection it needs to curve this trend. The one reason the jumped out to me the most was the many today don’t feel that the church is relevant to their lives. If the church is going to continue to exist, then it imperative that how we interact and deliver the Gospel to today’s youth vital. I think it is important to move outside our walls and interact, engage within their stories, in order for our students to be realizing that the story of God is very much relevant to their lives. We need to be willing to invite them into the conversations, no matter how risky this may be for the church in the moment, because if we don’t, we run a greater of risk of failing within our mission as a whole.
What does this look like? It means we need to become better listeners, to not only the culture, but also with the students that we are interacting with daily. We simply cannot shay away from the tough questions, because we aren’t willing to push the envelope afraid that we are going to ruffle someone’s feathers. The church needs to present a message of love that is willing to journey with our students discovering where God is on message. If the church is willing to do this, to allow our students voice to be heard, then how we engage future generations will also change.

jennifer glover

The one that stood out the most to me on this list is number 6: the unfriendliness to those who doubt. The text underneath it reads, “Many young people feel they are not able ‘to ask my most pressing life questions in church”. I recently began working with a ministry with the goal of helping teens ask these types of questions. I think that the role of leader of teens and youth must be one of authentic vulnerability. Young people see right through anything less. Perhaps if we provide a nonjudgmental atmosphere allowing teens the process to go through their journey it will help lower these numbers. If not that perhaps it will provide those that do leave an open connection and less fear of return.

Sarah Brubaker

I think information like this is really helpful. I know there are some Christians that think this is frustrating and scary, and it can be, but I also think there is much relief to it. If we think about the reasons young people are leaving the church, it’s all for reasons that seem fixable. Many of them have to do with people themselves as opposed to Jesus.

The church can become authentic and gospel centered. The church can be relevant to the lives of young people. The church can be open to other peoples’ faith and the church certainly can be a place where people feel safe. this does anything for us, it should give us goals to strive for. All of the things that were on this list are things that I have experienced in the church before, so it shouldn’t be difficult for us to see where young people are coming from. The question is, are we listening and like Clayton said, are we willing to change and be teachable in order to reach the world for the Jesus who loves them?

Jon Thompson

I have two daughters, who are 22 and 17 years of age. Throughout my time in pastoral ministry, they would often question my intentions when dealing with some pretty big situations at the various churches. They are of course, products of their environment and generation. Ofteh times as I was preparing for worship services, they would question my desire for the service to be perfect and for transitional moments to not take away from the moment. My oldest daughter once added, that maybe I not stress about the details and allow the service to just happen. That her generation was not concerned about the production, yet they desired to experience God in the service.

The advice that I received often resonated with the young people within the congregation. It seemed they were diligently seeking God in ways that the older generation had not. They would delve into older traditions, experiences and disciplines. As I decided along with the church board to change our focus, we found that our message did not change (of course), but our young people became much more engaged and interacted more as a whole.

Troy Teeter

As one that regularly works with students of all ages I have seen this for far too long. One of the biggest issues that I think the church needs to address is helping students address their questions. We’ve put them in classes, often since they were toddlers, and told them what to believe, but often we’ve done a shallow job at helping them to understand why. While they may know some of the stories and some of what we’d call “key verses” they haven’t been helped to connect how those things are important to their lives as they go about the world. Whether about science, sex, or any of a wide array of topics, we’ve often simply went around the issues rather than walking alongside them through the process of figuring them out.
The other main issue that I see is that we’ve entertained them for so long that they eventually get bored with it. The church needs to engage students in a way that helps them see that God is partnering with them in a way that is significant.

Rob Birks

It’s hard to argue against the stats showing young adults falling out of love with the Church in large numbers. It’s also hard to argue against Barna’s findings. I mean, I wasn’t polled, but my experience with Church puts us batting 6 for 6 in this field.

It would be easy for us to shrug off this slump with a “Young adults don’t know what’s good for them” attitude or even question their spiritual depth or commitment. But we do so to both the Church’s and the young adults detriment.

To paraphrase Chesterton – authentic Church hasn’t been tried and found wanting by Church leaders, it’s been found difficult and left untried.

The answer, it seems to me (and Philip Clayton’s book Transforming Christian Theology supports this, I believe) is for the Church to pull its head out of the proverbial sand and think critically through its Theology and Theopraxy in order to speak and live out ancient truths of Scripture in ways that will ring true to the current generation.

There is no guarantee that the trend of young adults leaving Church will reverse or even slow, but to perpetuate the status quo in the face of these findings is unacceptable. I heard once that a good definition of a rut is “a shallow grave.” Lord, save us.

Roman Lyon

I can’t help but think that a lot of these issues have come up because society has put the Church in a place where it is supposed to have all of the answers, and I don’t think the Church should have all the answers. Pastors and church leaders have taken on roles of being mentor, counselor (of all kinds), business advisor, arbitrator, social worker, volunteer coordinator, fundraiser, trainer, scholar, writer, manager, and a million other jobs – most of which he or she was not trained for. I think the Church needs to be a place where it’s okay to say that we don’t have all the answers, but we trust in a God who is faithful and here is why, and here is where God has proven to be faithful. If the Church became more honest in the way that it dealt with these issues and took the time to listen instead of rushing ahead and trying to fight for all the right answers then I think we would see fewer people leaving the Church. People want honesty and realness. When people get a sense of something that is fake then they will leave. Let us stop being fake in the way that we pretend to have all the answers and be okay with taking our time to find answers.

Kevin E. Bottjen

Am I surprised? What can and should be done? No, not surprised at all. The hippies and atheist of the 60’s have become the professors and educators. They are in positions to turn entire classrooms against the word of God and the morality it teaches. The so-called science that is now taught in schools fails the test for science and has become a religion all its own. As someone who loves scientifically backed biblical apologetics, it is quite frustrating how much conjecture is in today’s “scientific facts.” The “extreme behavior” that happened in the Haight-Ashbury district has been moved into normal, everyday life.
With the constant barrage of filth aimed at our children from an early age, it is no wonder they are drawn away from the church. The enemies of God have been working overtime to brainwash our children, and we see the fruit of their labor.
There is no “trick” that will fill the pews back up. No gimmick that will have the masses lining up to get into our buildings. We must do what the early church did, go to the people. Jesus didn’t sit in the temples all day waiting for an audience. He went out among the people. He loved them, he taught them, he corrected them, and he directed them. We must do the same.

Jonathon Wren

Being a younger person myself, I know this to be true. The resistance to change and holding onto tradition blindly has led to many young believers questioning the way things are. Because they are asking a generation that accepted these things with the authority of the church, and the generation asking the question does not share this view on authority, there is a disconnect. The older generations took it upon faith what they were given, whereas the younger generations want to understand it and process it for themselves. If we are to reach these young people, we must allow for doubt, reason, and integration with todays thought to permeate our church. This is not a destruction of the structure o the church, but required for belief and ownership to occur for the younger generations. Its a call to connect with them and allow them to find themselves within the story of God.

Joyce Tempel

One of the things that churches lack today is to present itself as a safe place for open dialogue. It is undeniable that many churches still have an aggressive and dominant way to approach evangelism, worship, even discipleship. It is close to impossible to create genuine conversations and interaction with the most common approaches of Christian communities nowadays. We have to be aware of the way we talk and teach people about Jesus Christ and how to live as His followers. We have to become experts in listening, and have conversations with people that are not forced, awkward, and mechanic, but flows naturally. As a community of faith, we need to reach out to people by offering a sense of connection and communion. Also, leaders need to help people by explaining that a call to be a Christian is not a call to be a superficial perfect role model, but it is a call to relationship! That’s the foundation of our new lives; the rest will come in time as we surrender each part of us and let God’s love work in us and through us.

Travis Dotter

This is some great information to have a church leader. I think that, if I remember correctly, this was covered in the book “UnChristian” that the Barna group put out a number of years ago. That was a great book by the way. I remember growing up in youth group and being one of the rebellious kids and I can attest to all six of those points being completely accurate. I never did walk away from the church but I have to admit, I thought about. The one that sticks out the most to me is the point about the church being unfriendly towards those who have doubts. I think it stands out to me because I have witnessed that first hand. One of my closest friends in youth group was doubtful and many in our church singled him out and were not nice to him. I think that one thing that could help this is the implementation of small groups. These are usually places where people can ask questions within the confines of guided discussion and in the safely of a close knit group of people.

Jonathan Gibson

What can and should be done? I think the first reality we must deal with as the church is whether or not we even are aware of these realities. Far too often we go on worshiping in our comfortable environments, oblivious to the thinning ranks of young folks in our communities. Rather than ask, “Where have they gone and why”, we ignore the reality until we look up and the doors are being shut and the church is dead. Facing the truth of the great exodus of young people in our church communities is the first step, asking why they are leaving the next. Asking the why question puts us in a place of conversational humility. It admits that we realize something is happening and we don’t know why, but we want to know. To create space in our communities for the young generation that is still with us to speak openly and honestly about faith and life will be an essential first step. The reality is that we also must leave the 4 walls of our churches and pursue conversation because there may be no audience left within our churches with which to have those conversations.

Aneel Mall

Thank you for your blog and I do agree with most of your points. The issues you bring up point to a generational gap that the church has been unable to overcome. Christianity is not the only faith to face a protectionist mentality; one can see this type of attitude in other faiths when facing challenges to their dominance. It is a fear reaction and one that was seen in the Pharisees as well as they saw Jesus a rabble rouser and a trouble maker who was challenging the status quo. It is a fact that we become comfortable with what we are used too and constancy often becomes a tradition one that we began to cherish over true faith.

The younger generation is not against faith or against believing in Jesus. They are looking to have their own imprint on their faith and to see how faith can impact their life story. I remember during my time all I heard was about how evil the world was, how sinful all the pleasures of the world were. It became “them” verse “us” and instead of finding the love and beauty of God’s hand in other people and the world around us I had a biased image already implanted in my mind. But the world out there was not the same as I had been told and taught and this left me questions about everything that I believed in and was taught.

I don’t think there is any one solution or process that can deal with these issues you bring up. I think if we want to keep young people in the Church then stop fearing them for taking over the church. Let them express their thoughts, fears and questions and encourage them to find the answers either within the church or outside of the church. Let them take Jesus outside of the church with them and let them bring the world into the church. Christ was a real person with a real answer for a real need in the world. Young people are looking for the real Christ to help them with their real problems and not looking for the church to supply them a cookie cutter answer to all their questions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Type in all 5 of the digits below to leave a comment. * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.