You are hereWhy are young people leaving the church?

Why are young people leaving the church?

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By Virgil - Posted on 15 June 2009

What does the age of the Earth have to do with the exodus of young people from American churches? Ken Ham, known for his Answers in Genesis creation-science ministry, says a major study he commissioned by a respected researcher unveils for the first time in a scientific fashion the startling reasons behind statistics that show two-thirds of young people in evangelical churches will leave when they move into their 20s. The study, highlighted in Ham's new book with researcher Britt Beemer, "Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it," finds church youth already are "lost" in their hearts and minds in elementary, middle and high school – not in college as many assume.

"A lot of the research already done has been to find out how many believe, how many support abortion, believe in the resurrection, say they're born again," Ham told WND. "But nobody has really ever delved into why two-thirds of young people will walk away from the church."

Get "Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it"

The first-of-its-kind study by Beemer – a former senior research analyst for the Heritage Foundation and founder in 1979 of the American Research Group – included 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of 1,000 20 to 29 year olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis.

Click here to read the entire story

Mick's picture

Ham said, "There are many who believe in millions of years and are Christians."

Wow! I did not know Ham believed this

Mickey E. Denen

RiversOfEden4's picture

We've found over the years that the young people actually come back to our church because we have the best rock band in town.

orton1227's picture

The reason, at least around here (Dallas), is because we're running our churches with the principles we preach against. We preach that nothing is valuable but Christ, everything else provides a temporary pleasure. However, how do we get kids to come into church? We create attractive temporary pleasures like rock bands, feel-good preaching, the ability to be free to create during preaching (painting, etc.). You win them to what you woo them with. Once they get tired of what they were drawn to, which is not Christ, they take off.

RiversOfEden4's picture

I agree. My church recently did an internal survey and found that 85% (of thousands) attend our church because we have a great rock band!

JL's picture

Orton,

Are you going to Ardmore next month? Don Preston has his conference July 16th-18th. I'll be flying into DFW.

Blessings.

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

orton1227's picture

Nope. Sorry.

Missina's picture

In the search for a home church, my husband and I have been to pretty much every church in our city now, and one thing that remains consistent is that the churches love preaching with stories and entertainment rather than theologically sound doctrine. This past Sunday, the youth pastor delivered a message on discipleship that was filled with terrible jokes, camping stories, and a butchered interpretation of the parable of the sower. 40 minutes in, not being taught anything about discipleship, and after being handed pumpkin seeds that had nothing to do with the sermon other than to serve as a joke on the mustard seed (?!) we walked out and went home.

I honestly think this is why so many youth are confused and clueless and just end up leaving once their parents stop forcing them to attend. No one is actually teaching and discipling their congregations, and they have added church to the list of entertainments out there, places to be, hang out, and meet up with friends.

I don't think the issue hinges on the creation story like Mr Ham suggests, but that's certainly part of it, that these kids don't know WHAT to believe, because no one is engaging in conversation with them, and no one is telling them the "why" to the answers they collectively are supposed to believe.

RiversOfEden4's picture

Missini,

I agree completely. My own church is much more focussed on entertainment than theological content (which is why I haven't been excommunicated yet). However, the basic message of doing "right" does get across to most of the people who probably wouldn't come to church otherwise.

Ed's picture

For the most part, it's the "youth group culture" where they are taught to engage merely with their peer group. They are segregated from their parents, their younger siblings, and church leadership in general. When they "age out" of youth group, what possible motivation exists for them to continue? Their core group that they've hung with head off to college in parts unknown, or they get hitched and move to where there's more job opportunities, etc. The youth that remain know nothing about that congregation's culture, they have no acquaintances, they have no one they can relate to. Bye-bye.

Small group fellowships that center on relationships, both internally and externally to the group, are a better way of incorporating the young people into the church culture. As those youth see mom and dad reaching out to neighbors and extended family, as they see them living for Christ, they will begin to desire the same. Sound doctrine is EXAMPLE, and it is LOVE. Sound theology is for pharisees and hypocrites - we expect our kids to live that way, while we make excuses all day long.

What do I mean by this last statement: well, let's consider Eternal Conscious Torment, which so many churches love. Kids hear this again and again about folks burning forever, and then watch their parents more concerned with who wins the Stanley Cup.

Let's get real, then our kids will get real.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

Missina's picture

Ed, that's a good point about "aging out". I never thought about it that way, but it's true.

As a point of clarification- when I talk about sound doctrine or theology, I am referring to being familiar with the Bible, studying it intensely and intelligently, being well equipped with knowledge in order to apply it with wisdom and love. I just see way too many people spending years and years going to church without ever really being discipled and trained in the faith.

Ed's picture

yes, I knew what you meant by that - I apologize that I didn't clarify that I was not shouting at you, but at my general disgust for the whole youth culture enterprise.

I work in foster care, and one thing that I insist on of my workers (and would like to with the foster parents, but unfortunately they are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want) is that they begin to teach the teens independent living skills, and then begin treating them like young adults, as they should be treated.

Adolescence was an invention of the media. Over time, these teens, who in past centuries were considered young adults and loaded with the corresponding responsibilities, have become more and more infantilized. Now, I am seeing young fathers and mothers, whose children are entering foster care, who are acting like adolescents. Young adults in their late 20s who act like they are in high school, all because no one is expecting anything from them. Irresponsibility is the rule of the day.

This all stems, in my opinion, from age-segregation, both in schools and in churches. Kids grow up thinking that they should be entertained. Since the "grown ups" entertainment needs are different, the kids are segregated, and entertained in an "age-appropriate manner." There is really no point in time when they break with their peers and reunify with their families. They remain separated with all the natural members of their lives, while enmeshing with too many other teens, with too much time on their hands. It's a recipe for disaster.

Children should be with their parents, and with other families throughout their lives. House fellowships, as well as homeschooling, teach the young children that families are the primary way that God deals with humanity. The "Fictive Kin" that children grow up with gives them the opportunity to see "how the other half lives." They see sibling conflicts in other families, as well as different parenting styles; they see how the adults interact and resolve conflict (for good or bad), and mimic it in their lives. This is a natural way of learning, and it worked for thousands of years. What is going on now isn't working at all.

If there is to be any age-segregation, it should be for a specific purpose and a limited time period. That's how most of the aboriginal cultures do it. In fact, once these boys go through these things, they are typically then "promoted" to adulthood. Other than these type of activities, most of the non-European cultures put all their learning about life within the context of the family, and with some extended tribal/cultural influence. Only our culture separates children from their family throughout their entire childhood for no other reason than to keep them a child. Not healthy. Not good.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

orton1227's picture

I also think it's because we're always looking for what we can get out of the church, instead of what we're putting in. I hear so many of my friends talk about how they can't find a good church because one has bad music, one has a preacher that only does series sermons not verse-by-verse, one that has too many membership requirements, etc etc etc. Churches are not to be chosen on preference.

Ed's picture

How are they to be chosen then?

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

orton1227's picture

It's where you're drawn by the Spirit. And it's probably gonna be the one down the street (but not always). How are we to minister to our community when we fellowship with believers 30 miles away?

orton1227's picture

I meant How are we to minister to the community as a community within the community if we fellowship with believers 30 miles away?

Ed's picture

I agree with this, for the most part. But is a building-bound fellowship necessarily the best way to minister to the needs of the community?

I currently attend a building-bound congregation that has done virtually nothing for two years except talk about needing money to pay off their back debt for the addition on the building (that most of us were not even members of the congregation when that all was decided and done).

My preference is a small fellowship, meeting in a home (or several homes, alternating). Reading scripture, singing psalms, and praying. Then going, with our material wealth, to help others.

American Christians haven't totally made that paradigm shift. Even those who claim to have done so are still operating under the old paradigm.

E.g., I visited two different Emergent Churches here in town (who've now joined as one), and basically they do 7 songs and a sermon - just like everyone else. The one difference? The don't dress like regular church-goers; they dress like wanna-be hippies (it's why I joke with Virgil about bald heads in the Emerging Church).

Another example, I used to frequent a House Church site and read their material. One particular leader in the movement wrote an article about becoming a Christian. It was all about immersion baptism for the remission of sins (i.e., Church of Christ), and how everyone else was a follower of Rome, etc. Sound familiar? It does if you're CofC. I ain't having it. I've been to too many CofCs that are as legalistic as the RCC is accused of being. Personally, I find more affinity with the Catholics than the legalistic CofCs, mostly because Catholics will at least recognize that there are other Christians in the world. Some folks in the CofC think that they are the ONLY Christians, and even some of their own have backslidden (by accepting instrumental worship, or women leadership, etc.).

It's sad.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

orton1227's picture

My intention was not to exclude home churches. I'd love it if that was the norm.

flannery0's picture

"My preference is a small fellowship, meeting in a home (or several homes, alternating). Reading scripture, singing psalms, and praying. Then going, with our material wealth, to help others."

Ed, that pretty much describes what we are involved in. Some of us occasionally make an appearance at the "big box" we all formerly attended regularly, some of us never do, but our little community continues to grow in grace. It really has become "church" to us.

Barry's picture

I have a relative who recently tried to give it a shot again with the CofC after several years away. Just too much for the afore mentioned reasons.
Of course there are loving people everywhere so this is not a judgment about people but a general statement about micro culture.
Personally speaking I find friendship with Catholics much less taxing.

The attempt to restore new testament Christianity while admirable and somewhat logical from the perspective of futurism is actually untenable.

JMO but you cannot have "elders" today with the same authority as in New Testament times without having "Apostles" today with the same authority. It was all part of the same structural system of the time and setting.
No sense then in pretending to be something that one is not as a spirit of exclusion.

Of course JMO.
Barry

we are all in this together

Ed's picture

Barry, I just want to say in case someone who doesn't know me as well as you (and Tami) might misread my earlier comments. I was in a hurry, and I think I made it sound like I was referring to all CofC people as legalistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of my favorite grace-filled people (and dear friends) are CofC: Jack Scott, Don Preston, Virgil, Mick et al.

I was trying to differentiate the more legalistic group within the CofC from those grace-filled believers as mentioned above. My point at the end was that the more legalistic ones even reject other CofC folks as being "saved" because of their having backslid on "the essentials."

Hope that clarifies for anyone driving by.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

Starlight's picture

Ed and Barry,

Being a cofC Elder in a large congregation I agree. Although I was an Elder before I came into Preterism I realize that it has no significance beyond the title. We have to be careful though with our cofC dogmatism even though it is highly warranted because not all cofC are of the heavy legalist exclusionary type anymore and I’m not just talking about those full Preterist ones. However they are still fundamental evangelical futurist minded but many today are definitely Grace centered. That is why many of the old time cofC don’t recognize us and shun many of the newer churches. Many of us would never darken the doors of the old times ones anymore.

Also we probably get many of our full Preterist converts from the churches of Christ still and that probably tells us something about the independent mindedness of the members. It has it’s pros and cons though.

Norm

Ed's picture

Sorry I didn't include you on the list of CofC folks that I love...:) Please forgive me.

Honestly, I have a great respect for the CofC, although I am NOT a biblical immersionist. I can make a great case for pouring...a biblical one. But, I don't want to do that. For the most part, I think it is insignificant, at best, and irrelevant, at worst.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

Starlight's picture

Ed,

Youre not going to get an argument from me on that either. ;-)

Now I can't speak for the rest of my church though except possibly Randy King. LOL

Times are a changing.

Norm

mazuur's picture

Ed,

I would love to see a biblical case for pouring. Not for the sake of argument, but just to be informed. Email it to me, so as to not get something started that I have no interest in getting started.

-Rich

-Rich

Ed's picture

Did you get my message? I hope so, since I spent so much time on it. :)

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

mazuur's picture

What message? An Email? I didn't get any email for you. Tell me you saved it first in a word processor then copied and pasted it.

-Rich

-Rich

Ed's picture

I clicked on "Send a Message" and wrote one. Check your private messages.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

mazuur's picture

Ah, got it.

-Rich

-Rich

Barry's picture

Years ago Norm, after I left the CofC (this is before the grace movement had much of an impact and I know that it HAS had an impact) I felt that if the truth were to be found it would be by the open mindset of a CofC member.

This was a legitimate thought and feeling that I had and still remember it distinctly. That itself is an interesting thought though. Guess it means that I thought something was really wrong but yet there was much more to find and that there was a real potential there.

Of course I had not left the "CofC" as such but all organized church. But I was studying about 40 hours a week with my nose in the Bible for some years after that but basically on my own.

Anyway began to formulate that the "coming" and the Resurrection had happened in AD 70 and began to mention it to a few people.
Some time later when rummaging through an old CofC book called "where the saints meet" I found "all fulfilled in AD 70" or something like it as a description for one or two CofC churches to my great surprise.
After some phone calls I was able to reach Tim King. Presence ministries was very helpful to me in continuing to sort things out.

Yea it's been an interesting ride for sure. One that has not finished either.
And I appreciate your thoughts Norm and do relate to them quite personally.

My Family opened up some mission fields for the CofC. Madagascar and Mauritius for example.

To be very frank, "Church" is an interesting place and my memories are of the very best times and the very best friends and some of worst slander and attacks anywhere. I know that I'm not the only one that can relate to this.

Anyway, nice to chat bro. Hope you don't mind my openness.

Barry

we are all in this together

Starlight's picture

Barry,

Yes, I understand why folks needed to get out of many cofC as they were sick and many still are. They need to die as places for folks to congregate. I'm really very open to house church and also regular church is concerned as there is freedom to do as we choose. It's kinda of hard to separate from congregating though when you have spent your whole life building relationships similar to family.

Of course Preterism has only accelerated my movement away from traditionalism and legalism but it also allows me the freedom to still experience congregating if I wish. I was well on my way to freedom many years ago and my current congregation just fostered it more.

I was neighbors with Tim King over 20 years ago and am friends with his brother Randy who attends the same congregation I do. We actually rode together to attend one of Tim’s meetings this past winter.

Norm

Katherine's picture

I think after so many years of Sunday School, people are burnt out and since they have the choice after leaving their parent's home they quit attending church, at least for a time if not permanently.

I left. A big reason is that the scriptures, as important as I felt/feel they are, they weren't mine in the way that biblical scholars have made it theirs. I want to search for the truth and to know more myself. I don't want to acquiesce to church authority on matters of faith. How then would it be "my" faith.

That's the crux of the matter for me.

~Katherine

Virgil's picture

I think this is definitely one reason; I remember when I was in college, someone handed me a 600 page book to help me "understand what we believe." It was some NT Doctrinal volume which I still have today...most of which I disagree with now. Instead of telling young people what to believe, maybe we can tell them why WE believe what we believe and help them out.

Somehow we forget that we are all on different journeys and experience different struggles along the way, so it's probably unfair to make my faith and my relationship with God into your faith and your relationship, worse yet even judge you and attack you when your faith doesn't end up emulating mine - so this was very well said, thanks!

Ed's picture

hey, if you don't mind me self-promoting, please take a look at my comment above. My beef is with the "youth culture." I explain it better up there.

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

Islamaphobe's picture

According to story as posted at World Net Daily, Ham believes in a literal six twenty-four days of creation that occurred 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Based on my over forty years working in academia and my contacts with churchgoing people in recent years, it is my opinion that a HUGE turnoff for young churchgoers is the widespread prevalence of views such as those of Ham among those in whom authority has been vested. I have observed that some young folks respond quite positively when they have the chance to here someone like William Dembski.

John S. Evans

RiversOfEden4's picture

I believe that the creation story was a literal six 24-hour days that occurred about 6,000 years ago. However, where Ham goes wrong is misunderstanding that "heavens and earth" meant only land between the rivers (Gen 15:18) where God sent Abraham to inherit the promises.

With due fairness to Ham, at least he recognizes that the common language of Genesis 1-3 and the rest of Pentateuch will not allow the symbolic or allegorical interpretations that occurs on the other extreme (e.g. the bizarre Beyond Creation Science approach.

The Bible only makes sense within the limited linguistic context of the ancient Hebrew language in which it was redacted. The Hebrews had no vocabulary to accomodate questions or theories of modern science (a la Ham), nor is there any exegetical basis for manipulating their simple historical narrative forms into apocalyptic gibberish (a la Martini and Vaughn.

Starlight's picture

Gary DeMar has an outstanding discussion on this topic and Ham in particular on his daily 15 min show.

I think Preterist will find it extremly interesting. :)

Here is the link.

http://www.americanvision.org/media/download/christianitys-relevance-to-...

Norm

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Norm,

That was an outstanding show! I think there may be more material like that from American Vision in the future.

Tim Martin
www.BeyondCreationScience.com

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