Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church

(Darrel R Falk) #21

Thanks, Jay. The study you cite gives very similar results to a similar study of college freshmen that I mentioned previously in another recent discussion thread. The percentage of Ameican college freshmen who reported no religious affiliation increased from 10% to 31% between 1986 and 2016.

(Jay Johnson) #22

That is the scary thing. The same long-term trend holds from 1966 onward, namely a steady decline in the number of Americans who self-identify as Christian. The mainstream Protestant denominations bore the brunt of the decline until just recently, while the number of Catholic and Evangelical Christians held relatively steady. This led Evangelicals to wrongly think that “our” brand of Christianity was immune. Declining attendance was a problem for the “liberal” churches. But what we are seeing now, in my interpretation of the data, is the leading edge of the same trend starting to affect Evangelical churches. Just like the 1960s-2000s, the decline is driven by generational change, but Millennials are “deconverting” at much faster rates than either the Baby Boomers or Gen. Xers. Why? What has gone wrong? What part have we played in that?

One indicator of alienation … is that 70 percent of the Secular group agreed with the statement, “Looking around the world, religions bring more conflict than peace."

If someone thinks that demonizing Muslims somehow inoculates Christians from this charge, think again. I guarantee that when this present scourge of jihadist terrorism eventually burns itself out, every strain of religious “fundamentalism” will be looked down upon. Orthodoxy itself will fall into disrepute, lumped into the same category of “fanaticism.” The Evangelical frog jumped right into this pot. Will he realize that the temperature is rising?

Well, a great deal of religious education is actually delivered to children. But you knew that. Haha. Sorry for being a smarty-pants, because I understand exactly what you mean. Religious education of secondary students (ages 12-18) needs a great deal of rethinking, in my opinion. Much of the problem is that churches devalue this ministry. They leave leadership of children’s and youth groups to the most inexperienced staff, or else they rely on lay volunteers who may or may not have any idea of how or what to teach. What boggles the mind is that this is most often the age when the “course of life” is set. Once a young person of 22 or so has reached a settled opinion about religion, which usually has occurred by that age, it is exceedingly difficult to change his or her mind.

One major problem has already been noted by Christy and Phil and Roger. The church environment is geared toward providing “right” answers, rather than encouraging young people’s questions and helping them work through their doubts and difficulties. One of my teaching mentors used to say, “It’s better to be the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage.” In the typical church youth group, however, the leader relies far too much on direct instruction (i.e., preaching), not discussion. (Church leadership could learn a few lessons from the teaching profession, but of course the Culture War has labeled professional educators as part of the problem, not the solution, so there you go.) Worse, the group dynamics in most churches don’t encourage discussion. Kids don’t express their doubts or differing opinions because they feel pressure to conform. They just keep silent until they turn 18, then quietly check out. Actually, the same dynamic takes place in adult groups, so if there is a solution, it needs to be applied across the board.

Returning to the blog post, the #1 reason for young people leaving the faith is that “Churches seem overprotective.” As the article pointed out, “much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said ‘Christians demonize everything outside of the church’ (23% indicated this ‘completely’ or ‘mostly’ describes their experience).”

This reminds me of the late, great Dallas Willard’s phrase: “The Gospel of sin management.” In my experience, this is what too many Evangelical youth groups have become. The agenda is all about sin – how to recognize it, how to avoid it, how to stay pure – and “right” beliefs about controversial matters. If this and punching a ticket to heaven is all that we have to offer the next generation, no wonder they are walking away with disappointment in their eyes.

When did we become the Pharisees? That is my question …


Unitarians are charting increases in the US South with a bump right after the last election.

(Brad Kramer) #24

This entire thread sums up why I love this community so much. What an amazing group of people. God bless the internets.

(Mary) #25

You encourage me with this quote! Last week I led the youth group in church with a session that was part of a mini ‘apologetics’ course - this one on Evolution and Creation. I, of course, presented the BioLogos view, but I also presented all of the other main views (trying not to be too critical!) and I encouraged them to figure out what they thought. The emphasis was on respecting each other and our differences. At the beginning they told me that school had presented them with a dichotomy between 6 day creation and evolution - and nothing in between. Most of them landed somewhere between BioLogos and ID! One accepted evolution but doubted the big Bang. I accepted whatever they decided. I am sure some will change - but they seemed reassured that this was a decision they could make!

(Curtis Henderson) #26

I completely agree with the sentiment. I feel it is extremely important to emphasize to our young people that different views on life origins are perfectly acceptable. I will tend to argue against YEC science and they will tend to argue against my theology - and that is OK! The more we can “agree to disagree” in a spirit of love and harmony with our fellow brother and sisters in Christ, the more we can support the position that the perceived dichotomy between science and Christian faith is a false one.

(Marvin Adams) #28

If we teach the children that God is Santa’s big brother that fulfills their wishes upon prayer and they hear from our critics that he had himself killed to please himself and forgive us that we decided to eat an apple we should not be surprised that the young people run away in droves being attracted by the arguments of the opposition.

I suggest to you to use Marshall Brains (aka Giivideo) , Dark Matters or the TheThinkingAtheists youtube videos in sunday school or actually in your church service and discuss your bible passages in the context of those critics. You can’t stop the kids hearing the materialists propaganda and their way of making Christianity look laughable. It is a well rehearsed tool to deconvert Christians who have no practice in critical thinking. Perhaps the Marshall Brain video about 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer would be an excellent start to have a rational debate with our congregation. I would only be afraid that most Christians fail to find rationally coherent answers to those questions because they themselves believe in the magic and not the logic that is God. If they expect that God’s healing is about material repair they are already lost to materialism. When watching the video remember that when facing problems like that God gives us wings, not extra legs. Nick Vujicic is an excellent example to show that legs just don’t cut it.

If we teach them to pray to God to remind him that he should please make our politicians intelligent instead of asking him to make us intelligent by letting us receive his word to help us to become wise in following his guidance and elect wise leaders or that God hears our prayers better when we add “and this I ask in the name of Jesus” as a first class stamp for faster response - we should not be surprised that they notice that this to be dishonest humbug. Religions that are based on wishful and materialistic thinking will be eradicated by evolution - and rightly so as they are not about loving thy neighbour, but themselves.

In a world of commercialised love we have learned to think that to be loved or to love someone means to get or give what is wanted. Thus it is not surprising that we live in a world of “my will be done” so if society does not allow me have sex with whom I want or to let me have the gender I want I call them selfish and non-loving as they have no argument against that. Who would argue that to love someone would be not to give them what they want but to give them what they need - to help them to accept our God given reality? But then the youngsters might think that the only reality left for them giving them hope and comfort is virtual anyhow - as the not wishful one is a bore. In virtual reality you can have it all.

(Luke) #29

Here’s one you forgot to cover coincidentally. From the less fortunate church family that was in poverty before being ripped apart by the world. I can say a lot of people my age will agree when I describe how a god who is only present to claim glory for our work is hard to respect let alone believe in or praise. When the church tells us to give the glory to god and to thank god for everything good that happens to us, yet this was our hard work? It’s a horrible trade to think that god can’t be blamed for the hell he put me through only to claim my personal victory over it. That’s a god I’m always going to leave. I’ll take my chances with hardship seeing as how he’s never answered a prayer when I needed one before. I’ll keep my success because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I deserve the glory for coming back from something so many people didn’t come back from.

I guess my point aside from the ranting is: I don’t want to follow a god who has never helped me besides the pastor saying that he was responsible for the good things I worked relentlessly to obtain.

Our parents ruined the world we have to now inherit in so many ways and they are the first to tell us how important religion is. The religious among us look like blind figures of foolish bliss rolling in their parents money and posting how god is amazing for the vacation their parents bought them. It’s hard to follow when their is such a disconnect between Christianity and the ugly undignified struggle that is our real world.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #30

So what are you doing in this forum then? What is it you hope to accomplish?

(Phil) #31

You do bring up a common theme for those who have rejected God. Many have either suffered a great loss and question the goodness of God, or see great evil and question how God could let it stand. The other common complaint I hear is similar to yours when a atheist doctor goes to a family to tell them of a difficult but successful surgery, made possible through the surgeon’s hard work and dedication to his craft, and the family praises God for the success. Much has been written of both, but it is still a difficult subject.
My personal take has led me to considering that God’s hand is underlying all things, but free will dictates that we are subject to the ravages of this world, and that is the price we pay for life.
I hope you come to grips with whatever bitterness you may still have over the trials and injustices you suffered, and put that behind you.

(Phil) #32

To continue, perhaps you have had personal trials or perhaps you are referring broader societal issues, but it has always been the case. Life in ancient times was hard and often short. The world today has its share of problems, though since you have a computer and internet access, I doubt the truly awful ones are not shared by those reading this. From a Christian standpoint, sin has resulted in violence, destruction of natural resources, and ultimately death, and that sin is something we have all partaken in. May grace be with you in life’s journey.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #33

I am ashamed, but I have to admit I had never thought about this! What an insult that would sound like to a surgeon who has busted her chops to save your life!

I suppose it would / could be more forgivable if said surgeon had the reassurance that the family would consistently have been just as amicable had the surgery gone the other way and the patient had been lost. “Oh well, I guess it was God’s will to take Harry home!” In that sense it could also be a comfort to said surgeon that the (consistent) family won’t go seeking blame even though the surgeon may be tempted to blame themselves. But I have a feeling that way too many Christians would crushingly fail this consistency test and would not hesitate to blame the surgeon, driving her malpractice up.