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You might not agree with all of these reasons, but the weight of the issue should be cause for fresh thought and diligent prayer.

Editor’s Note: We encourage you to share this article on Facebook to create a conversation within your personal network of ministry friends on this important issue. 

We all know them, the kids who were raised in church.

They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship.

And then … they graduate from high school and they leave church. What happened?

It seems to happen so often that I wanted to do some digging; to talk to these kids and get some honest answers. I work in a major college town with a large number of 20-somethings. Nearly all of them were raised in very typical evangelical churches. Nearly all of them have left the church with no intention of returning.

I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of conversations.

I hope some of them make you angry. Not at the message, but at the failure of our pragmatic replacement of the gospel of the cross with an Americanized gospel of glory.

This isn’t a negative “beat up on the church” post. I love the church, and I want to see American evangelicalism return to the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins; not just as something on our “what we believe” page on our website, but as the core of what we preach from our pulpits to our children, our youth and our adults.

The facts:

The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.


Let that sink in.

There’s no easy way to say this: The American evangelical church has lost, is losing and will almost certainly continue to lose OUR YOUTH.

For all the talk of “our greatest resource,” “our treasure,” and the multi-million dollar Dave and Buster’s/Starbucks knockoffs we build and fill with black walls and wailing rock bands … the church has failed them.


The Top 10 Reasons We’re Losing Our Youth:

10. The Church is “Relevant.”

You didn’t misread that, I didn’t say irrelevant, I said RELEVANT.

We’ve taken a historic, 2,000-year-old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to.

As the quote says, “When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.”

I’m not ranting about “worldliness” as some pietistic bogeyman, I’m talking about the fact that we yawn at a five-minute biblical text, but almost trip over ourselves fawning over a minor celebrity or athlete who makes any vague reference to being a Christian.

We’re like a fawning wanna-be just hoping the world will think we’re cool too, you know, just like you guys!

Our kids meet the real world and our “look, we’re cool like you” posing is mocked. In our effort to be “like them” we’ve become less of who we actually are. The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn’t relevant, and the minute you aim to be “authentic,” you’re no longer authentic! 

Saved by the unmerited grace of a sovereign God. Husband, Father to 3 Princesses, writer at

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  • Dr Phil

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • John Daly

    Probably one of the better articles I’ve read lately on Church Leaders. And sadly, there is one other reason why some fail to return, they were never born again.

  • Lessons Of A Dad

    Forgive the pun, but this article was very, very, RELEVANT. I would like to have Marc do a follow up of 10 ways to keep our children. I would like to arm those in my church who serve the youth (skinny jeans or no) with these.

    • W. Rawls

      I think this would be very helpful. As a matter of fact, its exactly what I was hoping for at the end. The article, although very good & enlightening, is really incomplete without & it becomes a topic of condemnation without a chance at salvation.

      • eve

        Agreed. I have heard why they are leaving, but few answers from people who are successfully keeping them.

        One major reason for leaving was as simple as they started working on Sundays. How many young people do you know in that position?

        I believe it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict unto righteousness. A definition of righteousness I like is “as it should be.” He helps us understand how it should be in all areas of our lives. But we can’t do it without knowing Him and His grace (the power that changes the heart.) mI have just had our Church go through 40 days of prayer going through a book called “Why Pray” John Devries (India Mission.) Seriously people. It is a short daily meditation with so much wisdom in it. Very easy to go through with your spouse and kids. It has just opened up our hearts to our relationship with Christ and becoming homes of prayer. Then to open in prayer and actions towards others. ( i have no connection to the author!!) Everyone has thanked me who have gone through it. I am all for teaching apologetics, which may make you see truth, but not give you a relationship with the Creator. That is through His presence and His Word. If you really know Jesus, He is hard to walk away from.

    • me

      I suspect that one of the 10 ways will be to encourage teenagers to be involved in ministry and get the experience of serving in a church. If young adults realize that they are needed and are an essential part of the church, it seems like it would help. They shouldn’t keep going to church because they feel like it and feel good afterwards, they should go because they are a part of the church.

  • Blessed58

    This is great. I am forwarding this to my elders. I have asked that children be taught the bible and memory verses instead of spending church time playing and doing creative arts but I am seen as old fashion. The educational psychologist have taken over the work of the Holy Spirit. I know what brought me back as a backslider and is sustaining me through trials were the scriptures I memorised as a child. It did not make sense to me when I learnt them as a child but came back to me as an adult. (Deut 6:6-9). I was taught about a God who is love and also a consuming fire!

  • Gregory Cunningham

    Great Article While, I’m middle aged, I don’t wear a tie or wear skinny jeans, I am called to minister. The greatest need for our youth is to see the 98% of the adults that walk thru the church doors is for them to take off their mask that they wear. It’s ok for Hypocrites to be in church, that’s where they need to be.

    We are all sinners, that are living someone else’s values. We wear the mask because we say to ourselves, “this is who they think I should be.”

    It’s critical that The Church to get authentic. Clarity of values leads to clarity of visions, which leads to clarity of roles, which leads to an absolute conviction for what is right, it will demand a commitment and God will give them courage to get back and stay in church and achieve their dreams.

  • Ward Tanneberg

    An excellent, but sad article. It may be too late to stop the bleeding for some, especially those who may not understand they’ve been spiritually wounded by those of us who actually are their family in Christ. But you are on point, Marc. It is a grown up reality check we all need to face. Still it’s (almost never) too late to turn the relevancy factor right side up and be relevant once again in the truest sense of the Word.

  • Chigeru

    This is a very good write-up. It’s good sharing it with us.

  • christer

    I will add one thing to what you have told us.
    When children in the church grow and find that the congregation dont provide what you need to overcome the flesh and the world and demonic forces . You will sooner or later leave.

    The church must provide what you need. to survive and be victorius outside the church. In the school, in your work , in your daily life.

    We need leaders who know the way to a victorius life and can transfer that knowledge to the congregation.

    • Grandmaof9

      Teaching the Bible verse by verse…chapter by chapter through the Whole Bible is what all churches should be teaching. Not the feel good church teaching.

  • Angel

    This is a good article. The key here is discipleship, and train/educated leaders who can disciple the youth. However this does not fall on the leadership of the church only but the parents as well. Therefore, it is the leaderships job to disciple these kids along with their family in order to create a greater chance of worship and honoring God in the homes.

  • djhutch5

    Very interesting. I wonder if part of it, which I believe you alluded to, is that we have sectioned off the church into different demographics. Kids church here, teens there, young adults, old people in the front. We have to find a way for all of us to be together, teaching one another. It isn’t that we’ve allowed ourselves to be defined by what we’re against – too often we’ve done the defining ourselves.

    • chad

      Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them. (Joshua 8:34, 35)
      Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. (Nehemiah 8:2,3)

  • Pastor Dave

    Wow! What a novel idea. Preach the gospel. Teach people to defend the faith based in reasons to believe. Stop selling Jesus as a homeboy or some cosmic business partner or success coach Be concerned with truth rather thAn numbers or entertainment. Historic faith? It works. We need to return to WORD!

  • Jodi Treherne

    And a lot of kids leave the church because they are lost. Just because they grow up in the church doesn’t mean they are saved. We need to truly pray with all our hearts for our youth & our own children. May our hearts be burdened for their souls so much that we lay on our faces and call out to our God — the only one who can change any of us.

    • eve


  • chad

    Today’s church has its issues, but much of it goes deeper than the things mentioned. As much as it good to think on some of things mentioned here, these are more like branches of the concern rather than the trunk or the roots.

    • chad

      1) where is THE BOOK fleshed out in our lives … That is the relevance needed. How is stuff real on a day-to-day basis for the people closest to me? What kind of cost is paid living in this world for having these beliefs? Or is this just ‘something you do’? Is just an addendum added that makes you feel better?

    • chad

      2) are we treating God’s Word like it is really God Spoken … Is it read, is it cherished, is it studied, is it memorized, is it meditated? I am talking about THE CHURCH, not just the pastors and teachers. And not just to deliver it to someone else for their encouragement but for MINE. It should be transforming our thinking, not us trying to conform it into ours. Do we believe it is something that our science will eventually catch up to in glory, or that science has superseded and we have to somehow makeup excuses for it?

    • chad

      3) do we want all … Jesus and the money, the prestige, the power, the “stuff”, the ‘security’? And if pushed to the point do choosing, which way did we go? How can we expect our children to do differently? And if we made the wrong choice here, how can we not expect them to make it as well and sooner?

  • David Ellington

    Great article Marc! I agree with Angel, The gospel is not a one time study but a life of bending my knee to God daily. That involves intentional mentoring in the primary grades through high school. It is marriage counseling and giving coaching to parents about how to disciple their kids and how to show them love when they seem unloveable! Big group activities are fun and should be a part of youth ministry but getting volunteers to meet one on one or one on three is a necessity for them to see the gospel in action and develop a deep desire to know Jesus more.

  • dennyjohnson

    Great article, thanks. I also think “belonging” enters somewhere here. 4 – 14 need to feel like they “belong” to a youth group that holds them accountable and involves them. They need to feel like they “belong” to their family and accountable to them. They need to have the best youth leaders, who, along with the pastor, is interested in them and lets them feel accountable. They need to hear their parents talk positively about their church and pastor. Kids need to meet the adults in the church during fun times and be complimented……helping to cross the age bridge by adult affirmation.

  • Ranbo

    I felt this hit home, church has become fast food service more than an intimate place to come into the presence of Jesus! Our kids, no matter what age need to made part of the church and not just fitted to the programs. They are the next generation and if we do not bring them in and love them more genuinely than the world we have lost! They need to see living example inside and outside of the church, I have heard that also. Adults act Christian while there and when they leave the Jekyll and Hyde take over! I feel with adults it is the same, there is a place of importance for everyone. Every part has a need and a function and is as important to the church. When we show them how important they are they see how important Jesus feels they are also.

  • Mark

    Because for the most part, our churches don’t have the power of God. There is no supernatural, unexplainable-by-any-other-means move of God within our churches. The early church didn’t have an assimilation program (not that an assimilation program is wrong), nor did it have an outreach strategy (which is not wrong to have) and it didn’t sit around pondering why people were leaving.

    They were trying to figure out what to do with all the people they were getting. Why?


    Holy Ghost, heaven-sent, old fashioned power.

    If you were marooned on a desert island and had never been to church, and all you had to read was a Bible, and you read about the power of the Holy Ghost on the lives of believers in the early church, would your expectation of what the Holy Ghost would be like in your life resemble the expectation you have for Him now?


    I fear we have explained away many of the struggles of today’s church, and in our own personal lives, because to face the lack of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives requires some changes to our prayer life and a desperation to seek Him.

    It’s easier to create a list of action steps to address a problem.

    It’s a lot more uncomfortable to recognize that our lack of power is the reason people don’t find the church compelling.

    • Joan G.

      You are on to something. Point is…in the book of Acts when the apostles shared truth they did not sit around taking the time to figure out why some did not accept what Christ has done but continued to praise the Lord for those who came to Him and then continued to walk and talk the life of the gospel. They depended on the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of those who heard because it was about God doing the work and not the youth minister, the parent, pastor, etc. We have to come back to one thing…it is not about those who have had influence on us, though to recognized their touch as time moves on is good, it is about God moving upon a heart and causing it to be regenerated. I have 6 kids. All heard truth and we lived our life according to where each of us is at in growth….but the work of the Holy Spirit is the bottom line in one coming to KNOW the living Christ. Three out of 6 know Him. I don’t get unglued hitting my head over and over just because the others have not given their life to Christ. Their story is not over. Who is to say a person must be saved early. I always tell my kids from early on…..”this truth of Jesus is something you will have to grapple with on your own as you get older as to what you want to believe. You will stand before the Creator one day and give an account for yourself. It will not be based upon whether you think mommy or daddy did it “right” as to whether you should walk with Him in relationship”. Kids who go away to college and lose faith have just not come to KNOW the living Christ yet. They were not saved to begin with. Coming out of a Christian home where parents have that God connection does not make our kids saved. It would be all about us then wouldn’t it, if we saw it that way. I am not interested in being pat on the back because i could produce kids that chose Christ. It is not about me!

    • Dr. O

      I agree 1000% (if that is possible). If the Church of Jesus is simply a collection of folks spouting off “what I think,” how does it differ from “Meet the Press” and other political programs of the day? The church must be a people of power, operating under a God of power and bringing that power to today’s generation. This generation has seen no power–so how’s the church different?

      • ServantHeart2012

        Not possible. Percent means “out of 100″ not out of 1000, but your comment is spot on.

        • Greg Robson

          Dr O agrees one thousand per mille.

    • Sharon Moline

      Mark, your comment resonates with me more than all the others listed here. The early church didn’t have programs, youth groups, etc. like we have today. Instead, the believers witnessed and experienced the power of God in their lives. And no doubt their children witnessed the power of God right alongside their parents. Together they were awed at the wonder and glory of their Creator; not because of some great sermon or youth event. But because of actual encounters and experiences with a God we can’t fully explain or fathom.

  • Deb

    This has got to be the best article I have read from Church Leaders. It is a joyful day to hear people coming to the truth. I want my children to KNOW that Christ is the HEAD of the church. Your relationship to Him is the First thing to pursue and I mean intimately. Use caution when finding yourself becoming to engrossed in a man-made religion. If you chose Christ, you have chosen His mission as well. The work is rarely easy, but it is exciting,full of challenge, it is blessed, and it is what Christ will have you do as you attain to His righteousness toward the fullness of God’s kingdom. I agree; our youth need more of the nuts and bolts of what this is all about. We are God’s army spreading God’s light and love. Come, watch God in action in your life! He will bring you to tears of joy and amazement. We are the end time generation. We will see it all come to fruition. Praise God!

    • Rose Abels

      Right,we need to impart”the nuts and bolts”. I work as a Children’s ministry leader.First we learn a Bible story,apply it to situations in our lives,pray about our joys and sorrows. then we have a snack and a craft or game. We are presently making puzzles for our sponsored child in Bolivia. It’s true that spiritual instruction is first a parental duty. Our children attend worship with music with parents first.then they come to the fellowship hall for age appropriate things.Jesus took time to have only children sit on his knee. I still remember a song Bro. Kraft told me. “Jesus loves the little ones like me..little ones like me sat upon his knee..Jesus loves the little ones like me!”

  • lynn

    This article hurts to read. The truth hurts, and there is a lot of truth here. I am wondering two things. First, what has become the focus of the church? It seems like a lot of churches focus more on being attractive to the unchurched rather than worship of God. What is the purpose of the gathering (Sunday morning or whenever), is it evangelism? is it worship of God? Having a liturgy that focuses on God or having a liturgy that focuses on reaching the lost? Our children are growing up in churches that are only focused on attracting people, using the same marketing schemes as the world. They have never been discipled. That’s my second thought. What about the discipleship of children and youth? This is not all the churches fault either. Many churches offer discipleship on other days of the week, but our generation only took them to the Sunday morning service? And parents thought that the church could do all the spiritual work. This was not God’s design. These are the things I ponder as I read this article.

  • stephanie adesina osibowale

    Well, thank you all for your contributions to this revelation. Looking it from the perspective of where i belong-Nigeria, this trend is already here. Permit to say that the home leadership and perhaps some of us leading some group of worshippers are failing or have failed. Calling a spade a spade, an offspring is subject to the intuition imbibed. Our kids have not been imbibing the the true gospel because they were not presented to them by our livelihood. This is because we just want to be nice and not objective based on God’s word. Why talking of when they finish hihg school when we can see the trails of the unbrokeness & untransformed heart which we subject to some comformity while we lead. Leadership (parents & pastors) should remember that we will account for our laxity and meddling in this affair of descipling which many of us for the fear of rejection, isolation, or persecution have diluted. May the help me to do my part and vever fall short of His expectation every second of my life, amen.

  • Martin Hansell

    This is a great article… and I truly mean that, yet I don’t think it’s the whole picture. I fully agree with teaching the faith of the ancients as the core of our “religion” (a word which I think I hate). This includes the need to teach of sin, repentance, and the saving blood of Jesus – surely that’s why I gave my life to Christ so many years ago. That salvation is real, and lasting, because it runs deep into the veins of a person’s life.

    But I remember that time when I subsequently sought God over the filling of the Spirit, and found Him in a way I had never previously known, even though it’s talked of in Scripture. It is in that place, where OBJECTIVE FAITH and SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE meet, where eternity collides with mortality, that we secure the prospect of a lasting faith not rooted solely in history, but in the present reality of a God who remains relevant in a world that drifts closer to the edge of… who knows what?! [I’m not laying down a law here that says you must be baptised in the Spirit, but a general understanding that once you meet God in the fullness of the Spirit it’s hard to turn away from that.]

    Nothing can take away from God’s acts over time which contribute to the foundations of our faith, but that is not enough to enter into the place of relationship to God. Only those who seek God with their whole heart will truly find Him – or has God changed? Even in this day and age of mass evangelistic devices, where multitudes “give their lives to Christ”, the seed yet falls into different types of soil (remember, Jesus Himself said that), and the need for earnestness to find God and to “overcome” has never altered.

    All that said, this article is wonderfully revealing, and we can learn a great deal from your efforts. Nice one!

  • Wondering ED

    Marc, I was really wondering if I was the only human being who thought about these things. Believe me, as a spirit-filled evangelical Christ-follower I have plenty of things to work on personally as a father and leader in my home. I believe i am ultimately responsible to lead my children. I fear though because of the “frustrated” generation of young pastors/leaders in the Body who doesn’t want the church to look like the church of yesteryear that we’ve lost fervency for foundational endeavors such as knowing God through Scripture… This article (in my opinion) is not a blanket statement on the whole American church, I feel like it is a warning sounded out to parents of impressionable youth who need to really decipher if their local assembly is going with the “new flow” or staying true to the call of God in spirit, truth and power.

  • Sharon

    i agree with many aspects of this article, however, I do think that too much responsibility is placed upon the physical church in general. i believe young people go away from the church because of one basic reason – they are finding their faith FOR THEMSELVES. No matter what type of church it is; traditional, Bible-thumping, relevant, contemporary, hell, fire and brimstone – young people have been raised or not raised in the ways of God and when they become young adults and are on the threshhold of making their own decisions for their lives – they have to figure it out. Prayerfully, the family structure and daily living out what God shows us in HIs word will be more foundation for those. Prayerfully, the youth group that invited them in, regardless of the means will always stick in the back of the minds of those who didn’t grow up with the spriitual foundation. God created each and every one – HE draws them and makes Himself known to them. Pray for families, pray for Christians to resist the world. Let’s stop excusing the wandering hearts and rise up and be the examples, models, mentors that we’re supposed to be.

  • livingauthentically

    The title to your article caught my attention, so I had to read. About 8 years ago, I sat down with my 20-something niece and asked her the same question about her large youth group in the 90’s….where were they and why had they mostly all dropped out of church? After picking her brain, I realized that what she was saying was that for most of her friends, the number one reason they were no longer interested in church was because when their parents left the doors of the church each Sunday, they did not live out what they heard inside. There was no, or at best, very little REAL life application of the truths given. No integrity lived out. I really don’t think you can blame all of this on the “church.” When there is no difference between what parents who call themselves Christians and even regularly attend church do, and parents and families who never or rarely go to church do, there becomes a disconnect for their children, They are looking for people who KNOW what they believe and KNOW why they believe, and are actually able to LIVE differently. Culture has invaded the church….but it invaded our homes first. Or, as Beth Moore once said, “We have become so culturally relevant, that we have become spiritually irrelevant.”

    • Mia

      This is the number one reason right here folks. Most of the time if you want a preview of what your child’s faith will look like, look at your own.
      Regardless of what you want to believe all studies (secular and Sacred) and the Bible tell us it is the parents responsibility. It is the churches responsibility to give parents tools to do disciple their own kids. In order to have wise faithful kids parents need to be wise and faithful first.

    • Bruce

      Amen. Most professing “born again” believers today can’t give a clear cut testimony of their faith. When I see their daily lifestyle it’s hard to see “Christianity”. No wonder their children wander off after leaving home

      • Neil Uebergang

        Adding to Mia’s and to yours Bruce, From past experience, when teaching religeous instruction in the schools, one teacher said to me that “there are two boys that are so disrupted to their class mates that I am going to have a difficult time on sharing the Good News.” It turned out that these two boys in a class of 34, I had noticed that they picked up on ‘BIG’ bible names and big words, so I based the years teachings using all the ‘BIG NAMES and WORDS’ I could find relating to the story of the day. If you allow Christ to lead you there is always a way around a problem. There are many more of these answers to problems I can give and they all work through Christ. I guess that still quiet voice speaks louder than most will listen.

    • Nate Wheeler in Boise

      But I think that’s the author’s point. WHY weren’t the parents challenged? they were getting the same watered down gospel.

    • Sean Muzydla

      I agree with your post. I think the church is is going off the rails and trying to merg with the world. But at the end of the day I have to look in the mirror as a parent, as a follower of Christ and search my heart and align myself with Gods word. In other words am I living in such a way that my kids can tell the difference between me and the world. My girls are ages 6 and 9 and they love it when I show them bible prophecy. When I used to volunteer in youth ministry the Tweens loved bible prophesy why? Look at all the supernatural stuff on tv. With bible prophecy they have a ready answer for why the bible is a supernatural book and is the final authority on the supernatural. When I showed these kids why Hitler went after the Jews from a biblical perspective there grades went up suddenly history wasn’t so boring and best of all there tweets and twitters were sharing what they had discovered in the bible and how it actually is true. After all does not the book of revelation promise the reader a special blessing? Let us teach the whole council of God!

  • Barry

    There is a great book called “You Lost Me” by Dave Kinnaman of Barna Research that covers this subject very well. In the attempt to make church attractive to the next generation we have actually created a generation that really does not know the gospel. A key question we must ask ourselves as parents and church leaders is whether we have made church-goers or Christ followers?

  • Scott Angelo

    One glaring thing stands out to me…. God is not prominent in this picture. Who is the sovereign? Who is in control. Who is calling HIS children to HIMSELF?

    In the article we read: “There’s no easy way to say this: The American Evangelical church has lost, is losing, and will almost certainly continue to lose OUR YOUTH.” The “church” is responsible for losing “our” youth? I didn’t know they were ours. Interesting…. I wonder what God is doing in the lives of HIS children. Maybe we have gotten our priorities wrong. I have a quote on my office wall and it reads, “My responsibility is to follow God’s lead as He uses me to grow His church.” Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I love the local church. I know we have huge responsibility. I know God is using us as ambassadors for the Kingdom. But maybe we should slow down a little bit and take a deep breath. Maybe we should ask God what HE wants us to be doing.

    If we can follow Jesus in a John 10:27 and an Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 sort of way, then we will be obedient to what He is calling us to do. In ministry, our responsibility is to ask God what wants to do with His teenagers and figure out a way to make that awesome and engaging!

    I firmly believe that students walk away because we are not giving them Jesus. We teach them about Him, not how to walk with Him. How to hear from Him. How to worship Him in song and in life.

    This article does have some great cautions. Student Ministry can fall prey to entertainment all too easily. I just caution us not to get too caught up in blogs, books, articles, and man’s wisdom. Let’s be led by the author and perfecter of our faith. Let your greatest treasure, inspiration, driving force, and mentor be the voice of Jesus.

    As leaders in ministry let’s be consumed by the person and work of Jesus and then give that gift to the people He entrusts us with… It’s His work, and He has a journey for each one of His children. So instead of trying to figure out how to keep people “in church” let’s labor to introduce people to an active and living Jesus.

  • Keith Brock

    Excellent! One thing that you forgot…The kids have to see this lived out in their home by their parents. The home is the incubator of the Christian life. The Gospel message and discipleship are not just theoretical, they are extremely practical and cannot just be taught, they must be caught. And “catching” them comes from seeing and experiencing this life in the context of authentic relationships…the home, the local church.

  • Rick in IL

    “The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.” Hmmm … Losing 70% means keeping 30%. Bringing half of the 70% back means adding 35% to 30%. That’s a 65% retention rate 10 years out. Just a thought…

  • Jackson

    Or maybe they are leaving because the whole model is flawed. Maybe the gospel isn’t best lived out where everyone shows up to building and listens to a man in front, or breaks into affinity groups and people talk about what the man said. Perhaps we need to break out of this model and go into the world and live the gospel. I know it’s hard to control what people think and to control their behavior in this way but perhaps the model of promoting narrow thinking by guilt and peer pressure isn’t what God intended. Perhaps the model is flawed and we need brave creative people to move us on toward a better manifestation of the Kingdom of God.

  • Rev Mike

    Very good observations and honestly given. There is another reason though; people are going to do what they want to do regardless of what we would have them do. Some are fed up with what we say as opposed to what we do; especially in our family environment. I have counselled several young adults, 20 to 25, and had them tell me how their Christian parents acted one way toward them in public and how they actually treated them at home. Also some have said their parents were “real” Christians and that was not the case. I agree that we must hold true to the message of Christ whether it tickles their ears or not. I agree that we try hard to appease them in order to keep them which is a noble attempt. But I also know that the old English proverb still rings true today; “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.” My wife and I raised our twin adult sons to know Jesus but we never forced them to follow Him. I have learned that many people have nothing against God or Christ, they just have no use for the (church). If you want to get even more insight, get the book “Un Christian” by David Kinnamin and Gabe Lyons.
    Peace in Christ: Br Mike <

  • Nate

    I can tell you why I left the church. I left my church years ago because of the self-righteousness that ran rampant within it. People used position in the church as a status symbol, rather than a position of pious leadership.

    I grew up in the church, went to a Christian school, and love God dearly, but when I would ask those genuine questions about conflicts that I found in the church’s teachings, I was just told to have “faith”. Being told to have faith about a topic because you can’t explain it is not giving an answer. It’s merely a way of saving face and sounding holier-than-though.

    So I left the church and continued my studies and prayer on my own. I’m not posting this so that someone can convince me to go back to church, I just want people to understand that turning church into a “museum for the good” will drive us away faster than anything else.

    • Bruce

      Perhaps you do need to find a fundamental church where you can be a teacher.

    • Grandmaof9

      Nate….. Sorry that you stop going to church, because of the self-righteousness , but in Hebrews 10:24 in Bible it tells us to be in fellowship at church. You need to look for church that teaches..verse by verse…through the whole Bible…not one that they pick and choose to preach. It is great that you are studying..etc….but you need to be with others who study too and a pastor who teaches chapter by chapter. Don’t let pass negative church hinder you to obey all of Gods word. There is one church out there that was started decades ago by Chuck Smith…. ‘Calvary Chapel’. Google it and you will find one near you. Go and listen to that pastor teach Gods word..verse by verse. You will change your mind about staying home on Sunday, Wed. God tells us it is about others and go and serve. You can not serve staying home. Praying that Jesus will show you the way to be taught the word …..verse by verse church through the whole Bible and to serve there too!

  • John A. Hill

    When my kids reached high school age, I really began to examine this trend in earnest. Without any studies to back up my own thoughts, I determined that our kids are leaving because they don’t have their own faith–they have the faith of their parents; their pastors; their churches. We have taught them what we believe, but we have failed to teach them why we believe what we believe. We have left them with no tools to defend their beliefs. I now teach our high school boys class and stress the apologetics of how we can know and how we can explain to others what we believe.

    • neil Uebergang

      Amen to your words of wisdom.

    • Lessons Of A Dad

      Very well said.

  • Adam Faughn

    Your statement is dead on that we “water down” the message of the Gospel, then send them to a world that says our young adults are smart. While we must be age-appropriate as much as possible, that does not mean we are to be treating our young people as if they are dumb. They are very intelligent, and they like to think when we challenge them.

  • Roy

    Marc, as you can see by the numerous comments, you have hit a nerve. Not only was the article on point, but the comments as well. Yes, I think in our attempts to draw a crowd, we have left our first love on the back burner. We have not remained distinctively different, but boringly the same, trying to use the world’s attractions to draw people to Jesus instead of the power of the WORD!

    My observation is that our people, even Sr. saints, don’t know the WORD. After decades in SS and church, the vast majority can’t defend their faith, or even share ONE verse that states how we can KNOW we have eternal life. (1 John 5:13).

    Pastors, we need more that messages, we need example. We need to see how God is using YOU in everyday life to share Jesus. If you don’t tell us about your witnessing experiences, then we know that you don’t, and we follow your lead. If Sunday School were to equip us for sharing Jesus, then separate discipleship training would not be necessary. Maybe we should consider breaking away from the SS booklets, and try teaching the Gospel and how to present it in love. THEN our kids would take with them something that will sustain them in life. We do the least of what Jesus’ last words told us, to share Jesus with His power Acts 1:8.

    I agree with one of the comments requesting Marc to follow up with a plan to strengthen believers in the faith. May God lead us all closer to Him and His Word!

  • Teryn O’Brien

    This is such a great article. I know many young people who’ve left the church for these very reasons–especially the hypocrisy part. In fact, I would’ve left the church long ago if I hadn’t had a true encounter with Jesus in all my brokenness. I still struggle with church. Church is not a place people go to heal and to be real. It’s a place to hide and pretend everything is fine. That’s not what my generation wants. We’ve grown up in a broken, broken world full of divorce, heartbreak, depression, abuse, materialism, etc. We know the world is broken. We know people in the church are broken. We’re not fooled. Why doesn’t the church to a better job helping us through it?

    • mkdb

      Great question. Having worked in the church (and in ministries) in various capacities I can tell you (as many others can) that the church is filled with sinful people who have agendas that often differ from God’s. But there are also others who are also sinful but have a heart–and an equipping–to minister to and strengthen those who have been crushed (Ps 51:17; Is 66:2). After being “crushed” myself (decades ago) I also had “true encounter with Jesus in all my brokenness.” This has given me a heart for and ministry for ministering to those who have been crushed and who are either unequipped or ill-equipped. Back to your question, I would say that there is another aspect in the church, many do want to “a better job helping” but they tend to rely on worldly wisdom rather than the sufficiency of God’s Word.

    • Kelly L.

      I agree so much with that statement

      “Church is not a place people go to heal and to be real. It’s a place to
      hide and pretend everything is fine. That’s not what my generation

      I think many in our generation have no problem with God or Jesus but with the CHURCH. It isn’t that we lose faith on the large scale it is that we don’t believe n the authenticity of the church and don’t see people being real within it. Hypocrisy is the biggest reason I hear from people as to why they don’t go to church anymore.

      • amos8

        I agree that hypocrisy is a big problem, and a reason why people don’t go anymore, but I also think for some (not all) it can be an excuse not to go, or believe, or change. There is a lot of misinformation about this, for example, “If a person says ‘This is the right way to live or think.’ and then they do not live up to it perfectly, then there ‘right way’ must be false.” [By the way, this also leads Christians to force themselves to “appear” perfect rather than easily admitting fault and then changing.]

        There are hypocrites in EVERY sub-section (or belief system) of our world. Christians are no different. They, too, will say one thing and do another. So the question becomes (at least for me), why are “Christians” held to an unreasonable standard that they (at least in Scripture) never claim for themselves (at least most of them)?

        Shouldn’t a church be a place where people can freely “confess” so that they can also be forgiven and “repent”? Shouldn’t we all (self-proclaiming Believers) come together and overtly acknowledge or weaknesses and sins so that we can change?

        • Kelly L.

          If your last line where true I don’t think there would be as much of a problem, I think that is exactly where the church is falling short.

          The problem I have seen ( and I have always gone to church and have been in 3 very different denominations as well as visited a few others with friends ) and the things I have heard from friends is that it isn’t a place you can acknowledge your weakness or sin unless you are new. New believers are expected to be broken but older believers aren’t supposed to have problems.”If you had enough faith , then ____ wouldn’t be a problem” type of judgements within the church when people admit that something is wrong.
          The people telling you how to live are judging others but not admitting their own faults such as judging others. They ACT like they have it all together while obviously not living like Christ when viewed by others. I don’t think they are being held to an unreasonable standard of perfection I think the standard they are falling short of meeting is honesty. Being open about not being perfect and being more accepting of other peoples imperfections especially when they are different then their own imperfections. People too often only understand when people fall short in the same way they do.
          The problem isn’t that they aren’t living up to the goal perfectly the problem is that they ACT like they are while judging others for not reaching the same goal they can’t reach. Or the very common “:your sin is worse then my sin” attitude. The attitude that whatever the other person is not doing right is worse then what I am not doing right so I am OK instead of admitting that you both have fallen short and that’s OK because God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. If we could be we wouldn’t need him.

          I KNOW this isn’t true of all Christians or all churches but it is true of enough of them that it can turn a person sour on the whole lot. You get a bushel of apples after biting into enough rotten ones you may toss the whole basket without checking them all individually.

          Many that I know that have stopped going to church still have no issues with God or Jesus and they haven’t stopped believing in God they just stopped believing in the church. So they haven’t determined that the way is false because the church is broken they just deteremined that they didn’t need the broken church in order to follow the perfect God.

          • amos8

            “The problem isn’t that they aren’t living up to the goal perfectly the
            problem is that they ACT like they are while judging others for not
            reaching the same goal they can’t reach.”

            I agree with that observation (i.e. that it is true, and that it is true of many church/individuals). I would also say (as you at least implied) that there are some churches that are not (fully) this way. AND I wholeheartedly agree that they are few and far between and difficult to find.

            I would also say that it has a large part to do with the overall mindset and attitude of the leadership of that church (while everyone else has their own individual responsibility for how they handle it). To find a church that is faithful in teaching the Word AND in living the Word (with grace, understanding, etc) is HARD (Matt 7:13-14).

            Also, there is an all-to-common “over correction” where individuals (and groups that become churches) become bitter toward ________ (the church, God, “Christians,” the Bible, truth, traditional/conservative values …) and become liberal or minimize or diminish or get rid of standards (they assume, in their over -reaction to error, that this new way must be the right and loving way). They go from the gutter on one side of the street to the other (not everyone, but this is common). It is a kind of false dichotomy (it is either this one or that one), but there is at least one other way … the one of grace and truth and love and firm standards that guide us and protect us (yet many misuse them or abuse them … while others simply hate having standards or being corrected).

            Thank you so much for your thoughts and sharing with me and others. It was very valuable.

    • eve

      This is not personally against you Teryn because I understand what you are saying. But to many of these comments on this page…do you know what’s hard? To be a Pastor who loves and cares about people, and be lumped into everyone’s personal experience of their individual church. Tarred with the same brush. I have wonderful people in my church who know what it is to be broken and through Christ can help and understand others. We do not have it all together (God knows) but we are the ones who will pray for you at the drop of a hat. Who will encourage you when you are down. Laugh with you, cry with you. Who will believe that God can fix and heal anything. What we don’t do is decide to change what God has already written. So we don’t say sin is okay but that God’s grace can help you get out of it. We know because we have been there, and are still there with parts of our lives. What we do know is that you can not get forgiveness and freedom if you do not own your own stuff. God forgives sin He does not forgive excuses’. So we can be branded judgemental just by believing God’s view. I know someThumpers are truly horrible and sprout the Word with as much love as a maggot. They cause more damage than a thousand atheists. However, even those embarrassments should not cause us to share what God has to say on different matters.

      • Zella6

        I strongly suspect that somewhere, in the decaying carcass of a week-old roadkill, a maggot just wriggled indignantly as if to say, “I RESENT that comparison!”.

  • Diego

    While I agree with many of the article’s reasons for students leaving the church, I see one huge factor missing from this discussion: Parents. After working in student ministry for over 16 years, I don’t think the burden lies so much with the failures of the church as it does with the failure of parents to accept their biblical mandate to raise up their children in the knowledge of God. There is little to no dialogue in the home about a daily relationship with Jesus Christ. Many parents solely depend upon the youth group to disciple and foster spiritual development. The reality is that a youth pastor or volunteer typically interacts with a student for an average of 2 to 3 hours a week. The real formative influence comes from the daily parental interaction within the home. Unfortunately, for most Americans who call themselves Christians, church is simply another extra-curricular activity they “do” like soccer, ballet, or cub scouts. Students are leaving because they never saw the “relevance” of Christ in the lives of church people–namely their parents.

    • leejoka

      Amen! I’m grateful that the 30% who stayed at church and got the right gospel. Jesus said “He who has ears to hear, let the hear…” c’mon, the majority of the “disciples” didn’t stay and follow Jesus. I know church has its faults and shortcomings and we ned to be faithfull but sadly those leaders are parents of those kids who do not come back to church.

    • Mar Komus

      Not so. I know of families who conducted themselves ideally as you describe and some of their kids still grew up to be atheists. The failure is on the part of the church to engage the challenges presented. The pat answer of “faith” doesn’t work for the person who doesn’t like it when people mess around with their minds by invoking magical thinking. When their intelligence is insulted enough and when those whom they’ve trusted betray that trust enough, they’ll listen to anything.

      The Church needs to wake up and engage the worlds of science instead of crawling under a rock and pretending the threat to their cherished beliefs don’t exist.

      A really good book (which I still need to get) on this subject is, “You Lost Me” by David Kinnnaman. It stands in contrast to those who believe that if we just repeat the same things more loudly and more often then our kids will grow up to be better prepared. That’s actually more brainwashing, though, than teaching critical thinking skills and how/where to find appropriate data to support conclusions. One can have a VERY strong, well-informed faith.

      One of the main problems I see, though, is impatience: many just simply jump ship before they’ve given things sufficient time for answers to their tough questions to surface. It’s been my experience that waiting for answers works. Perhaps one key is to teach our youth to wait on answers and think things through instead of being all ADD/ADHD about their faith.

      • Rev Dave

        Science is always changing and correcting its hypotheses. Faith in Christ is a gift not something that you decide is correct. God doesn’t change
        But Christchanges even atheists into the faithful

        • Mar Komus

          “Science is always changing and correcting its hypotheses.” That’s a good thing.

          “Faith in Christ is a gift not something you decide is correct.” Wrong. I heard the message. I looked at the facts. I questioned things. I decided, “Yes, this is correct,” and followed.

          “God doesn’t change.” Nope. He doesn’t. His methods and covenants do, but He does not.

          “But Christ changes even atheists into the faithful.” Sure, but not through some “booga booga” magical spell that turns them into robots. He changes us from atheists to believers by giving convincing evidence.

          • amos8

            Perhaps Rev Dave is referring to Romans 12:3 where it states that we have all been given a measure of faith.

            I agree that we all need to look at the evidence and make a decision, but some look at that same evidence and (willfully?) decide in the opposite direction (Rom 1:18-32).

          • Mar Komus

            I get the impression it’s a Calvinism tulip waiting to bloom. I hope I’m wrong and I’m not going to argue it too strongly here, but it does no service to inject such arguments when it can be clearly shown that people can be convinced by sound, reasoned arguments It doesn’t take a magical work of first grace–except insofar as that work speaks intelligently to the mind.

            Sometimes willfully. Sometimes more of a gathering around of teachers to tell them what their itching ears want to hear–even if at a subconscious level. It works both ways, though. There are plenty who gravitate to the Creation Museum ilk because of their conclusions. I’m still a “young earther,” but I find the idea of any human being riding around on dinos preposterous–not because I think they weren’t contemporaries, but because…well…I’m pretty sure it would have been best to keep one’s distance from the great dinos–unless we’re on a hunting expedition. That’s true even now with bears and moose.

          • amos8

            “I get the impression it’s a Calvinism tulip waiting to bloom.” From him or from me?

            I’m a big believer in personal responsibility (and grace, faith, etc). So I’m not down with a notion that says something like, “Everyone has a responsibility to ‘repent and believe’ BUT most of you cannot ‘repent and believe’ and so those people are going to hell for not doing what was impossible for you to do … on account of God not giving it to you.” [Yes, I know Calvinist will attack at this point]

          • Mar Komus

            From Rev Dave.

            Glad to see that, like me, you were predestined to believe in free will. :)

          • amos8

            Yep, couldn’t help it.

      • amos8

        “…instead of being all ADD/ADHD about their faith.” That’s a good way of putting it (and funny too).

    • P. Rivalto

      Diego, you are correct! However you are unwittingly part of the institutional problem that is the church today! You say you have been in student ministry for 16 years. I challenge you to find student or youth ministry anywhere in God’s word! Ministry in God’s word is individuals pouring themselves through the filter of God’s word and love, into other individuals for their growing in God. Jesus’s High priestly prayer in John 17 speaks of this relationship greatly! Youth ministry was invented by evangelcal churches in the 1950’s, and now within most churches we have seperated the family into ministries that waste time in programs that are completely terminal until we come up with another terminal program to replace it. Families need to be discipled as families. The head of the household, hopefully the father, needs to be discipled with the expressed purpose in mind to begin His disciple making ways with His family as pictured in Psalm 128. We as Christians need to get away from this institutional and cultural church mindset and introduce Christ and His commands back into the life of the church where it becomes a launching pad for the world instead of a destination for entertainment to “PEW POTATOES”. I pray God’s illumination and His blessings on your life as you seek and serve Him!

      • Joan G.

        I am in agreement with how you have pointed out that youth ministry is all part of a recent time in present history. The separation of kids from parents starts very early in our worship services, sad to say. Discipline of having a little one is not thought to be a good trait….that is to teach one to sit quietly for one to two hours. There are some creative ways one can have during these times to help the moments. I did it with 6 from 1995 to 2005. How are kids to learn how to worship when we keep thinking we have to speak in another language to grab their attention. It is the entertainment of their time that concerns me. We buy into this factor. It is so common place on Sundays that anything outside of the box of thinking children’s church or children’s worship is seen as trouble making and not being supportive of hierarchy decisions.

      • Dave

        Above I see you challenged someone to find a youth ministry anywhere in the Bible. Well I did find one. This is just some food for thought. Jesus ran an age specific, gender specific, youth discipleship ministry. Almost all Bible Scholars believe the disciples would have been as young as 14 and a few of them maybe early 20’s. So that is just a thought as I believe what Jesus did was on purpose.

        I do agree family is important as you mentioned and the dividing up of age groups all the time has been damaging. But to think it is just and Evangelical problem is wrong. The largest study ever done in Canada was just completed last year. The Evangelicals here are keeping about 40% which is a bit higher than the states. However, the mainline church and Catholics, who do not all have this youth ministry model, are keeping 10%.

      • Carolyn

        I praise God for youth groups. It was through this medium that God chose to reveal the gospel to me. I was saved in one and discipled in another. My parents weren’t equipped at the time to disciple me in the way that my youth pastor and leaders did. I agree with you, Christian parents need to follow the mandate in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and teach their children the ways of the Lord.

        Unfortunately, not all of those attending youth groups come from Christian homes. In my case, my family came out of a liberal, mainline denomination and when I came to faith in Jesus, they were new believers themselves, but still attending the liberal church so they weren’t getting any good, Biblical instruction.

        When I received Christ and began to be discipled, then I began to pass on what I was learning, we all started attending the Bible believing church where I attended youth group, and they started growing. I had a fantastic youth group, but I agree with you that churches are far too segregated.

        I think my youth pastor was before his time because even though we had separate youth group activities, we also were very family integrated. We had a lot of activities that involved our parents. We also had Sunday night youth meetings in different homes each week — usually the parents of the students in the youth group. He also made an effort to involve the older members (whose kids were grown) of our church in youth activities. We would have activities at their houses or they would come and teach a Bible lesson. Some of these people became mentors to me.

        I think we have to be very cautious to avoid the unnecessary black and white extremes as we in the Christian/evangelical community are so often fond of doing (e.g. family integrated church = good; youth group = bad) — there are enough necessary black and white issues already that we need to focus on. Children’s and youth ministry has its place. I would like to see more emphasis on family integration in the church, though — especially in youth ministry.

        We attend a family integrated church and my kids love it because they feel connected to the larger faith community. They know the adults and the adults know them. Our pastor is really good at including them in the service and tries to have kid friendly elements in it. My youngest daughter who is 10 said that she loves our church because she feels valued, included, and taken seriously. Our pastor encourages the kids to pray for adults and each other, to share scriptural insights during sharing time, etc. Occasionally one of them shares something “off”, but our pastor gently corrects them in a way that they still feel validated.

        Our kids also participate in kids/youth programs at the other church we attend. My teenagers also attend Young Life. All of these have been enriching opportunities for them.

      • Jeremy

        HA.,.. I’d like to see how effective churches without youth ministry are doing at keeping students after High School… Oh wait they are all a bunch of churches with white haired people and no young people at all…. Evangelical churches may loose ~40% of young people in the long run (after the 50% return of the 70% lost). But that is way better than the almost 100% of churches with no youth ministry.

      • Rodger

        ” I challenge you to find student or youth ministry anywhere in God’s word!”. I accept that challenge and direct you to the books of Samuel, Timothy, and Titus.

    • Reginald Taylor

      Diego, I don’t disagree with you at all. The parents and their responsibility has been left out of this article altogether. It is an interesting point you bring up.

      Could it be that part of the parents failure ties into part of what is in the article; namely control by law? The writer lists that presenting law does not work in making discipleship or translating the gospel of needed grace. Parents however must instill law and discipline in the household and in the children in order to have respect in their homes. At the same time, for a parent to be an effective leader in discipleship to their children, they must present the structure of Christ’s body to the children as well. In this structure, we are all brothers and sisters that need one another and grow from one another. Do you think there are many parents out there that succeed at realizing and fulfilling this dual role? I think not. Few parents can see their child as both their child and their sibling in Christ. Parents typically see sharing the faith as simply telling the children what to believe; as opposed to teaching and sharing the how’s and why’s of the faith. In contrast, Jesus pulled this off beautifully and flawlessly with His disciples; being both their authoritative Lord and their Elder Brother.

      It often works in the church as well; as we submit to the authority of order and discipline given to the Pastor, but at the same time we can easily view the Pastor as our Brother (or Sister) in the Lord. We can view them that way because they understand the dual role of shepherd and fellow brethren; and they present themselves accordingly.

    • Cathleen

      I disagree that parents are missing from this discussion. Diego, I think you may be missing the fact that kids aren’t leaving the church while they are still under their parents’ roof. They leave when they leave home. Parents kept them going up until that point. If those 18 years aren’t enough time for the church to convince them, then that failure lies squarely with the church.

      I am one of those kids, now grown. My parents were (and continue to be) amazing examples of Christianity in action. I am glad to have been raised with that moral foundation, and I love my parents dearly and respect them very much. I wish I could give them the happiness I know they would get from continuing to share religion with me. It is not my parents’ fault I left the church, it has been the failures of the church itself.

      • Tracy Chapman Schultz

        I hear you. Unfortunately, the church tries to sell itself more than do what it should to exalt God. Kids aren’t buying it. Like the article says, young adults don’t need another group or club, they need hope. That can only come from a right relationship with God, not membership in a church.
        I hope you ca look less into the frailties and failures of the church and consider His on His own, apart from us messing up His truth. :0)
        Blessings to you and yours.

    • Eileen Phares

      So true and well said.

    • Dan Smithwick

      So, where was the Church, in their discipleship responsibility, to properly equip these parents with the full armor of God?

    • Brandon Phelps

      Parents are the church.

    • Denise Jacobsen

      Sadly, we have 2 prodigal daughters. Both homeschooled, both made commitments to Christ, both did daily devotions, attended church with us, did Bible studies with Mom and Dad at different times, I could go on. But, they both decided to leave the church. I see it as rebellion, wanting to prove themselves, and wanting to be independent. I don’t think fingerpointing is the answer. They have both made choices. I believe in the power of prayer and redemption and pray that they will return to the faith and leave the world behind. Only time will tell. So keep praying for the lost, keep showing the love of Jesus to those around you, and show a lot of grace!

  • Mark Evans

    If 70% of our youth are dropping out of church after high school, then I would guess that it is more than just the “relevant” churches that are losing them. The so-called “orthodox-historic faith” churches are losing them as well. Many of these churches have no children in them.

    Has this drop out rate changed drastically? For those who are in the church now as adults, did they drop out for awhile when they were young? Did they or do they know kids they went to church with who are no longer in church as adults or who dropped out somewhere along the line?

    • Scot Larsen

      Mark- I attend a “Orthodox-historic faith” church in Southern California. We have so many kids we don’t know what to do with them all. We are getting dozens of young adult inquirers from a major local Bible college as well as many from the counter-culture goth movement. Joining the church requires commitment; in the form of 6-9 months of catechism, including confessions and a full understanding of the basic Creeds of the church and the fundamentals of theology. Church history and the witness of the martyrs and church fathers is also a basic aspect of catechesis.
      But you are right; many Orthodox churches have grown cold and lost many of it’s faithful. But most of this is due to the cultural and ethnic stagnation in those churches. We happen to be a convert church full of former evangelicals (look up “Evangelical Orthodox Church”) and we have preserved the “fire” of the faith in the context of the historic witness and theology of the Orthodox church. When these two come together, you have something very special.

      • Mark Evans

        Scot, My point is that it isn’t an issue of church style that is the problem. The article contains some valid points but it is short sighted. Pointing the finger at one style over another doesn’t answer the question or solve the problem of youth dropouts.

  • pablo taylor

    It’s not just the kids who are lost. It is also the adults in their lives.
    The road to Hell is wide, but the road to eternal life is narrow.
    It is harder for a rich man to get to Heaven. Rich doesn’t alway mean fanancially.
    The church is rich in trying to impress and poor in true spirituality.
    Pablo de Costa Rica

  • thebeardedtrevor

    Where are the parents!?!?

  • pastor joe

    the article is dead on but we cannot put the whole burden on the church; it must be lived out in the home, taught in the home, examples must be seen teh parents have a great role to play Deuteronomy 6:7. the parents play a great role as well. Yes some preachers call themselves relating to the youngf people by trying to be like them. They need to be an example of holiness

    • FlatusOhlfart

      The carrot and stick approach of the bible and god’s conditional love are hopelessly mired in myth and superstition. More and more people are waking up to this reality.
      Worse yet, those that remain – do not read, they do not seek truth – only following expeditiously convenient dogma. Evangelical christianity is a religion of convenience and narcissism i.e. ‘just believe and god loves you, god has a plan for you, god listens to you… its all about “you.” its a futile exercise in self-gratification based upon a minimalist ‘faith’ doctrine. That is the empty shell of the american evangelical in 2013.

  • Caleb Jennings Breakey

    Speaking as a Millennial who grew bitter toward my church but stayed anyway, I have to say this: It’s not about how traditional or relevant your church is. It’s about whether your church has people in it that are so in love with Jesus and His Way, so filled with the Holy Spirit, and so wrapped up in living a life that reflects Christ is ALIVE … that you can’t help but wonder, “What’s this guy/girl got? That’s what I want. That’s what I need.” Without a hot coal like this in your church, don’t expect young people to burn brightly either. We will follow your example until we realize your example isn’t much of an example.

    Many church goers wave a banner of “faithfulness,” as if just going to church and saying the right words means something. We don’t buy it. Faithfulness is passion for Jesus that manifests itself in everyday speech and actions.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve written a book on this matter titled CALLED TO STAY (October 1, Harvest House).

  • Timothy Hinkle

    There are some “relevant” points here; however, the bottom line is that the pull of “the world” is so great and today’s “young adult” hasn’t fully developed emotionally into an “adult”– given the way that our generation (the parents of those teens and young adults) have coddled them in an effort to give them a “better life” than many of us experienced or to make up for the devastation of divorce and broken homes we raised them in–contrary to the traditional “Christian” family we were raised in. Since they are not accustomed to having the ability to chose their own destiny, the option to leave the church is just too easy. Yes, we teach too much law, and not enough grace. Then, the grace we teach is taught as a license to sin that so many of our young adults want to “experience”. There is also too much criticism of our youth. Speaking as a pastor with four teens/young adults that have been raised in my church, I can say candidly that my children have often felt like going to church was going to the hunting range where its “open season” for the youth. Even though we didn’t have those “programs” and our youth sit in church from age 6 and older, the experience is often less than positive. There are too many attenders that use Sunday morning as an opportunity to pick apart the youth. Would you leave such an environment if given the opportunity? I’m thankful that each of my children have their own personal relationship with our Lord Jesus OUTSIDE of the church. It is because of this fact that they are able to endure the church culture that we have created. As a minister, I have been called to shepherd these, often well-meaning, yet “mean-spirited” people that are all too often bitter because of their life choices and long to return to their youth and do it all over again. Their jealousy, sadly, causes them to act out in a hateful manner towards the youth. I praise God to see that HALF actually return! Maybe one day we will learn.

  • Jerry Edmonds

    When I first read the title, I immediately thought “marginalization”. Little did I realize that I was on the right track, but with the wrong destination. We have marginalized the Gospel, and in so doing have marginalized the Word, and ultimately marginalized Christ.

    Shame on us. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

  • Pastor Kirk Kingston

    While I agree with the premise that the church needs to teach our youth the truth of Christ in relation to our sin, the law, and atonement. I want to be clear that the church has actually failed the parents. Biblical life and life’s lessons need to be taught at home. I say students are leaving the church not because programming or message is flawed but that some parents shift their responsibility to the church and never teach their children how to live this walk of faith in the richness of Christ’s fulfillment of the law, his shed blood to cover sin, and the reconciliation of ourselves to our Father through Jesus (atonement). It is sometimes the case that parents are ill equipped to pass on this relationship with Jesus to their kids. Didn’t the Apostle remind the believers that whether the preaching was good or bad as long as Christ is preached, it’s all good? (my version).

  • Chalkbrd

    In other words, we’re not training our children in the true Gospel of grace and teaching them who God really is. I totally agree.

    I’d like to add one more to this list, though. I think a big reason kids don’t stay with the church is that churches today have a serious disconnect between youth programs and an adult’s role in the church. 20-30 year olds who grow up in a church are still considered “young people” and have a hard time finding a more adult role in the church to fill. They’re considered “not mature enough” to step into any role until they “grow up” by getting married and having children. If a new college graduate sees that they have an important role in the functioning of the church, that their skills and spiritual gifts are needed to help build up others, they’ll have more of an incentive for plugging back into the church after their college experience. But then, this goes back to what the focus of our churches should be. Instead of “What can I get from being involved in the church?” we need to teach our children “How can I serve others in the body of Christ?”

    • Kelly L.

      ” But then, this goes back to what the focus of our churches should be.
      Instead of “What can I get from being involved in the church?” we need
      to teach our children “How can I serve others in the body of Christ?” ”

      BUT as you stated many churches aren’t giving the young adults a place to serve. Churches are separating people by age and status. What happens to the young adult that doesn’t get married by a certain age they don’t fit in with the others their age and they haven’t been taught to be a part of the church as a whole. They have been raised to work within their group at church. I think youth groups and such have a place and a function but intergration across the ages and generations is needed. And to stop treating young adults as young adults but instead as simply adults, allowing them to be more involved and have a place within the church as a whole instead of a sub group.

  • Opepe

    I think this article is actually a blessing but parents should take real note of introducing us kids to God. Because the bible says bring up a child in the way that she go and that he shall not depart from it when he grows. God bless you.

    • ruth

      And you will blame the parent when the child decides that it is bunk?

  • Charmed Rogers

    As a mom of 5 sons, three who are over 18, all three who have left church, I couldn’t agree more. My children were brought up in church, as both my father and my husband were pastor’s, they were there every service, activity, choir practice, you name it, they were there. They sat beside me every service, and were included in every aspect of church. When I talk to them now about why they no longer attend, it comes back to the main thing of how they have seen Christians act in real life, outside the doors of the church. They have seen leaders back stab, heard the gossip, caught leaders in compromising positions, and they are jaded. It wasn’t what they were taught, how they were taught, it was how the people doing the teaching and preaching acted when not teaching or preaching. When a Sunday school teacher admonishes her pre-teen class on keeping pure, then winds up pregnant before marriage, the kids start questioning. When they are taught to love they neighbor as thyself, then hear a Deacon spreading rumors about the Pastor, they question some more.They know the hypocritical side of church, and want no part of it. Which is one reason why my husband not only gave up his ministry, but also no longer attends. We preach “if you don’t do this you will go to hell” and “You have to do this to be a Christian”, but we leave out the part where we are all sinners come short of the glory of God. We teach our kids a strict set of rules and don’t follow them ourselves, then wonder why our kids are so confused where their relationship with Christ and the church is concerned. What kind of example are we setting? At least out in the community, they find the love and acceptance they yearn for, sin’s and all. There is more forgiveness for mistakes, which is truly lacking in most churches today.

    • Kelly L.

      exactly HYPOCRISY and lack of real authenticity, people aren’t allowed to be broken Christians but the people saying you can’t fail are failing

  • KevinLewis

    I have worked with young people and their parents, now, for 31 years, And I think I can honestly say that the church has NOT lost the youth, rather they never had them in the first place. Parents had them IN church, but it was not the Youth’s church because they either had never made a personal decision for Christ at all or they have nothing ventured in the church to make them a part of it. We have been allowing our kids to think they can ride into heaven on the coat tails of their parents to the detriment of the church, youth, and families.

    Kids ARE smarter today…this is the first generation of kids that know more information than their parents and the parents are intimidated by that to the point they just aren’t talking to them about the things that are important. They try and get, “Yeah mom, I know all about that!” So they stop talking at all. However, parents still have the one thing that youth don’t have, but need and want…wisdom. Keep talking to them. Ask them what they know about a given topic and how they process it. Ask the questions that allow them to work through toward an active biblical principle they can grab onto for their own.

    Parents use the internet, Facebook, learn to text…these are great tools to communicate with the youth of this generation…Just sayin’

  • P. Rivalto

    Wake up Christians! WAKE UP! The reason for this apalling fact of exodus from our churches is because except for the first century church, we have disobeyed Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations! We have not been Christ’s witnesses in our Jerusalem, and in our Judea, and in our Samaria, nor to the uttermost. We have even ignored our own children as disciples to be made. We go to institutional churches with never ending, terminal programs of our own invention and power. We have strived to build buildings instead of obeying Christ to build people. People who will be faithful to build more people till the end of time for the glory of God. There is only one command in the Great commission. Make disciples, for go is not a command. It is better translated from the Greek as;” since you are going” or” as you are going”. After all why would Jesus command us to do something we do naturally every day. We are a constantly going people. Our problem is that our purpose for going is buried in…..S-elf, I-sh, N-ess, instead of in obedience to Christ. Our kids, these kids, have seen church tradition, at best, not the sacrificial walk of an obedient builder of World-Visionary, World-Impacting, Reproducing disciples. Jesus, in three years of ministry spent 90% of His effort and concern on twelve individuals we call the Apostles. He pored His life into these men for the purpose of world impact of the kingdom of God. Yes, He preached to the masses but even so at the end of His ministry He had about 500 faithful followers out of thousands upon thousands preached to. But , He set all His reliance on these twelve men to conquer the world for the kingdom of God. He demonstrated to them the method with which they would accomplish His command. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8. Then in that command in Matthew 28:19-20; He gives them the recruiting process;” Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, then He gave them the training process: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”, Then He gave them the power with which to do it in; “And Lo I am with you always even to the end of the age.” The first century church took the Gospel to the whole known world inside of 70 years after the Day of Pentecost. What do we have today? Fully 3 Billion people on this planet who have never heard a redemptive word of Christ. THAT IS MY FAULT!!! If I do not believe that then I will never do anything to correct it! Dear Christian we all need to get back to obedience to Christ’s commands if we love Him! There is so much more I could say but I beseech you to seek out these two books: 1.) Talley Ho The Fox by Herb Hodges, and 2.) The Master Plan Of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman. May God bless and illuminate you as you seek Him and Him alone!

  • Kathy Verbiest Baldock

    and the actual NUBER ONE reason you missed according to the Barna report which has been publicly known, listed and ignored for four years– the church is perceived as anti-gay. Most youth know LGBT people and the anti-gay sentiments of most conservative churches is not aligning with what they know about gay friends.
    The church is seen by youth as anti-gay and hypocritical and judgmental. Because, it is generally true.

    • Kelly L.

      I agree so much with this. Even sheltered youth when they get out in the real work will meet people in their everyday lives who they like and get along with, then discover they are gay. These people aren’t bad people and they aren’t sprouting horns. In fact these homosexuals and others with “alternative lifestyles” may be more open and loving the the “Christians” they grew up with. Their training and reality clash. How can a loving God not love these people? Why are they so accepting of others and caring when the Christians speak so hatefully of others?

      in general if the church addresses LGBT at all it is in reference to their brokenness and need to be fixed or as a threat to their own Christian lifestyles. But we know it is illogical and don’t trust the churches and Christians that send us those messages regardless of our view of God and Christ.

      I think many still believe in God and Jesus just not in the modern churches.

    • Mandy L.

      As I read this article, this is the response I was really waiting for. As a millennial who left the church a few years into college, this is the reason I relate most to. My generation is not my parent’s generation, and the world I grew up in was vastly different from theirs. Trying to reconcile my own thoughts and feelings about what it means to be gay with the outspoken responses of churches around the nation is, frankly, exhausting. And what I hear in the media does not represent what I thought being a Christian meant when I was growing up. This, in my opinion, is where the disconnect lies. If the church can understand the world that the younger generation lives in and respond to it in a meaningful way, then it may have a chance of reclaiming a few of its lost followers.

  • JC

    This is a great article! I can relate to everything that is mentioned…Speaking from the perspective a minister…My wife and I both grew up as preachers kids, we are now serving as pastors (which I believe because our parents did a pretty decent job of being “doers of the word and not hearers only”), Our children have both finished bible school and are now following the call and direction God has put in them. Because of our situation we have a lot of people (parents) ask us…”how did you do it?”…Our answer…”We don’t know” LOL…Seriously cannot take credit for it. We took the experience from being “Pk’s” ourselves and made adjustments with our kids based on our life experience as pk’s…Although most of the adjustments had more to do with cultural shift, the message of redemption, forgiveness, righteousness and living by faith (after all that’s what the son of man will be searching for)…stayed front and center. We never allowed culture to distract from the message of the gospel that say’s “It’s the TRUTH that set’s people free”…not programs, not “jumbo trons” …(although we had ‘tools’, as we call them) we never exchange the tools for the importance of the life changing power of God, which comes through relationship with God through his word (bible). During my 17 years in youth ministry I had a mentor tell me…”whatever you get them there with, you’ll have to keep them there with”. I never forgot that and it totally was spot on! Don’t mis-understand, we had a state of the art youth facility but the presence of God was the #1 focus in everything we did (our measuring stick so to speak). We never prioritized Method above the Message….As I reflect, I would say one of the greatest contributing factor to young adults leaving the church (although not conclusively) can be attributed to the inability to effectively to build infrastructure to help them transition from youth/young adult ministry to “where the big people are” and (as noted in the article) the loss of priority of the presence of God and teaching the fundamentals of scripture.

  • Ty Bradley

    Something doesn’t smell right in this article. Either this writer is working in a church that is doing all the wrong things in his mind and he is having this confirmed during “exit interviews” he conducts with young people as they are saying “so long” to his church…or, his church is a doctrinal “fundamental” teaching church that the young people in his church have grown up with and appreciate and when he is asking them why kids leave OTHER churches, they demonstrate the values they have been shaped with in his church and point out what they don’t like about other “relevant” churches that they see on TV or hear/read about, and they suggest that kids must be leaving because these other churches don’t have good old fashioned doctrine-centric churches.

    My guess is that it is the latter. If a young person does not have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ then at some point they are going to grow out of the church scene, plain and simple. Having “correct doctrine” instilled in them is no greater an indicator for salvation than is having a pastor who dresses cool and preaches best friend lovey dovey Jesus.

    This writer has a personal preference for doctrine-based teaching churches and it shows through in this article and his very unscientific surveying of his own young people. As such, this article is sadly not very useful for me.

  • dapowellii

    Interesting article, but I’m not sure the author really gets it. I “left the church” at 32 (12+ years ago if you’re keeping count), and few if any of his explanations have much to do with my reasons — and I have known plenty who left for similar reasons as I did. Granted, I am of a slightly different generation. However, my reasons can be summed up in three words: ignorance, self-aggrandizement, and dogma. Until churches acknowledge and address those issues fully, the problem will only grow worse.

  • Steven Leapley

    Thank you Marc for the proverbial slap in the face, no holds barred reminder that WE are the problem! (Seriously). I remember growing up listening to my Catholic friends going to catechism and thinking what are they learning. My protestant upbringing reminded me of how ‘bad’ Catholics are….. Now that I have boys I am teaching about this world, I decided to use the catechism between 10-12 to teach the solid foundational beliefs (surprise..the catechism says nothing about Mary…). I rest easier knowing that my boys are learning solid principles…we are fortunate to be in a church that, yes provides big screens and pizza parties….and that I have seen my teenager’s faith deepen in just a few short weeks of us being there (no church transplant…we moved)

    In this day of everything that is going on, our kids need to see us standing on a solid foundation and living out a Christ-centered faith……no matter what is going on in the world. the Bible is clear that it will move towards a more heathenistic type of life…that is the very reason why Paul reminds us that we will be persecuted for it…. We lost that concept in our Americanized culture…. we feel above the law…we think that America is Christ’s country…. and yet…most of the biggest outspoken Christians cannot seem to remember simple biblical foundational purposes that will help keep our kids understanding what following Jesus really is all about… a life sold out to Christ….

  • Joseph William Valenzuela

    As a youth Pastor of 15 years I agree with Diego a major piece neglected in this top ten was the involvement of parents. Parents are the front lines of the Gospel getting to the next generation they in large fail to talk about, live it, and Impress the love of God upon their children (remember Deut 6). They watch their parents trash the pastor, music, members, and or programs. Then church hop! Yet I haven’t seen an article on this subject that mentions this point. The church needs to own up to the top ten but so does the parents!

  • Stilbelieve

    I was one of those post high school, “college age” guys who dropped out – after having a very real spiritual relationship with God while going through a very serious problem I created affecting another person. During that time I was on my knees more than ever in my life, going to Mass and communion daily, praying that the problem would be resolved favorably. I spent hours on my knees asking for God’s forgiveness and help. One night, while praying I got an answer telling me it was resolved as I prayed for. I had such peace. And sure enough, within a few days I got physical conformation. Something interesting also happened while this was going on, students at the community college I was going to me would come up to me and out of the blue, people I just had partial contact with before, who would tell me about a problem they were having and asking for my help. I found that answers came to my mind to give them. One time, while giving a solution to this one student, the thought occurred to me in a bewildering way, “Why are people talking to me about their problems?” and “How interesting it is that I have solutions for them.” Years later, as I think back on that, I realized God was using me to help others, but at the time that never entered my mind.

    Within weeks after God took care of my problem, I cut back on going to church and praying. And within a year I stopped going to church and praying altogether. I had gone away to school and just busied myself with that. It was not until 10 years later that God came back into my life. I was married, had a couple young boys and had taken a day off to sun in the backyard after returning from a business trip. I was thinking about what I would do if I was God, and then it hit me – the First Commandment; thou shall have no gods before Me. It struck me that I was making myself into a god, saying what I would do about something if I was God. That was the point in time when I realized and decided I have to return to church. That began my journey to returning to my childhood faith of Catholicism by way of some Protestant churches first, and a couple protestant preachers on the radio and TV to supplement my faith.

    The foundation of my faith had been established in Catholic grade school. It was acted on as was needed in junior college. Abandon in senior college and several years afterwards until I responded to that quite voice while sunning in my back yard. Why I dropped out of church for those 10 years, I don’t know; just got wrapped up in living away from home going to school, working part-time and finding a new love; and the family I grew up in was now divorced and brothers and sisters scattered. But WHY I came back is because of the responsibility of marriage and raising children, and the need to provide that religious environment for them, and myself.

  • RonJohnsJr

    This article seems to begin with a vouple of assumptions worth challenging. 1. Is the current (though declining) form of the Church the one God wants our children to participate in? Perhaps God is calling them away to bring about a new or even ancient form. 2. It assumes a lack of teachingof creeds and systematic doctrines leads our children vulnerable to opposing sphilosophies like atheism. Centuries of disciples followed and grew in number without seminaries. True discipleship revolves around the person of Jesus. How many of our pews are packed with good evangelicals coloring inside the lines on the worksheets we’ve given them without demonstrating any sense of Jesus Luke 4 mission statement?

  • John

    As such a youth who left the “church”, I must say I agree with a few of the remarks made herein, however, and I don’t wish to upset anyone, but one big problem I have not only with Christianity, but other religions, is the loud, annoying claim to exclusivity–that their religion is the religion and all others are untrue.
    You see, I went to church on my own as a teenager. No family, no parents, no friends. I went by myself and even chose to get baptized on my own, again with no family or friends present.
    Then I went off to college and started thinking on my own, independent of what I’d been told all my life (not just in terms of religion). It occurred to me through my studies, which simply encouraged critical thinking skills, that Christianity and other religions I was or became familiar with, made no sense.
    Now don’t mistake that for, ‘Oh, this poor child simply wasn’t led down the tried and true path of God’s real glory and all the knowledge that comes with it.’ No.
    It occurred to me that I couldn’t buy into Christianity, because I couldn’t believe it any longer. At its core, it no longer made sense to follow. I didn’t want to excuse things, because they didn’t make sense all in the name of retaining my belief. College teaches students to employ higher thinking, to challenge everything. When I challenged my “faith”, it lost.
    The one section in the article may chalk this up to me being “unprepared” to reconcile my growing critical thinking skills with my “faith.” But I disagree. I feel like I had a good base understanding of my religion and its tenets. No, I found a fundamental issue with my religion, and those issues have only grown since.
    I should provide a disclaimer here too. Please, no one reply back attempting to rope me back into the church. I have no desire or belief that doing so will be right for me.
    And here is where I would conclude: the biggest issue I think many younger people have, and that helps serve as the reason for young people leaving the church, is because of this very discussion.
    You see, getting anyone to believe in anything, truly, doesn’t require or provide that they be inundated from infancy to young adult hood. The belief system shouldn’t underpin the belief itself with, as the article addressed, cheap mechanisms meant to “attract” people. Sure, you want to get your word out, or I should say, the word of God. Fair enough. But it should be genuine and soft.
    You want your children to stay in the Church? I’m certainly not advocating for it, but I would say being genuine as a person, a parent, a pastor, or whomever is a good start.
    Believers should employ a mindset of peace in their belief, one that is not arresting, not in ardent search of finding the next one to bring to church. Be confident in your belief system, share its benefits softly with others–not in an anxious manner–and love people.
    Then, softly extend an invitation to join you in church. I will politely say, “No, thank you,” but I will certainly look upon you with much more grace than others who obsessively drool over the prospect of bringing you along Sunday morning. And chances are, others will accept the invitation, knowing its on their terms, and not yours.
    Again, I sincerely mean no disrespect with this comment. Just sharing my experience and thoughts, which may be cast aside, if thought foolhardy.

    • Mark Evans

      I’m not about to try to “rope you back into church”. I appreciate your candor. However, the so called higher thinking skills you speak of being taught at college also have a bias. The basic assumption that critical thinking and faith are diametrically opposed is flawed in itself. Christian apologists (those who give valid reasons for what they believe) have used critical thinking to support their faith. If you truly want to use critical thinking then you should read folks like Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, etc.

      I agree that believers should be a peace in their belief. But I also think that it is okay to question those beliefs and seek truth. Too often, however, those who question their beliefs do not seek truth or use critical thinking skills. They choose to do what is easiest or feels best to them.

      • KKeys

        As John said ” I didn’t want to excuse things, because they didn’t make sense all in the name of retaining my belief.” I get that. No one should “excuse” such things. The bible is complex. That said, most don’t get far analyzing/scrutinizing it alone, and certainly not without a *comprehensive* biblical education beforehand, although all major questions have been exhaustively written on with varying interpretations.
        I will say this, partially in response to John’s observation about christian behavior toward prospective visitors – Each of us has to decide if we’ve given those tough questions a true and thorough examination before excusing them, regardless of how many unpleasant zealots we happen to be surrounded by.

        • Mark Evans

          Yes there are plenty of differing interpretations. In fact we may all have differing opinions on what the author of this post meant. But the author had a point to make and it is our job to wrestle with it or dismiss it.

  • RonJohnsJr

    This article expresses two assumptions worth questioning. First, the author assumes they are leaving the form of Church God desires for them to participate in without questioning whether or not God might be leading them away to build a new or perhaps rebuild an ancient form of Church. Second, the author seems to believe the failure of our congregations to teach creed based doctrines and systematic theologies has left our children vulnerable to opposing philosophies like atheism. However, church history seems to tell us that a couple of centuries went by without seminaries and disciples grew in loyalty and number.

    Discipleship revolves around the Person Jesus not the world-view of Christianity. This article makes many valid points. But, our young leave our churches over a failure of discipleship. And that is a two-sided coin. On one side, they view our congregations as groups of nice people who are socially supportive of each other. They can certainly find other groups that meet that need. On the other side, if they are disciples, they view our congregations as prioritizing forms of faith expression over the Mission of God. Then, they leave seeking other ways to experience it.

    Now for the scary part. What does this mean about those who settle for what we offer and come back?

    • Jimmy Spencer Jr


  • Tom

    A 2000 year old, historic, objective, faithful gospel based on God’s graciousness; a Church that stands its ground and refuses to become “relevant” and watered down by the culture; sitting with parents, old folks, babies and everyone else in the service; pastors not dressing in jeans and t-shirts; teaching a combination of intelligent faith AND reason in the Catechism; acts of service within and outside of the faith community (a community that also includes those alive in Christ in Heaven); the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law; Wow! Sounds like Catholicism to me. I left Catholicism for Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in my 20s. I reverted back to Catholicism 20 years later, partly due to the things in this article. If you want a Church that can trace its history 2000 years back to Christ as founder, then be Catholic. Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism are recent movements. Even Protestantism is only 500 years old and was founded by men. Sure, Catholicism has its problems, but it carries on after 2000 years because it is Christ’s Church and “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” You can’t “reform” or “restart” the Church that Christ already formed and started. Why reinvent the wheel? Be Catholic. It’s all about God’s grace and our response to that grace.

  • Mark Snowden

    Saved kids who are in today’s churches are largely separated from adults. So, when they leave for college, some find a campus ministry. But they don’t understand or relate to the the organized church–contemporary, progressive, or traditional. They’re looking for an adult youth group and that misses the point. And there’s a difference that does draw back to the way Jesus did it in the Bible. New church plants should seriously look at family integrated churches. Bible Storying is a method that is working well to engage kids 5 and up right along with their parents, grandparents, or community families.

  • Chris

    As an 18 year old college freshman who was raised in the church since I was a fetus, can I just say that pretty much all of these are spot on? I’m getting pretty tired of hipster pastors who are trying to be relevant. Sure, they might be relevant to some, maybe, but seriously. They’re just annoying. Growing up in a small country church, hearing the Word of God preached faithfully and singing songs that were both theologically sound and glorifying to God makes me sad for my peers who didn’t. My pastors have always taken stands on the issues, even if those stands are unpopular in the world’s eyes, yet one of my friends who had also grown up in church had never once heard a sermon on certain public issues. I plea with the older generation of Christians to stop trying to be relevant and just give us the Gospel in love AND truth. If there’s one thing that truly bugs me about today’s theology, it’s all love and no truth. Yes, God does love everyone and wants all to come to know Him, but the cold, hard truth of the Gospel is that we are all dead sinners in need of a Savior. I do not plan to leave the church anytime soon, but seriously, Church, quit spoon-feeding youth and make them think for themselves about cultural issues that they will face in college.

    (My youth pastor did an AMAZING job of preparing us for the “big scary world” outside of the church house.)

    Also, to the person who mentioned kids being separated from parents at a young age and going to Children’s Church, amen! I was taught from a very young age to be still and not fidget in church, a lost art for children and parents, I know!

  • Jimmy Spencer Jr

    I think it is short sighted to equate that because church institutions are shrinking that the Church is shrinking. God is very busy beyond the walls of churches—perhaps its time to realize that God may be birthing something new that these old wineskins will not hold. Perhaps, it time to love people enough to move beyond simply asking “what can we do to get them back as customers of our churches”

    Many we would find that young people are not rejecting the faith of Jesus—they are rejecting our institutions as middle men (this type of change has historically repeated itself on multiple occasions to the benefit of the Church) Food for thought.

  • Gnrlee

    Well stated. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Make it real. Infuse God’s word. Explain why being set apart from the world is critical before reaching out to the world to bring them to Christ.

  • Plank

    I’m 21 years old and I left the church because I finally learned to think for myself. I finally realized that religion is a bunch of superstitious bullshit. I also now have no respect for people who think that if I am an atheist, even if I am a genuinely good person, I will go to hell and suffer eternally. Even if the Judeo-Christian God could be proven to be real, I still would have zero respect for such a closed-minded, arrogent, power-hungry, violent, murdering, evil, being.

    • USMC and America proud

      Then you are right! It is apparent that you were ‘taught’ about a god that doesn’t exist! I gather that from your descriptions, versus the real God of Love that I personally know! If you believe in this cruel god, you need to find the real one, and take Him back to the people who taught you about the cruel one, and take them the truth! I serve a God of love, not a god of lust!

  • Facebook User

    I am a 21 year old who attends church regularly, and I can say that there are a variety of reasons that the youth stray away from church and from God in general.

    #1- Personally, I was raised Catholic, and attended Catholic church growing up. Once you turn a certain age and get your first communion, you are expected to sit in on regular church services, and no longer attend the youth Sunday school. Moreover, This was incredibly boring for me. I didn’t like church, I didn’t understand it anymore. Not only this, but I am biracial (jamaican/hispanic) and I couldn’t relate, being the only person that wasn’y fully hispanic. This caused me to lose interest in catholocism, and church in general. So, the way that church is actually FORMATTED (is it relatable, understandable, etc?) has a lot to do with whether or not kids will continue to attend once they’re on their own.

    #2-What are we being taught? As a Christian, there are many things to learn. BUT at this critical age, (pre-teen to yound adult) there should be lessons that are applicable, understandable, and relatable. Becoming an adult is a tough part of one’s life. In order to keep someone in line with their faith and hungry for God’s knowledge, a kid must be able to relate to what is being taught, and know how to utilize their tools in daily life! One of the best things that I ever received as a teenager, was a bible that was FOR teenagers! It had a reference in the back, and you could look up your problems, and it would show you where the bible answered it.

    #3-Lastly, it’s a fact that sometimes part of someones journey IS straying away from Christ. Although my freshman year of college I did not attend church, I got saved the next year, and have been attending regularly and growing in my faith ever since! I am only 21, but I feel closer to God now more than ever. In college you are taught and exposed to a lot of things, which is why many people stray from their faith. But I believe if the church can do a better job focusing on their youth message, and if parents instill that belief in their childrens hearts while they are growing up (especially during their teenage years) young adults will have a better chance of finding their way back to church, or even better, never straying away from God’s grace during their “growing” and learning years.

  • amos8

    This is one of the best articles I have read here!

    The ever-so trendy “Relevance” and “Community” (and others) are soooooo, uh, trendy.

    I believe the reason why the church as a whole is suffering can be found in the patterns set forth in Genesis 3. To pick just a couple:

    1) As always, the Word of God is being doubted and diminished (and those who are faithful to it are attacked and diminished). [“Did God really say…”]

    2) “What works” (i.e. trendiness) … and “what the culture wants” (see Rob Bell) is given supreme authority in place of faithfulness to God’s Word and its authority for what is right, true, etc. [The extra-special knowledge from the tree of good and evil.]

    Hitch your wagon to what is trendy and you will be stranded in a matter of time.

  • vineyardlww

    In a study in 1994 under the title “Barriers to Belief” in Scotland, Rev. John Campbell says, “many have indicated that one of the greatest barriers to belief in God is the Church itself.” If the problem is the system, then even our best solution is part of the problem. That leaves even the most dedicated, visionary, passionate and revived Christians trapped in a system which is sucking their very energy and is simply overpowering. The way forward, therefore, may not be hidden in slight changes and adaptations to some new forms in “Church as we know it”, but in a much more radical rediscovery of the very nature of Church itself. Wolfgang Simson, Houses That Change the World

  • Pastor Marvin

    Great blog!!

  • Brent Dumler

    I hate to say this because I truly sense the ‘heart’ behind this post. But this article made me sad. The closest truth in the entire 4 pages is point #7…’you sent them out unarmed.” The church in America (dressed in skinny jeans and plaid) is NOT at fault for 70% of college-age individuals leaving church and faith because of how it is dressing, designing their buildings, or naming thier church. Are you kidding me? That’s absurd! And it’s also not as simple as identifying whether or not a student has a saving relationship with Jesus. So they’ve been born again. That’s great but their spiritual journey shouldn’t end there. Their faith family has dropped the ball. That faith family (responsibility) includes their parents and the church! These students have not been effectively discipled! And i mean one-on-one. They haven’t been taught how, or why, to study and interpret the Bible on their own. Most have totally relied on their parents, children’s pastor, youth pastor, senior pastor, camp counselor, and small group leader to define God’s Word and their worldview for them. So when they move away and enter the workforce, military, or college they essentially lose all of those support connections. Preaching in plaid and torn jeans or leading worship with David Crowder Band music is not the problem here. The Church and family have FAILED working together to develop young people who are able to spiritually develop themselves.

  • SJV

    I think the number 1 answer should be in college young people learn about science. Almost all the atheists I know attribute this choice to understanding modern science.

    • amos8

      Good point, but I would say a misunderstanding about science (in general) as well as misinformation or misunderstanding of “science and faith” or in conflict, or “science equals facts” or “faith is what you use when you don’t have facts” or “evolution is a fact” (e.g. it is a theory with more than a few holes).

      Either way, I think you are on to something.

      • ruth

        You obviously don’t understand what a theory is nor do you understand evolution. Evolution is a fact. How evolution operates is governed by well supported theories And no, there isn’t “more than a few holes.”

    • FlatusOhlfart

      yes – god hates facts.

  • Loving mom

    I am 23 married and have a new baby and I think the reasoning do t always go to church is because when I was a teenager there were great youth groups and activities for me to be involved in and now there is nothing for me. The church is two groups of ppl youth and older adults us young adults feel we are not needed in the church and feel not accepted. There’s not even a young adult Sunday school at my church.

  • Franklin Moraus

    This is a real wake-up call message. It is true. Even the parents missed the gospel. I should know. I am one, and only now waking up to the truth that my girls, now teens, never had a gospel foundation. God is gracious. It is day. He is still waiting. The gospel message must be A C E (Anchor, Core and Essence) in everything that we do and live, at home or in the church.

  • N/A

    The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.

  • Shawn O’Connell

    In the now environment of today’s America, I do not blame the Church or the pastors. The younger age will be easily swayed by today’s culture and the Country’s top officials systematically placing their agenda ahead of God’s. Satan has a strong foothold on America at this time. We should not be blaming the people who place God above all else but putting the blame where it should be. Our government is so out of tune with the “Truth” that anyone going out on their own, knows right from wrong but tend to choose wrong because it is an easy path and something new. God knows what he is doing at all times. He is the One who leads people to Jesus. Pastors and people of the Christian faith lay down a foundation that would actually make it a much more pleasant way of life. We all wander, with the younger generation being easily tempted. Moral decay has been ongoing since the beginning of mankind. We must remain vigilant in our love for God and each other. Love begets love. Do not blame anyone, remain humble, speak the truth, love and let the Holy Spirit guide you. Always thank and praise the Lord. Put them altogether with prayer and you are a member of God’s family. This provides a great opportunity to spread the “Good News.”

  • Samuel

    The Church will always be a transitional place where youths, when they begin works, will have pressing issues and concern. They have yet to face major obstacles and is dependent on God to help. A time will come, when the youths have truly settled down, have children of their own, and remembered the days they were raised by parents who went to Church. While the youths may be absent during a certain period of their lives, the Church still stands where it stood, ready to reengsge and reconnect the lost time.

    What I sense is important is the laying of the Christian’s foundation in a child’s life. Amidst the world lures and enticement, the same child, now a young adult or parent can rekindle the love once experienced and return to God. We did not loose our youths, but we must not forget to continuously pray for them.

  • CWVong

    I wonder where they are going? Yes youth are leaving the church. We can analyse what is being done wrong or who’s fault it is perhaps. Blame the parents, blame the world and its teachings, blame a generation. Maybe. I’m not entirely interested who’s fault it is because I don’t think anyone is working out of spite.
    But what is it that calls them away? What if these passionate youths who were seeking God began to find Him and the uncomfortable truth is, what if we the church, are no longer holding the message of God? For God is most powerful, most beautiful, and most compelling. I ask, if the youth are leaving church, where are they going? And why are they going there? Where is God? And what light is He speaking in this situation?

    • Kelly L.

      excellent point !

    • FlatusOhlfart

      I’ve left the church too. I gave 110% before I did. The turning point for me was when I actually read the bible rather than relying upon someone else to tell me what it said.
      The carrot and stick approach of the bible and god’s conditional love are hopelessly mired in myth and superstition. More and more people are waking up to this reality.
      Worse yet, those that remain – do not read, they do not seek truth – only following expeditiously convenient dogma. Evangelical christianity is a religion of convenience and narcissism i.e. ‘just believe and god loves you, god has a plan for you, god listens to you… its all about “you.” its a futile exercise in self-gratification based upon a minimalist ‘faith’ doctrine. That is the empty shell of the american evangelical in 2013.

  • Steve

    People leave the evangelical and charismatic church because it is irrelevant and full of people who don’t practice what they preach or just spew pure discrimination and hatred sugar coated in ‘its the gospel’ narratives. Like wise men said – I love your Christ but I do not like your Christians, Your Christians are so unlike your Christ!!

    • FlatusOhlfart


  • Paul R. Smith

    I guess it all depends upon how you run your church youth ministry. I have worked in youth ministry for over 40 years and now that I am in my sixties I thought I would be retired from it, but I’m still at it. I have always run an integrated program. My kids worship with parents/families every Sunday. We do “youth” activities at other times and I have parents involved with those activities. I also make sure our youth are involved in adult activities (we even serve them lunch once a quarter) and meetings. It’s exciting when without your knowledge they get together and go around and shovel the snow off our senior member driveways. These kids know they are part of the church. Their church! The adults know these kids are not the church of tomorrow, but the church of today and if they do not treat them that way, there will be no church of tomorrow. My kids are now pastors, doctors, counselors, youth workers and teachers to name a few. I can count a former Speaker of the House and a former Miss America among those I have taught. Sure some have gone on to leave the church, but they do so understanding the concept of salvation and grace and what Christ has done for them. However, I have many who are active in church/ministry and are seeing their own kids active in church. So it all comes down to how you raise youth, it takes both parents and church. PS: It’s really tough when your old youth call and tell you…”Guess what, I’m a grandparent!” Ouch. Don’t give up, just keep teaching as Christ did on a personal level.

  • Lindsay Francis

    So right Diego….been in Youth ministry myself I have discovered that parents think they can just pass on the buck and live “Their lives” while the child who only gets like 2hrs from us on a weekly basis is going through a “Life Crisis” growing up. You right many parents do not display Christ in their lives….I have this parent whose son is 19yrs and she will say: ‘I have brought my son up and now it is my turn to enjoy my life” – She has worked all her life, hardly comes to any church meetings, the son is the most confused child, on drugs, dropped of school, etc…..Just so much has gone wrong for this child and there are so many more children in Youth that suffer a similar fate. How much can a Youth leader do….but I give it my all when I am with them. I love them all to bits and make sure I always place myself in their shoes to understand them, after my greatest application is been my own life as a teenager. You are right, parents need to take their role seriously in their kids lives. I have discovered spending time with teenagers that what they desire the most is to be “Accepted”, “Listened to” and “Appreciated” … You can imagine if they not getting that at home how the task of been leaders becomes more challenging. But God loves a challenge and if we say we are servants of Christ then we are going to give it our “ALL” to make sure they feel part of a life, society, community, country, world, universe…Not is impossible in the hands of God, absolutely nothing.

  • Adam

    WANT TO KNOW HOW TO KEEP MORE THAN 90% OF YOUR YOUTH IN CHURCH AFTER HIGH SCHOOL? Check out the book by Rick Mills called “The Big Turn Over!!” It all about student led youth ministry. He used to with with Focus on the Family and he knows his stuff. His message of how to involve kids in church KEEPS THEM IN CHURCH!

    • FlatusOhlfart

      nope… sorry – that will not work. the message is fatally flawed.

  • Maxwell McDaniel

    As a former Christian, I have the disagree with the basic premise of this article, that the problem of Christianity is in the presentation, not the subject. The problem of Christianity lies in the message of the Bible. The problem of evil, the problem of hell, and the unexplained nature of the trinity, have all been explained away by calling them ‘mysteries’ for far too long and my generation finds that increasingly unacceptable. The logical impossibility of the religion, combined with mainline Christianity refusing to accept current science and attempting the force their version of morality on the entire nation through legislation, will continue to lead more and more young people away. Good on them.

    • CWVong

      I agree with you strongly. Evil, hell, and trinity. I put forward though that good, solid, rational explanations of what these are have been put forward. The information, unfortunately, has not yet circulated into the mainstream of church. But that is merely a matter of time and some brave steps and changes will have to be taken. Just as you, I have faith that our youth are in fact pursuing this knowledge and whether they find it in church or not, in time will find it, or the information will find them, for I believe in a force of this universe that saves.

      • FlatusOhlfart

        enlightenment, not dogma, is the path…

        commonly overlooked by the evangelical:

        Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” Gen 3:22

        This is not about original sin, its about enlightenment, know good and evil. the ying and yang. truth. one does not exist w/o the other.

  • Lisa

    Or they grow up and realize that the bible, even though it’s full of stories with good morals, is just another fairy-tale. Like Santa, the bible and god are to keep children from misbehaving. Be good or you will not get presents; be good or you will burn in hell.

    • CWVong

      If being good or burn in Hell, is the only message they got out of church, then I am not surprised they are leaving! That indeed might be the unfortunate message the Church might have been beating out for a long time now. I would stand by the Bible though and say its core message is a lot more about do good things and good things shall follow. In fact, a strong part of the Biblical message is quite the opposite, nothing you do can guarantee good or bad results. Perhaps, if youths did know more of these parts, they would not reach a state of disillusionment when faced with the mounting pressures of life.

      • FlatusOhlfart

        lisa is 100% spot on. The carrot and the stick is the message of the bible’s mythology. Consider this: god casts lucifer out of heaven for his ‘prideful’ ways – yet creates an entire species to worship himself…. then destroys them multiple times for not worshiping good enough. That’s called conditional ‘love’ – that’s not divine, its petty, its anything but divine. Even us mortals know that UNCONDITIONAL love is the path. The biblical god is not that path.

        • Ralph Drees

          God’s love is unconditional for the elect, not for all. That’s a truth you seem to be ignoring.

          • FlatusOhlfart

            by that very definition the biblical god’s “love” IS predicated upon conditional conformity. True grace/love knows no bounds, no conditions.

  • Krissi

    I agree with many points of this article, especially the emphasis it places on getting back to apologetics and systematic theology. However, a couple of things stand out to me. First, the author seems to be making his own assumptions of what the youth are saying without providing the actual comments. Therefore, we are reading his interpretations. Second, why do we as the evangelical community seem to believe that we can’t be contemporary in our music, methodology and also have teaching that is exegetical and fundamental–not watered down. I have been a part of churches that do both well; therefore, I don’t understand why “relevant” triggers within people a kick-back reaction of “soft” theological teaching. I truly don’t believe that the younger population is wincing at contemporary music and worship styles…my experience is that they do appreciate churches that are at least trying to reach out to their population as well as other generations. I believe that when this becomes a part of the conversation we are putting up smokescreens. The main point should stay the main point…what is the church teaching and is that teaching the full report of the gospel message woven throughout the entire church’s life. Is it teaching it as a do-this, don’t do that or as the dynamic Word of God profitable for every aspect of life?

  • Heather

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I wanted to contribute my POV as a young person who left the church but did not abandon my faith. I thought my church was the coolest thing ever growing up. I often thought we should bring our electric guitars and drum-set down the road to my grandma’s church and show those old people how to rock the House of God!

    This momentum carried me all the way to Bible College where I promptly failed to thrive suffocated by the “Law” (and I was a good little non-drinking, non-swearing, always obey the “6-inch” rule Christian girl).

    I still believe (almost) everything I was ever taught but now see the church as shallow and empty. I try to bring my kids a couple times a year (because now that I have kids, I do worry about their spiritual upbringing), but I don’t particularly want to pass whatever this emptiness is that I feel to them and I don’t know how to fix it. So we read the Bible on our own and I keep hoping we will somehow find the “right” church… maybe next Christmas.

    Being raised in a “relevant” church (I love that point BTW) has left me unable to sit in an “irrelevant” i.e. traditional church that preaches the Word. All those times my old pastor reveled in the fact that we were “alive” and “filled with the Holy Spirit” compared to the conservative “dead” churches echo in my mind. And it’s hard not to see that still as the entire service is printed in a bulletin and we do little more than read through it beginning to end (I don’t bother with contemporary churches anymore).

    Last note: I think what differed for me (vs the young adults who abandon the church AND their faith) was my love of the Word. I read my Bible often and thoughtfully and tested the things I was learning in school against it. That Word did not depart from me. My mom left the church when I was young and my dad stuck it out for the kids’ sakes a few years longer, so you can blame them for my failings if you want. But I don’t. I never stopped believing; I just can’t bring myself to go to the same church more than three times.

  • Michelle Jones Chastain

    I as a 45 year old who was raised in church and the RAN away when I got the chance I agree with the fact that the foundation of Christianity – Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sin – was never communicated. We were entertained and we did community service projects but keeping the rules was the main focus. I think missing the message of salvation is bigger than just the youth though. Why do adults want to be part of another “club”? If we don’t being Christ crucified from the pulpit and in our daily lives we have missed the boat entirely.

  • Michael P.

    In my personal opinion, the big reason is that the church is full of a lot of creed; a lot of little things that sets every church perceivably different. They see the broken up parts of christianity. They also see a church staunchly held in the assumption that they have a answer for everything. But i would question the authenticity of that claim. Christianity has to answer more questions than ever, with relevant answers if we hope to hold them.

  • Wilma Swartz

    As a regular churchgoer and puppet minister, I’ve witnessed the loss of churchgoers. It’s primarily because people of all ages have a very short attention span thanks mainly to video games. TV shows have picked up on it and now have shorter segments, go to another subject but then return to the original subject. I’ve been writing puppet ministry scripts each week for the Church of the Nazarene in Ligonier, Indiana. Rev. John Lutton uses Phil O’Dendren, a hippie Bigfoot character, to help with his sermons. His church had a small group but as word got around that Rev Dude (as Phil calls him) his church has seen a remarkable increase in churchgoers. So much so that there’s talk about starting a 2nd service on Sundays and also building a larger church. At Christmas time,St. Andrews Episcopal Church’s pastor, Father Martir Vasquez wanted to do something special for his congregation so knowing I write scripts, asked me if I’d partner with him and create a big Christmas sermon. The subject was the Advent wreath and the candles and a different puppet told about it with Father Martir. A week prior to this sermon, we advertised it in the program that next week bring you camcorders and cameras because you are going to see a sermon done by Father Martir that St. Andrews has never seen before. The church was jammed packed with standing room only. Father Martir also wanted to do his Spanish congregation so I told him if he’d translate my script into Spanish, I’d perform with him in Spanish. Father Martir and I got standing ovations and just last Saturday, we changed the Easter Egg Hunt and included the entire community around the church. We started off with a prayer then I did my Easter show ending with my 6′ ostrich puppet, Sandy Twinkletoes, with bunny ears, lining up everyone and we danced the Bunny Hop out to the field where the eggs were hidden. At the end of the line was the Easter Bunny. We were expecting 20 kids and got around 50 kids with their parents. During my show, they had to run to the store to get more eggs. They all loved the event and said that they are going to come more often. One family asked me why we didn’t have the hunt on Sunday during the gap between the masses and I said that then all these kids would’ve been at their churches and we couldn’t steal them from those. This past Sunday, many of them were there. To bring in new people and keep the old, you have to change with the times. Don’t get stuck in a rut where the congregation can recite what’s next without a program. You need to keep them guessing. I’m not saying you need to use puppets but you need a gimmick and without that gimmick, you’re going to constantly see a loss in population in your church. We can do it but we need to show initiative and stamina and originality. Yes, we still are doing the Bible but we’re doing it with a new fling. Many pastors and vestry members don’t want to try new things. The Episcopal Diocese’s Bishop of the state of Arizona is a professional ventriloquist and he has been using this talent to bring in new members and he’s doing it. Find your knitch and go with it. You’re not going to see it in 1 service. It could take a year because word has to get out about what you’re doing different. WE DEFINITELY CAN DO IT! ALL WE NEED IS TO COME UP WITH THE RIGHT STUFF.

  • Phil Stacey

    I think we’ve failed them by thinking its up to us to retain them… We forget that its the Holy Spirit – and not man – that draws people to Him. I believe that if we focus on lifting Him up, He will draw people to Him. You’re forgetting here that we still have plenty of great traditional churches with DMin Pastors who constantly teach and preach doctrine – and they have the same statistics as modern “relevant” churches. It’s not our job to retain youth. Its our job to give to the Lord of our time and talents and available resources and let Him do the hard part. Geez – its tough enough to get people to volunteer to lead children’s church without letting them know that they’ll be blamed for those kids leaving church when they get older…

    • amos8

      That’s great, Phil, but what responsibility, if any, do we have? That’s the point.

      What can we do?

      What should we not do?

      What are we doing that might influence a person’s decision to walk away?

  • tiffanie

    I read this because it’s about me in a way. I’m 23 years old, I graduated high school and havent been back to church since. I can tell you that I didn’t go back because I never liked going to begin with. I’m very spiritual and faithful, but at church I felt like I never fit in and frankly every second I spent at church was boredom.

  • Roy Baldwin

    As already mentioned in a few other comments but wanted to bring further conversation to this missing factor of parents.

    I really enjoyed reading Marc’s perspective and feel he made some tremendous points. The reality of the role of parents in their children’s faith development cannot be underestimated. I know Deuteronomy 6 is thrown around a lot in regards to the parents Biblical mandate in raising children who love the Lord, but for parents…you cant really pass on what you dont have yourself.

    Christian Smith who was a big part of the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina and author of “Souls in Transition” has identified key factors to ensure lasting faith: #1 Parents…Christian Smith has stated, “The most important pastor a child will ever have in their life is a parent.” The church needs to do a better job of equipping parents to fulfill this charge. #2 Personal Devotion…children need to develop their own practice of prayer and Scripture reading. #3 Personal Beliefs…practices chastity, reconcile faith doubts, teased for their faith, and has experienced God work in their lives.

    Our children need to see life in Christ lived out 24/7 in the home…they need to see their parents living our their sonship and daughtership as they fulfill their callings as a family, as husband and wife.

    My wife and I went through a very difficult period a few years ago (job loss, housing situation, etc.) Our 3 children were 10, 5 and 1. When we prayed together as a family we sought the Lord’s favor and direction. As the Lord met our needs from food and clothing, to jobs and housing, our children saw 2 people (mom and dad) seeking the Lord and saw tangible evidence that the Lord we served was not only faithful….but good, even in the midst of trial. Now that my children are older we still reflect on that time knowing that He was faithful then…He is faithful today. To me…that is the key.

    Instead of families abdicating to the Church…and Churches usurping from the parents…it really needs to be a beautiful union of calling, discipleship and equipping together fulflling the mandate of the Gospel….starting with my own children.

  • Betty Draughn

    I agree with Diego in a lot of ways. Parents have to live a Christ-like life in the home and even then they sometimes leave. We lived a Christ-like life as best we could (everyone slips sometime), I of our children became a pastor the other is a go to church twice a year on Easter and Christmas. We still haven’t given up on her because “all things are possible with God.” Most kids spend maybe 2 hours, sometimes three in church. The parents have them the rest of the time. I do agree that pastors should not dress like teenagers. They should wear a suit and tie as well as the other men if they can afford to buy one. The pastor should wear one if he has to go to the thrift store to buy it. Women should dress as ladies, not like the world. The Word says we are to be different from the world. And what is wrong with teenagers and kids wearing their Sunday best? They may not have suits to wear or really nice dresses, but God deserves our very BEST when we go to worship Him.

  • MjjrMom

    I think you all have valid points here and there, but I have to agree with those who say the bulk of the responsibility in teaching and instilling faith in kids lies with the parents, not the local organized, institutionalized body of believers known in America as the “church.” My husband was on the staff of two different churches for about 20 years, starting out as a youth pastor and eventually switching roles to worship pastor. We have four children, all of whom are adults. Our youngest is 21. When she was 2 and our oldest was 16, my husband resigned his position, went back to school (after a B.A. And an M.Div.), and got a teaching credential and left church work forever. We had come to the point of realizing that the program-based design of almost all churches is woefully lacking and not what “church” really means. I’m not just talking about children’s church, the Balkanization of families, or watery sermons, I’m talking about the very structure of how churches operate. The gospel is about RELATIONSHIPS, both vertical and horizontal, and none of the churches we had grown up in or attended in adulthood were about that. They were about numbers and programs. We were ready to barf (is that what God means in Revelation when he tells Laodicea he wants to spew them out of his mouth?). So we left programs behind and began a small house church, where our children were active participants WITH US in everything we did: ministering to the homeless, meals to the sick, helping widows with house payments, groceries, or whatever. All four of our children have “Kept the faith” as they left home, and all have found a ministry unique to who they are, outside of “church.” The younger three grew up without Sunday services or youth groups or programs. I agree with the article that the American church has lost its moorings and become a parody of the surrounding culture. Parents, however, can counteract that.

  • David

    This reads to me a like a religious version of the “pundit’s fallacy.” If you watch or read political pundits you see it all the time; the presumption that the key for success (for a politician, or political party) is to…do what I’ve wanted them to do all along. The author clearly has an agenda for what Churches should be, which is different from how they are. Fine. But instead of arguing directly for their version of religion, they try and argue indirectly, by saying, “do what I want, and your followers will come”. It may be true, but there are good reasons to not trust the speaker.

    My own view is one that is frustrating to many evangelicals: the forces that are leading 2/3 of young people raised in church to leave, half permanently, are probably beyond your control. Secularization is a social process with many complex causes, and it has occurred in societies with many different styles of religious service. In advanced, modern, free societies, the portion of the population that is made up of religious believers is going to shrink over time, for reasons that are largely (although not entirely) beyond the control of religious organizations. What’s that prayer about the wisdom to accept what you can’t change and change what you can and understand the difference? This article needs a dose or two of it. There’s no magic formula for reversing this sort of social process. Be the kind of Christian God calls you to be, and minister to others. What comes of it is beyond our control.

  • Catholic Mama

    You gave them spiritual….but forgot the physical. The church needs Christs body blood soul and divinity. Come to the Mass! Christ is the fulfillment of all our desires….we need him spiritually and physically. The Mass has Christ physically and no amount of christian rock concerts will fill our need to be physically one with christ like The Eucharist does. Come home to the Catholic Church and let the Holy Spirit Soar! We miss you!

  • elizabeth

    I left because all I was told was don’t do this or that…. not do what you can and let God do the rest. Which I then figured out later on in life. It’s not what I should be doing but what God is wanting to do through me as I connect to him in my human nature and allow him to transform me. It’s a random blessing that I did not discredit the church as a whole for being legalistic.. I was more afraid of the church people and what they would think then of God. Life is so much easier now.

  • Mattymae

    I think that there is too much law and not enough love in our christian churches. If church members really want to help youth then just lend an ear; be a mentor. Children need to be accepted just as they are. If all you care about is preaching to them all you are saying is: “I want you to believe what I do and I don’t care about where you came from or what you are going through or what you feel.” Jesus ate with criminals. The least we can do is love and accept people that come into churches just the way they are. Then offer help when asked for. Many church members don’t even greet newcomers; just keep chattering to those they know. First you have to get to know them and accept them so they will trust you. Then you can share stories and how you overcame certain sins.

    And you got to lose those old boring hymns from the 1800’s; no one can relate to them anyhow. Preachers need to speak in a way that people can apply the knowledge to their every day lives not like they lived thousands of years ago.

  • Lisa Henley

    I’m here because I saw this post (from a friend of a friend) on my facebook newsfeed and as I am one of those youths who left the church as a young adult (and lost my belief just recently at 40), this topic is a deeply personal one for me. It’s important to be clear that stopping church attendance is a very different thing to losing your belief. The “still believes” but “can’t be bothered getting up” person would be pretty easy to win back to the fold. The thing is though that if you lose your belief completely, then you need real evidence to get it back. I guess that puts me roughly in the category 8 in your article above – although I’m slightly disturbed by the quote marks around “doubts” and “deep thoughts”. Do you think these are bad things? I personally think that critical thinking is one of humanity’s greatest features.

    I was at the point where I was right on the fence regarding “Is there a God?” and I spent a year of my free time examining both sides of the story. I honestly could have been swayed either way. For me, none of my doubts were answered in any depth, let alone the great depth you speak of. Like most atheists, I would happily change my mind if somebody could show me some irrefutable evidence that there is a God, but nobody has. I saw the strong correlation between place of birth and belief ‘flavour’ as a slightly sad warning bell. I realised how most people believe what they do because their parents did. So maybe I’d rename category 8 – They no longer believe.

    And this truly isn’t a bad place to be. A huge weight of guilt and shame has been lifted. I don’t believe, I don’t think I was born corrupt, I don’t feel weak, sinful and like I need saving. I think I’m a reasonably ‘good’ human being. I try to be anyway. I must embrace uncertainty and take responsibility for the direction of my life (as much as within my control, life can throw some curve balls). I aim to live my life as well as I can and will die when I die. There will be no praising God for eternity, or burning in a torturous hell. Just nothing. And I’m ok with that.

    I still have a way to go working through the feelings of anger and grief that go along with leaving the fold, because I almost feel slightly ripped off in terms of my youth, particularly as most of my relatives and many old friends are still believers. I have to watch my nieces and nephews and the children of my friends being indoctrinated. I take comfort that my parents were and still are true believers, and it all came from a place of love. From my point of view as a parent, my son is very clear on the difference between fact and belief and I encourage him to question things that don’t make sense…including things I say.

    I’m sorry this is so long, I could go on about this subject forever! :-)

  • Tod Thompson

    Great article. Best I’ve read here in quite awhile.

  • Truth

    We do not put God first in our families, at home, behind close doors,………………What they see at home is for sure not what they see in Church , two faces.
    Many parents have made Church a Idol. I know many wonderful home-schooling moms, they love Jesus and they are teaching their children about the Bible. But they have not given them the Gospel, they have not lead the children to Christ. They assume their children are Christians but they are not, because they are Christian doesn’t make their children Christian. Come on parents it is not to late to focus on your family from God’s point of view.

    • FlatusOhlfart

      and what exactly is “god’s point of view?”

  • daviddinTX

    The overarching problem with the church today is there are relative few Godly men. Men are called to be the heads of the family just as Christ is head of the church. No godly men, no Godly families!

    • FlatusOhlfart

      what is a ‘godly’ man? someone that thinks they ‘know god?’ Who is this pious creature?

  • Jo

    Allow me as a young adult and a Bible professor, to add a few reasons:

    1) Our students don’t know the Old Testament. Therefore, when someone brings to their attention the facts of the Old Testament (genocide, incest, polygamy, misogyny) it startles them. They leave because they cannot make sense of this portion of the Bible. It was only ever taught as cute little fairy tales for the nursery. Noah’s ark, it turns out, is truly horrific. TEACH THE OT.

    2) They were not taught Christian history. Learning about the failures of the church is truly disorienting. All a secular teacher has to do is bring these up repeatedly. The students often can’t even ask their parents or pastors about it, because the adults don’t know it either. TEACH CHURCH HISTORY.

    3) The church is deeply involved in child abuse. It might be a secret to the parents, but it isn’t a secret to the kids. Excessive “spanking” qualifies, as young people will learn in the first marriage and family class so often required in undergrad. (I’m not talking about a swat on the toddler’s behind, I’m talking about the 10 year old who gets bruises for saying the s* word.) And then there is also the whole repetitive scandal of sexual abuse. It keeps coming out that parents, youth pastors, senior pastors, missionaries, and Christian school teachers have in fact been fondling the children. How much more disgusted can we get? There is no trust left. KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF!

    4) The church often doesn’t focus on concrete application. Doctrine can easily be dispensable, especially if the rubber never meets the road. I’m not talking here about “be good.” I’m talking about bringing the Bible down to the level of “What can I do today?” “What can I change tomorrow?” And I’m not suggesting that pastors tell the young people what to change. Rather, TEACH them HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE AND APPLY IT ON THEIR OWN. And please, stop cramming baby food down the teenager’s mouths.

    5) Our churches are exceedingly caught up in 1950’s mentalities. Women are incapable of leadership. Wedded bliss is expected of all people at all times. Homosexuals are somehow worse than people who have been through 3 divorces. Oh, and black people and white people don’t belong in the same church. Really?! The ideas just don’t hold up. If you know your church history and your Bible you will find that CHRISTIANITY SHOULD BE UNIVERSAL AND ACCESSIBLE: to every age, race, sexual orientation, marital status and economic situation.

    6) Yes, we do occasionally have to work on Sunday. We have to make money to eat food. We have to keep our jobs. And if you want to eat at a restaurant after church, we might need to be there making the food while you are enjoying worship. FIND OTHER TIMES TO CONNECT. Is there a midnight small group? A six AM prayer breakfast? A Sunday evening service? We might be able to make it.

    • FlatusOhlfart

      when you say “church history…” are you going to be honest about eusebius and all the fabricated ‘ecclesiastical history’ he concocted?

      Let me ask you this, if indeed you are a ‘bible professor’ – you must be aware of the trial of jesus no? can you show me anywhere in any historical records, roman, greek, hebrew, egytian or otherwise where there was a “tradition” of setting a convicted criminal free for passover? i.e. Barabbas.

  • Timothy Turner

    Sad days indeed. I see alot of this in the church body. There seems to be a program inspired move, rather than a movement of God upon the person. I totally agree with 90 % of this article. As a childrens pastor, I am 51, I dont try to be 12 anymore….I present the gospel according to Jesus, we do use alot of media, but we use it in ways to draw the kids curosity out. We do make it fun, but we do bring it home so that each age kid can make thier choice. God give us wisdom in delivering your word to children. I dont want to stand before God with a watered down gospel.

  • Marg

    I do agree that it is partially up to the parents, but also, I’m seeing kids these days getting mixed messages. The part about “hypocrites” strikes a chord – how can we expect kids to attend church when they hear about some church leaders abusing children, or those that twist the gospel for their own sick agenda (Branch Dividians come to mind). Kids don’t know where to turn anymore. Sad, but true. Parents need to be diligent in making sure their kids know God’s love and purpose. Kids are naturally curious, and hopefully, by instilling their own faith in their kids, we can get them back to church.

  • Troy S

    First of all, P. Rivalto, Mar Komus, Cathleen, Nate, Jodi Traherne, Kathy Baldock, John and the author’s #2 and #3, are all making really good points. Secondly, I’ll give an objective (what I’ve heard others say) and subjective (what I say) response to this (I apologize in advance for the length): the objective, at least what I’ve heard out of the mouths of the many skeptics/agnostics I have in my life (most of whom grew up in evangelical churches), is that they were burned, almost overwhelmingly, by either legalism (rarely explicitly taught, but practiced) or unlove and ungrace (toward questions, new ideas, homosexuals, sin, etc.) from their church. The first (legalism) made them feel enslaved and trapped, the second (ungrace) made the love and kingdom of God seem very conditional and reserved for those who had it together. The subjective reason I will give is an overarching theme that the author of this article touched on but didn’t delve into much, out of which I think every point he and the comment-ors (and those agnostics) flows, that being that our goal from the very get-go renders our cause lost: we’re trying to keep kids in the church, in Christianity, not in Jesus. Now, my point here isn’t to throw Christianity or any -anity under the bus, but just to highlight that “Christianity” is (or at least has become) an organization made up of people who happen to be people and therefore do messed up things and therefore are perfectly capable of taking something beautiful, like God or the gospel, and make it look really ugly. Every one of the author’s 10 points describes things done within “Christianity” quite regularly (especially points 2 and 3), when meanwhile, throughout the gospels, Jesus describes ONE THING as being our “bread” and “way” and “life” and “door” and “beginning and end” and “resurrection” and “water.” And He claims that that thing is a Person – Himself. He says HE is all those things to us and for us, not a group or organization. The only line He seems to draw is around Himself. Which makes me wonder why our focus seems to be on keeping kids going to church instead of on introducing our kids to the beauty and worth of a Person. Jesus offers explicitly as life and fullness a genuine, deep, dynamic, loving relationship with Himself, and that relationship as the basis for any ounce of good that could flow out of a person, and it is mind-boggling how little the church seems to be emphasizing this. The church so often offers the gospel as a change-your-life method or a clean-up-your-behavior method or a get-to-heaven method instead of as reconciliation with a Person that we committed adultery against (the “church,” then, is the people who have been reconciled to this Person). The whole goal of Jesus and the gospel is to get us to a Person (I Pet 3:18). And without experiencing the life and fullness and purpose and value of that Person in relationship as Jesus describes and as the gospel aims to achieve, of course our children are going to feel disenchanted by the programs and strategies and formulas and lists of the church and “Christianity” – which seems to be really good at using “worship” or “service” (or “name something”) of God as individual acts done in the course of “doing” Christianity instead of being facets/aspects/results of a full, life-satisfying relationship with a Person. Without that, we’ve missed the whole point of Jesus coming to earth and the gospel, and leave our kids feeling very unsatisfied, and in those cases, I can’t really blame them for wanting to leave.

    • alena

      Troy, absolutely agree with you. This is exactly what my dad has been saying for years!

  • Bobbie

    I truly believe that a child who has been raised with the faith of Jesus Christ will return to their faith at some point in their life. We need to preach the Bible and not “feel good” Christianity.

  • Marc Leverett

    There is a factor that we pastors and parents are hesitant to admit. Many young adults leave the church because they become sexually active and marriage is either something unobtainable or is actually economically punished by the parents. They feel guilty for living a double life so it is easier to remove oneself from the source of the guilt than the cause of it. Money is provided for a college kid to spend 4 years in promiscuity, but if the child gets married the parents often cut him or her off financially. Maybe we need to promote earlier marriage for some rather than expect them to be celibate into their mid twenties. Are we being realistic? Interestingly enough these same young adults, once married, often drift back to church now that they are legit and also desiring to have their children in church.

  • Jason Culp

    This is an interesting article to say the least, and though I cannot speak on the behave of anyone other then myself, here is my 2 cents worth. Lets start with my history. From age 0-7 I was Catholic, brought up in a Catholic home, baptized Catholic the whole bit. I woke up one Sunday morning when I was 7 and instead of going to the Catholic Church down the street that we always went to, We went to an RCA Church in a different town 30 minutes away. We attend that Church until I was 13. At age 13 we moved to Holland, Michigan (from Grimsby, Ontario Canada) so my father could finish his schooling in a shorter time frame to become a Reverend/Pastor/Minister (there are so many names for them now it is not even funny). My father graduated and was Ordained into his first Church when I was 15. So yes, I was part of this articles statistic. But this articles has a few very big things missing. From early years to age 20, what the heck was going through those kids minds? What did these kids witness?

    See here is what I witnessed and saw. I saw a bunch of adults SAY, WORSHIP and PRAISE that they were Christian and with hold their Christian upbringing AT CHURCH ON SUNDAY. When our family was invited to another families household for lunch or supper, that upbringing WAS GONE completely. No more questions on “What Would Jesus Do”. No more talk about God or Jesus at all other then a prayer before we ate.

    I witnessed harm from each and every Church to strangers of each Church in their own way. Think about it. In school we are taught to accept everyone as an individual. At Church do YOU or your Congregation accept EVERYONE AS THEY ARE? In other words. If a homosexual (who advertised them self as homosexual) but sat down in your Churches Sanctuary how would you or your congregation respond? I have seen many of people hurt by Churches in this manner at a very young age.

    My point is, children absorb EVERY LITTLE DETAIL, even if they don’t exactly know or understand it. How many false promises have been made in your Church, or how many times has your Church said to a business owner, “Do business in a Christian way” and then turned around and put in a illegal elevator, or didn’t get the right permit just to get something done cheap? It is a PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH point. We tell our children to obey their parents. So of course they will Sing in worship teams, and attend youth groups, and those with leadership qualities will eventually lead their given area of strength. But once they are not “obeying”, their really feeling towards the Church will come out. And because they CAN, they will not attend.

    Again just my 2 cents worth.

  • Mark Souverville

    I agree with all the reasons. I see that happening. It is sad. The thing is, we are getting more and more spiritually immature as a group and these are some of the consequences. There needs to be a lot of sustained, genuine repentance by the parents and leaders for this to begin to turn around.

  • Myk Lambert

    I’ve been a youth pastor for just under thirty years. I’ve watched generations of kids ebb in and out of churches. The reasons are impossible to count. But mostly, it’s about finding a way to be relevant with the most relevant truth that can ever be shared. We have watered down the Gospel, failed to challenge the minds of young people who are searching, failed to call them out when they need to be and failed to praise them when we should. We have become a church that is more concerned about maintaining the buildings and not as concerned reaching to lost and making fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. After thirty years, what I’ve come away with is this. The Holy Spirit will do the work if I continue to be faithful and stay out of the way. Those who know Jesus need to be thinking about how far they will go, what rights and comforts they will give up for the sake of those who are lost. Kids and their parents need to be reached. So does the mail man, the waitress, the store clerk, toll booth operator..ect..ect. What ever we need to do with the our building, our worship, our teaching or preaching that makes that possible, we need to do that. For the church to be relevant today means it needs to change. Not compromise, but change. We have so many roaming the faith that believe that the church owes them something. But that’s just not true. The truth is that we owe Jesus Christ everything and need to start acting like it in order to be relevant to those that don’t know Him.

  • BanishGospelPC

    There is merit in much of the content of this article, but it errs in some of the same ways it criticizes many churches. Specifically, there is a Political Correctness that has taken over the evangelical community with analogous results to the PC of the popular culture. Some of this is rooted in the pervasive Calvinist and other doctrines that use code words such as Sovereignty of God, God’s Plan (for your life), Justification, Trust in God, Atonement, Salvation by Faith, etc. Even theologians that seek Biblical consistency find themselves having to be particularly obscure when stepping around such topics. Of course, Liberal theologians aren’t bound by any of these limitations, but the fruit of their efforts does not conform well with Scripture (in my opinion). When a child dies, why do some ministers feel compelled to say something to the effect “in our pain we can find comfort that God must have wanted little Johnny to be with him…”. Why do others refer to passages about trusting God with the implication that we just sit back and let God do it all. Why are coincidences so often treated as God exercising his will in our lives? When was the last time you heard a teacher of the word emphasize that the Bible is not a mathematical treatise or systematic theology, but rather a means for God to reveal Himself and his ways to us? How helpful to young people seeking answers is all the second coming chatter that pervades so many churches? How infrequently do we hear a deep discussion of the Problem of Pain or Problem of Evil with solid Biblical underpinnings? In my experience, there are good teachers of the Word out there, but they are vastly outnumbered by those whose own understanding is shallow (blind leading the blind?). I believe that a portion of the problem is more serious than this article implies. Kids are leaving the Church because there isn’t much of Christ’s Church there. How many of us know the “why” of our own beliefs in some depth, rather than a few verses we learned as children? Start with really big stuff like what makes you believe in God? Why did God decide to send Jesus? What does it mean that John 3:16 says “God so LOVED the world that he sent His only Son…” rather than “God was so ANGRY with the world that he sent His only Son…” How does the Jesus’ death on the cross relate to our sinful nature? How does that work?

  • Lauren Mullen

    This article hits home, except for the part about being okay with jumbotrons and pizza parties. That’s kinda the problem: the whole evangelical culture of “Entertain, entertain, entertain.” That is not what the church is for and that is not what Christ came for. That’s another big reason why kids don’t go back to “church”, because, like the article alludes to, it was never church to begin with. I also totally agree with what other comments have said about the lack of parental involvement; in fact, that’s a good 60-70% of why we have this stupid entertainment-and-me-first culture posing as a true church, because parents don’t want to bother doing the spiritual heavy-lifting back at home.

  • Jules

    Thank you for the thought you put into this article. Some of it certainly hit home. However, for me it comes down to my perception that the thing we call church today is more truthfully a non-profit organization with a building, some paid staff, and a group of donor/members. I imagine almost all American church organizations fit that description and I don’t believe it serves God well. It seems like the more power structures, material things, and complexities we inject in to the body of Christ, the quicker the focus leaves Christ and any desire to reflect his character to unbelievers. Within the multitude of churches I’ve be a part of, it almost always seemed like the truest (if unspoke) objective was to sustain and grow the organization in physical/organizational terms, which was of course always justified with religiosity. Ultimately though, the organization was a place for donor/members to promote their own theology of words-over-deeds, law-over-grace, Christian-vs-Non-Christian, and worldly power (politics and military) over spiritual power to create a “Christian” Nation. This is why I am happily in the nearly-unchurched catagory. I drifted from the organization, but not from Christ. In my heart I believe it was much the opposite. I now use the organization that I was once guilted into attending and supporting for what it is truely good for – to occasionally network with other believers and provide encouragement, before going out into the world.

  • MarciH

    I read a great quote once. It was either from “Radical” or “Not a Fan.” A dad was talking to the preacher about how his daughter had left church, and he said, “We raised her in church, but not in Christ.” I think that statement sums everything up.

  • Geo

    Preach the Gospel in its fullness to your children, operate a church that is faithful to the gospel, and let God take care of the rest.

    • Guest

      have you read the gospels?

    • Ralph Drees


  • plummerfan16

    As someone who “left” the church (want to clarify that I left church, not Christ), I think a big reason is the amount of conformity. I remember being in Sunday school, and everything was black and white. If you had a different view on anything, you were wrong because the church is always right, and we don’t need an explanation because we’re the church. I understand that many of my personal feelings toward churches is due to my experiences with the many churches I went to and may not apply to others who have found themselves distanced from the church. In response to your number in which you said that you hear people say the church is full of hypocrites. In my experience, this is very true. Of the handful of churches I attended, there always seemed to be a large amount of people that were only there because it looks good to go to church. People that make snide comments and look down at you because you missed church last weekend, or you listen to “un-Godly music” (e.g. ACDC, Judas Priest, The Clash, etc.), or because your parents are divorced. Then, you can quote scripture that they can’t, and they can’t even list the 10 commandments, or more than 3 books of the Bible. Again, just my personal experience. The only place that I’ve found a “pure” church was during BMT. No one looks down on you, and you are all equals.

  • FlatusOhlfart

    I’ve left the church too. I gave 110% before I did. The turning point for me was when I actually read the bible rather than relying upon someone else to tell me what it said.
    The carrot and stick approach of the bible and god’s conditional love are hopelessly mired in myth and superstition. More and more people are waking up to this reality.
    Worse yet, those that remain – do not read, they do not seek truth – only following expeditiously convenient dogma. Evangelical christianity is a religion of convenience and narcissism i.e. ‘just believe and god loves you, god has a plan for you, god listens to you… its all about “you.” its a futile exercise in self-gratification based upon a minimalist ‘faith’ doctrine. That is the empty shell of the american evangelical in 2013.

    • Ralph Drees

      If you mean a particular congregation, your point is valid… if you mean you left the faith, you were never of the faith.

      • FlatusOhlfart

        as in left the ‘faith.’ Still believe in a higher power but most certainly not of the bible. And yes, until I actually read and studied for myself, I was ‘faithful’ – yet the self-righteous, judgmental ‘christian,’ such as yourself, sees fit to make such specious assessment of my prior ‘faith.’ you prove my point in spades.

  • Spike

    Wow!! I found the comments to this piece to be much more interesting and revealing than the article itself. While able to pick out some truths and important points in the text, I was left with a nagging feeling and unresolved frustration that it didn’t move me any closer to solving the dilemma. This comes from that, like the majority of more ‘mature’ Christians, we also have little clue how/what/when/and whether to believe our faith. We continue to let our faith remain somewhat mysterious, confusing, and in some cases downright perplexing. I think part of the reason for this is simply strength and power from being on the ‘inside’ and being of the ‘knowing’ ones.
    Yes, we have attempted to ‘repackage’ our message and the ways we explain and deliver it to appeal to a more contemporary audience. But I think we do this as a matter of survival. We shouldn’t continue to drone away with the same old tired messages and songs, most of which put those in the pews to sleep anyway. When was the last time you asked someone at service what they thought of the message and how it could impact their lives now? If I hear the parable of the Prodigal Son once more I thing I will scream.
    When was the last time you noticed people responding (or even singing) to the music?

    Let’s start by changing our services from those of a funeral; dwelling on the afterlife to those with energy about how to be alive today!
    And youth? Try attending not only one but several youth gatherings. I submit you will walk away with a feeling of encouragement that this new breed can/is carrying our faith forward. Sure, their enthusiasm is wide open; the music loud and sometimes uncomfortably energetic; their declarations inspiring and thought-provoking. But their involvement is much more than 1 hour on a Sunday morning. But, it surely excites me a whole lot more than a typical, middle class, Sunday worship service we all grew up on!!

  • Gerbrand van Schalkwyk

    Step one in keeping kids coming to church is to involve them in prayer groups. let them actively take part and learn to experience God.
    Step 2 is to give them responcibility for outreach programs. Jesus did it, we must to.
    Step 3 is to make them belong. Too many churches focus on giving interesting sermons but there is no interaction among members. In fact the children meet each other far more than any other age group.
    The next very important point is to REDUCE CHURCH ATTENDENCE NUMBERS. Yes. Reduce. Modern churchs are so big almost everybody is not attended too and doesnt attend to anyone else. Reduce the church members and increase the number of churchss so that members can once again care for one another. Show Gods love to oneanother. Not just come to get some interesting info.

  • Charles Gillihan

    Your last comment on the Law of God as being the culprit is a bit off-base. If you mean strictly law without the Gospel, then you are right on. The law reflects the character of God, the moral law that is. All of our behavior has a law-infusion about it. We are being conformed to God’s law over time, as that is His nature and we are being conformed to His nature. The problem comes when we don’t balance the Gospel and understand Justification and Sanctification and Grace along side Law.

  • His servant

    Plant the seed and let the Holy Spirit do His work ;)

  • Ralph Drees

    They went out because they weren’t Christians, truly regenerate, and born again by the Holy Spirit; they were not the elect of God. Plain and simple.

    Now if they leave your congregation and go to another congregation, with a Christ centered Gospel, my answer changes… it’s entirely your church’s fault.

    Most of these answers here pretty much illuminate the majority of the problem with American evangelicalism. You think it’s not enough programs, or simple participation that makes the difference. It’s a heart level change in them that makes the difference. If you’re using Carnal and seeker friendly means to win tithing church goers, that is what you will get–but you won’t win souls.

  • Quincy A. Jones

    Mr. “Solas”,

    When I first saw the title to this article I was hopeful…hopeful that I was going to get honest answers and some good insight from fact driven research and direct interviews getting perspective from the youth/college kids themselves – i.e. – real reasons. I was sorely disappointed as all I read was bias…this is nothing more than Reformed (or “Gospel-driven” church) rant against everything you believe diminishes the gospel within American evangelicalism. Its why you had to add the beginning disclaimer, because you knew it was a rant and not research.

    I want to give you some facts – I have an almost 22 year old child who is struggling with the faith and she was raised in Reformed circles – good solid bible teaching churches. I have been a youth pastor and leader in Reformed/Calvinistic churches with “sound doctrine” and I have seen a good number of youth “defect” from the faith, or at least a healthy and vibrant for often intellectual reasons. But it is not because they weren’t given “the faith once delivered”, they were catechized, they were inculcated and steeped in it; it was their weekly diet. I believe it is because we have all (including the Reformed) not allowed our young people to live in the healthy skepticism that begins to form when they first begin to enter into the real world – the real world of their own sin struggles, the real world of their disillusionment and disgust with the inconsistency of their parents and a church that also struggles with sin but carries on self-righteously judging the world and the culture they live in, and so they naturally have doubts about the real power of the gospel and its most important principle – love – when they don’t see it in effect. They also struggle with the great chasm that exists between Christian/Reformed idealism (i.e., looking at the world through the lens of doctrine) and the realism they live in. At the core, we do not allow them to struggle openly and honestly with the genuine existential and intellectual questions that come with Reformed and evangelical doctrine. We answer away dismissively skepticism regarding the historicity and ethical problems of the bible, the problem of evil, the problem presented by Reformed predestinarian doctrine, the problem of injustices of the church historically, and so much more…To say it another way, we do not self-critically question the faith for them and thus resonate with their real/genuine concerns and THEN provide satisfying answers nor do we allow people to just live with a healthy skepticism that comes when the answers don’t seem to line up; we tend to just give answers. And when they step out into the real world that resonates with all their questions, doubts, disillusionment, and frustration, they then find a true friend that they should have found in Jesus that they could not find in the platitudes they found being catechized and steeped in the Reformed faith.

    I’m hoping for a follow up article with real and honest research because I’m looking for real help for my own situation.

    In hopes for something different,


    • Oleander

      Quincy, coming from a 23 year old who didn’t miss a Wednesday night, choir practice, or Sunday service my entire childhood, you have nailed the biggest problem if I read your statements correctly. I asked my questions growing up, wondering why things happened the Bible the way they did. I was very curious and am to this day, but my southern baptist church hindered my questions, made me feel wrong for asking and increased my doubts ten fold. I was basically being asked to walk blindly in faith with people who refused to let me question and doubt. That began my step away from the church and I can tell you now with myself and my friends who were ALL raised in church, this attitude is why we are where we are today.

      I still pray to the same God, regard the same God as I always have, but MY God loves people and my church taught me Christians as a whole follow blindly where fact does not exist. The Christians i see now hate and alienate themselves from those who need them most. I can’t answer how to fix this because I have yet to see a Christian who has the “light of God” in them, radiating from them like I was taught to want to be. The Christians I interact with now stay paranoid, constantly on the defensive, like they were when I was a kid. I wasn’t being rude then and i’m most certainly not being rude now. The key to gaining people like myself back is to face questions with EDUCATED answers and remember their faith is not yours. Appeal to their logic. That’s what we’re waiting for. A group of loving followers of Christ that can answer a question intellectually without immediately taking it personally. Its not an attack. Its an honest question from someone who might still love the same God you do.

  • Joseph

    I agree on these reasons mostly especially the one about the law part and the church trying to be Christian and get the world to “like” us part and I would add one major thing not even mentioned in these and that is the fact that our children are being raised by a secular government public school “system” surrounded daily by other worldly kids and adults for the most part not by the church or by the parents.. You want our children to stay in the church then Christian mom’s raise your children at home instead of giving them to the government to do it for you!! Deuteronomy 6:6-9 Write
    these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them
    inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them
    wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about
    them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed
    at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe
    them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

    This verse presumes your children will be with you the majority of the time not the public school system.
    Does the public school system or your “Christian” private school system do this even remotely?

    • ruth

      Ah, don’t let them learn about the world. Don’t teach them to think for themselves. Great solutions. It sure didn’t work for me.

      • Joseph

        We’ll just think how bad they’d been if you’d put them in government brain washing school… The statistics can’t be argued. 85% in public school turn from there faith, 95% that are home schooled keep there faith.. That’s just the truth. I don’t mean to put a guilt trip on anyone because God’s grace is sufficient no matter what your circumstance. I always want people to walk in faith no matter what there circumstance is but there is a better way. I know some are just not able to home school but unfortunately most are not willing to give up there 2000 square foot house and brand new cars for there children…

      • Guest

        Are you saying the public school systems encourages youth to think for themselves? And I think you may have misunderstood me, I don’t mind that they learn about the world I just don’t want them to be apart of it or in another words I don’t want them to be apart of the worldly system called public school that’s all. And are you saying that homeschooling didn’t work for you and if that was the case are sure public school would’ve done a better job? just saying..

      • Joseph

        Let me get this straight, you think the public school system is teaching them to think for themselves because if that’s the case I think your giving them way too much credit? And to better clarify myself I don’t mind them “learning about the world” it’s just I would rather have there understanding based on a strong understanding of what God’s word says before I let them be subjected to the public school system’s views.. I’m sorry your experience whatever that may have been didn’t work for you but the statistics do not lie, the majority of Christian children and and for that matter secular children when properly home schooled do far better.

  • Mark Gillham

    Rivalto, according to your reasoning we should not have a nursery either. So let’s bring all the crying and whining infants in to the auditorium and see how much the best bible teacher in America can get across to his audience.

    • Sally

      Speak the Truth in Love. Your response sounds harsh to me. Infants are to be cared for by their mothers. If they become disruptive during a service, out of love for others, the mother should remove herself and the infant. The fathers, being the spiritual head of the household, can then remain in the service and be discipled in the Word.

  • kaypohchee

    I think if you read Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity you would wholeheartedly agree that church today is not what Jesus meant it to be, the, meaning only one, body of believers, everywhere. I do believe that if we are the body of believers, our kids would not leave church. What Marc points out so very clearly is that church today tries to be the better, bigger, better-associated, more-connected organization to “prove” to kids (to begin with) that they are in the right crowd. So instead of doing what Diego and others are doing by pointing to the 11th or more things wrong with church, let me relate some issues I faced in dealing with difficult church-goers.

    I visited another church for six months hoping to pick up another language. Fast-growing church. Plenty of new “converts.” Frequent baptismals, after which the pulpit announcement would be “Last weekend 26 souls were added to the Kingdom.” Unfortunately for me I sought out some leader and asked if the souls were added to the kingdom, what happened to their bodies? And, you mean, until water baptism, they were not yet in the kingdom? I am not saying I am clever for asking, because I asked only to get clarification about that church’s doctrine. I am saying this because I expected everyone in church to ask the same questions. Apparently I was the only one. The others have been dumbed down by promises that once saved you will have no more problems, and by cliches they hear, may not understand (and the church leaders may not even understand), so nobody asks because nobody knows what to ask. I am sure many of you reading this have heard exactly the same wording (what I call Acts 8 language) and never asked. And what did this church do after that? They went out chasing new converts not having satisfied themselves that earlier converts have been discipled. In fact I believe that a fast rate of conversion is anathema to proper discipling. If our kids are not clear about the finished work of Christ and are just part of the hallelujah crowd or those with unbiblical expectations, then, by definition, they are just our kids. Not necessarily Christians. Nevertheless church-goers.

    I am befriending someone who left church. “I was promised that after being a Christian everything would work out well. Didn’t. I prayed. God did not answer.” So I had to tell him that God did not promise a rose garden, and that in all things we are supposed to give thanks to reflect our trusting relationship to God. I had not gone into bearing the cross when he hit me with “I prayed for 19 years for my father to be saved, and he died without being born again! What happened?” You see, he had hurts but no one found out. It is like those who suffered great loss, and hear week after week about Christians who were saved from great loss, Praise the Lord and Christian “supermen” who succeeded in doing this and that, Praise the Lord and the Christian perhaps who bowled two hundred and won. Not to mention that these supermen may actually be worldly and are later publicly exposed as adulterers, cheats, and so on. Church wants to associate with the successful when we want churches which the successful seek out to be associated with. If our kids can see that we do not relate to these “failures” at church (who usually sit in inconspicuous spaces in the gallery) they soon learn that we are frauds and want out.

    Giving more examples would not help this discussion. Knowing for sure that we are actually Christians to begin with, however, would be a good start in finding out why our kids leave.

    • sinner saved by grace

      Viola’s Pagan Christianity is an expose’ that if read will cause serious intropsection by a born again person and will change the way you approach modern religion and your faith.

  • Kobus Storm

    Guys, you can’t
    leave the church when Father has your number!!! You only leave “the
    church” The body is impossible to leave. We have made this, even this
    argument, a science of sums. Even if they leave which they are bound to, they
    are Father’s, the seed has been sown and will come up by itself.

    I will tend to My
    sheep Myself – remember? We can’t control lives, not even our kids. Give them
    everything you can, yes the pure undiluted gospel (As Paul’s said) with all the
    love you can manage at that stage even though it is flawed and the Spirit will
    do the rest in His time. Groups or no groups our kids and us matter to God, we
    are all only trying like they tried in the 1st Church and many a time failed
    miserably but still conquered….

  • Michael Morgan

    I see that some of the reasons are valid. As a minister with 30 plus years of experience I have come to the conclusion that most young people are so eger to get out from parental control that they just forget about their relationship with God.

    • FlatusOhlfart

      OR – they realize the fallacy of the myth…

  • Pastor CSL

    One thing which we’re missing here is how a small church can nurture and teach a young person. As a child, I loved going to a multi-age class at my aunt’s small church because the ladies who taught really cared about the kids.

  • Pastor CSL

    My apologies-somehow my posting got cut off!…We way undervalue how loving, caring teachers can make a difference in childrens’ lives without the latest technological gadgets. The world can always give the”big show” better than the Church, but it can’t give the child or teen the truths of the Gospel which will carry the child or teen through the difficulties of life in a sinful world. The small church can provide this far better than a group where the child is one in a crowd of many.

  • sinner saved by grace

    And- compromising parental responsibility. Children in my day weren’t given options. The gospel was chief in all teaching, the text of the Bible was read allowed at every serivce. sin was condemned. Judgment defined. Salvation explained. Love demonstrated. Jesus preached. Eternity awaited. Our ratured anticipated. We were taught to live like Jesus was born yesterday, crucified this monring, and is returning this afternoon.

  • Paul Roberts

    How much time to kids spend with parents and church, versus the education system and it’s numerous extra curricular activities? Truth is, the church and parents have very little time to invest in children’s lives. Best way I’ve heard it put is this: “If you keep sending your kids to Caesar, don’t be surprised when they come home Romans.”

  • Anthony

    You miss one point to why the youth leaves the church. Which is all the hypocrisy they see in the church especially in their parents

  • Joe

    From the introduction of your article…“This isn’t a negative “beat up on the church”
    post.” This sounds like what my teenage daughter says to me right before she is about to tell me something negative about my appearance ”Dad, no offence but…”.

    These 10 things are what the young people told you they didn’t like or what didn’t work? I feel there is much added personal perspective.

    This article, meh. I agree with the essence of some of the points but overall for me it just seems like criticism about some churches that aren’t your favorites. You don’t
    like their methods or dress code especially the dreaded skinny jean (is pant
    leg width really that important in the grand scheme of things?). You have a dislike for their content or watered down gospel and it falls so terribly short of what you call the gospel
    (of course you, subjectively have the weight of historical orthodox Christianity
    on your side). So, I guess you are right and ‘they’ are wrong?? Please!

    Anyone presenting Jesus to kids/students/young adults within a specific city/culture/country and in 2013 needs a team player who is willing to bring ideas, help, support and participation, not a ‘know-it-all’ from the sidelines saying “you’re doing it wrong”.

    Truth is some churches have ‘successfully’ helped disciple young people using some of the approaches you apparently disdain. Others also have also done well NOT using these approaches, lest we get stuck on anecdotes.

    Sorry, for me, the spirit of the article just sounds negative and unhelpful. A rallying cry around ‘here’s what wrong with other people’s churches’ will get some agreement from other critics but not much in the way of positive action. “Yeah, its bad’ doesn’t lead us to anywhere new.

    Instead, why not tell people what has worked in your context and trust God to give them the wisdom and grace to present Jesus to the next generation.

    I don’t believe there is a panacea to bring all young people back to the church, but each church should be making a concerted prayerful effort to engage and reach 20-somethings and all generations.

    • Beacherry

      I agree with you, the first few points I felt “seriously?” The decouples made the gospel relevant to people in Ethan.
      The thing is, if we are trying to sell Jesus, I hope we don’t get a lot of “customers” I hope we are all sharing Jesus instead, loving people and hearing their stories

  • shawn

    I have four sons ages 22 to 27 and only one of them remained in the church serving the Lord and not faithfully. I raised them to know the Lord and from day one taught them that it isn’t about them but about the Lord and His kingdom. the reason my son’s left were because of themselves and their own desire to do their own thing like not giving their money cause they wouldn’t have enough left to buy the fourwheelers and such they wanted, or attending on Sunday morning cause they wanted to sleep late after getting up to go to work all week and then being out late late the night before fourwheelering. they have had their excuses like “old so and so made me mad, or they didn’t this or that. in the end, it is my son’s choices whether they left the church or not. now all four of them have families and three of them have chosen to return to their home church and the other one works 7 days a week out of town. I too have asked other kids why they left the church (I work in a high school and have known many and still keep in touch with many of them) and in the end it always comes down to “I want to do what I want to do”. in the end, the bible says “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

  • Peace

    The bible tells parents to train up a child in the way he should go, not the church, the church is to assist the parents. If the parents are doing their job children will come to their own realization of who Jesus is and follow Him.

  • R. Justin Freeman

    There are some good points here, but it’s unfortunate that you’ve apparently conflated “relevance” with “dressing like Rob Bell.” Students have to be able to contextualize matters of faith and practice – just being given raw theological data points won’t suffice in integrating a philosophy of faith in everyday life.

  • Sally

    Parents are to train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it. Teach God’s word to them while they are sitting, lying, and walking along the road. We, as the body of Christ, need to come alongside of the parents to assist them in this training. Our children enjoy attending youth ministry activities but we do not believe it is the responsibility of the youth ministry to disciple our children. It is OURS!

    • Michelle

      And you can find scriptures to back that up!

  • Nathan

    As a student and youth myself I totally agree with this article, growing up in a small town as a pastors kid in a church with no youth group and a lot of old people (I live in a retirement community) I am almost disgusted in how we see youth ministry. Like Marc has said we have slapped this label of “cool” on it to make it more open to our youth, this is the wrong thing to do! As it has been said we need to present and give these boys and girls the truth, not a watered down “jelly-donut filled” gospel, because of this I am going into to youth ministry.

  • Zachary

    Personally I feel that the whole Christian thing is too tall of a glass too drink. If you think about it religion is a rough template for morale code. If it weren’t for the bible then we would have probably been killing each other for a lot longer than we were, however as a double edged sword religious disputes has caused more deaths than anything else in the world. Eventually we would have figured it out on our own that killing is bad and if we are to survive as a race then we all need to work together. I feel that religion was a temporary solution 2000 years ago to keep people from stabbing each other however now it is outdated. We are intelligent enough to not rely on a book for answers to everything, one of the main reasons people are even religious is because they have been taught that if they don’t obey Christ then they are going to have to deal with eternal damnation. I personally don’t think that anyone deserves that kind of punishment and because it is so sever people are afraid of it. We need to stop building churches and start building structures of legitimate use. Why do you go to church anyways? It’s because it makes you feel good right? Like you are part of something bigger? That feeling is very comforting but in this case it is false, you don’t need to worship anything to feel fulfilled and part of a large organization. I’m 16 years old and I want to see nothing more in my lifetime then the expelling of religion across the world. If we can get past the fact that we are all star matter then we can all work together as a whole 7 billion to move forward as a race. Just think of all of the conflict that religion causes, imagine a world where everyone is on the same page.

    • FlatusOhlfart

      well said. indeed the conditional love of the biblical god is irreconcilable. I too would like to witness your wish to rid the earth of all the man made religions. peace.

  • Eddie

    the end of the day evangelical parents who themselves are hurt and
    disillusioned with the church will almost certainly raise kids who
    experience church and spirituality through the lens of their parents
    pain. This, in my opinion, is the greatest reason our children are leaving the church.

  • Trockus Aurelius

    I believe in Santa Claus when I was a kid too. I’ve grown up and don’t believe in foolish nonsense. Was born/raised Catholic (no, I was never molested, for you morons that would assume such a thing).

    Religion is a delusion. What is the correct religion? They aren’t all congruent.

  • heath

    I think its due to the lack of infomation, most churches use KJV or did so it took a english major to truly understand it. Oh and tradition turned into religion , church is everyday ldoing what God wants not your pastor or the saints. And like politicians if we could eliminate people wanting respect over others would start to help. Jesus walks side by side so how do we learn from a pastor that is there for respect and his legacy? Most imporantly parents, kids see there parents being oh so holy on sunday but because on friday night they where wasted. Also theblast few generations of christians have not been on the watch tower letting christians know there is a big storm brewing outside , now we care that we are in the eye of the storm. P.s why cant a christian be cool. Yes some try but some really are cool? I imagine saul/ paul was cool ? People should never aim to be cool. Im a dork so i really dont know.

  • Zella6

    Just something to consider: “Train a child up in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it” Just off the top of my head. Don’t know the actual scripture reference, and forgive me if I paraphrased. Note there is not any mention of the years taking place between childhood, and old. Presumably, the story is not over for that remaining 35%. At least some of them. I don’t mean to say that the church should not be a little introspective, regarding how it is reaching and preparing the next generation, just that some kids are going to wander, and rebel, and question, before being led to a place of submission.

    • James Lancaster

      Prov. 22:6. However, Proverbs aren’t promises. They are words of wisdom that are generally true.

  • Gail Ann Henard

    I was one of those who left the church when I went away to college. But, I had been raised right; so when I had children of my own, my husband & I started taking our children to church. Eventually, we gave our lives to the Lord completely & have never left Him again!!

  • Dave

    I was a little bummed that it wasn’t mentioned that many of us left because we read the Bible and determined that it wasn’t part of Jesus’ message to sit in a church and shield ourselves from the rest of the world. We’ve become too focused on the law and process, just as the pharisees did.

    I have no problem at all saying the church (whether it be today or 50 years ago) is not how Jesus intended his followers to identify themselves.

    Until you figure that out, you’ll be writing articles like this for years to come.

  • PastorJT

    I agree with the overall principle of this article, however, even in this well-thought-out article, I still see the number one issue missing, and it is not something that the youth would be able to tell you, because they are not aware of it…they have been taught to do, just as you said, and we reinforce that in our godly homes, but they have not been taught to seek God with their whole heart.
    Correct, our youth can think, but as parents and youth directors, and pastors, often we don’t point them back to God’s Word and ask them to seek what God would have them to do; instead we tell them what they need to do – problem solved, look another godly young person.
    Problem is, then when they get older and have to start thinking on their own, and making their own life decisions, we have failed to teach them what we probably had to learn on our own as adults, and that is to seek God first.
    If I seek to have a relationship with Christ, not just a checklist motivated spirituality, I will then know the love and grace of God that according to Titus teaches me to live godly in this present world.
    It is a joint failure of the home and the church together. We have both failed our young people in assuming they would simply follow their parents and their leaders if we taught them what to do. We must teach them why, and Who. We must teach them to follow Him, not us. They see our faults; they will never see a fault of His, unless they are only following us, then He has the same faults we have – in their mind (and that is reinforced in the world.)

  • Jerm

    Interesting article…Maybe I missed this but this article may assume that becasue these youth were in the church they actually belonged to THE CHURCH! Of course a student will walk away from the church if they don’t bleong to God’s family. The other thing is what about training parents & families. Most students learn right and wrong either from their peers & mostly at home. Spiritual training starts in the home & the church reinforces it. And if you don’t mind, how about giving us some reasons why the youth that stay connected to the church decided to continue to be a part of the church. How about solutions to the problem.

  • Carl Young

    Each church is different and the same goes for each home, but the bible is the same and has always been and always will. Going to church wasn’t an option for me because my father was a minister and unlike youth today who parents are so ruled by what the world says, they leave the choice to their kids. Check the news on any given day and you see the tragic results of youth who decided to lean to their or the world’s understanding. The bible covers areas dealing with youth as well as what happen to those go off in the wrong the direction. Bottom line youth need direction in life early and often, and if the parents don’t have a strong faith and live in at home there is very little hope for their children. The mistake a lot of churches make is not having a ministry to reach the kids at their level. The pastor can’t reach every age group during his sermon and the youth tend to get overlooked, bored and lost. The world today with it’s misguided views that make it seems like whatever you feel like doing and with whomever is okay. This appeals to the youth and to often is the cause of their early demise. Look at the suicide rate, the mass murder by youths and tell me the world’s way is the best option. The devil has a way of advertising sin as the being this great lifestyle and the youth buy into it, by the time they realize it’s not all that it’s late. I never heard where the devil said I will give you perfect peace if you keep your mind on me….
    As for the statements about the church being full of hypocrites, the church is full of people who discovered they needed help and decided to checkin to get that help. The remedy doesn’t come just like that, it’s a process and lifestyle change. But the different is that Jesus knew we were not perfect and came down to be the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins. That is for those who accept him as their Lord and saviour. The world doesn’t offer you that,. Sometime you can plant a seed and it doesn’t start to grow right away and after some youth wonder off and discover that world of sin is just fool’s gold, then some will return to the fold,

  • shanusbohemus

    I minister to students at a church and I’m a father of five of my own youth group aged children. Parents and youth ministries should be partners.

    ‘Listening’ to you all argue here is ugly and unproductive. I shall now take off my big boy pants and put on my skinny jeans, fake metro glasses, and sip my coffee made from trade free beans. Good day.

  • Jennifer Holmes

    I agree wholeheartedly with Diego.

  • Ron Burgundy

    Or they realized God isn’t… so there’s that.

  • endrit

    from my church experience good and bad and biblical accounts, one thing that need to be fixed is that the ministry towards children is led by its parents. Trying to have great kids ministry, we are telling parents that the church replaces their job in the same way as teachers in school or kindergarten – we just leave them at the door and the “specialist” teach them the Bible. The church need to help parents to live right and teach they own children try this and things will be completely different. Surely preach all the Gospel, not only what is pleasant to the ears :) blessings and do not worry to much on some statistics. they see only numbers not real Christians.

  • Rachael Johnson

    Definitely number ten… Today’s youth groups are not helping. They work in middle school, but young adults grow out of them. Tradition is what will draw them in. What do all people of good will seek? Goodness, truth, and beauty. Young people will find this in the Catholic Church. I went to a non-denominational school, and the Catholic Church is what every “rebel” was thirsting for. I feel so blessed to have found it and I hope more young people find it.

  • Aushlin

    As a survivor my experience of church are the blanketed Christian statements for complex issues. It seems as a whole the church is lacking in understanding trauma from a clinical lens. They lack an understanding of how this affects the whole body “brain” and self. People as a whole are hurting and need a church that can empathize and sympathize in a a deeper connected way. It would be great for pastors to be trained as counselors in addition to their theological studies. I have found most pastors very disconnected. They do not know how to connect with their population without ever other word being Jesus,Jesus,Jesus and lets pray,pray,pray, and here is a verse,verse,verse. People need and want a Pastor who can truly listen to them, validate what their going through, be passionate about them, be excited about their dreams and passions, ect…. I have found the man named Jesus to be gentle, deeply connecting, and passionate about my healing.

  • Donald Jefcoat

    I am one of those youth that got away however at a very low point in my life God won. Through that I learned something that I want to share and this would be the perfect place to do so.

    First thing I experienced was the church lied to me. Now before any one goes on a defence let me share. Through all my growing up years I heard that God loves me, I heard that God will take of me, I heard all kinds of nice cushy things about being a child of God. All I had to do was call out his name and life will be fine. I also heard that the wisemen came to the manger to worship Jesus. Yes it is true that God loves me but it is also true we will all experience times of testing so lets be real and lets be honest.

    Second thing I learned that the typical church is not God honoring. Bet I hit a nerve on a few here. But we get caught up in traditions, power strugles, cliques, etc, etc. We forget to worship God, and build each other up. We are called family so lets be a family. I see all to often races to see who can get out of the church.

    We dont train and release. I detest and do not support bible colleges. Show me in scripture where we were instructed to go off to college for 1-12 years and be the best educated people and ………….. When we read it say come and I will show. I think we need to take time to share with our young people and train them and release them. We need to empower them. Who says that our young people cant run a service even the message. Let me ask you this when was the last time your youth distributed communion. It has long been a tradition communion only be given by the pastors and elders. Not so.

    There are countless things one could say here but I also want to add this. There comes a time when the older ones do need to step aside and let the younger take over. Moses never led the people into the promise land Joshua did. If you have to be an elder before you can do anything you will be closing your doors faster then you can ice cream. But you allow the church to change and grow you will be a church that will be around longer then ice on the north pole.

  • ruth

    I found this article linked by someone I know on facebook. Let me tell you frankly why I left the church. It is because I found that I did not agree with the judgments rendered by the church. Judgments about the age of the earth that are plain silly and inconsistent with what we actually know. Judgments about gays that pretended not to be judgments. Judgments about women that pretended not to be judgments. Judgments about people of other faiths. I no longer belong to a church where the people were so dang willing to judge others yet pretend that they were doing it out of love. If you don’t want people to leave you have to change what you believe. If you believe that you should change what you believe you will lose young people. End of story.

  • Cee

    While I was in seminary I did a self-study project where I interviewed “de-churched” people.
    The number one reason that came through was that there were too many people in their lives (Sunday school teachers, parents, church members) who lived a life opposite of what was being taught them in church. Meanness, condemnation played a role, either in the home or the workplace; one Sunday school teacher called a kid a smart alec because he kept asking questions. There are lots of places to look for how this happens.

  • BethAnn Wirth

    What I find interesting is this…as a Roman Catholic Christian, every single point you have made in your article points to the Truth as I believe it is in Catholicism. While I know we as Roman Catholics have many things to learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters, many of things you mention getting back to — catechesis, favoring substance over “feelings”, bread and wine, historic creeds — are reinforced every day in the Catholic Church. When you speak to community, the Church through out the whole world has an open door. Community is in every city, town, village, state and country around the world for Roman Catholics. I have been to Mass in many different places around the world, and even if I cannot speak French or German or Polish or Native Hawaiian, I still know exactly what is being said and done. Any Roman Catholic who does not stay connected to their faith is doing so out of choice, not lack of community. The sad thing for me is watching my Catholic brothers and sisters leave their home parish because it’s not always “fun” or the music is old-fashioned or they don’t like the priest. I have absolutely called on Protestant Youth Ministers to help me develop my program, if for no other reason than I know they draw in young people. We are absolutely singing praise and worship songs. We are absolutely talking about have a personal relationship with Christ, but we are also absolutely Catholic in our identity, stressing the importance of celebrating the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. It is because of the undeniable Truth the Church teaches that the Roman Catholic Church has prevailed for 2,000 years. It has not wavered. It has not relied on feelings. It has not bowed to any pressure from the outside to change. It is constant BECAUSE it is the Truth. I challenge all of you to TRULY investigate what the Church teaches and tell me I am wrong.

    • JG

      You are wrong. the Catholic Church has not being around for 2,000 year. but the Christian Church has. Jesus establish one Church and that was the Christian Church. The Catholic Church became alive when people started bringing idols to the Church. When that happen the real Christian they had to get out of that church that was contaminated. with the World. As of today the Catholic Church still is contaminate . because they still praise idols.
      idols that are made by man. they have eyes but they can’t see. they have hands but can’t touch, they have feet but they can’t walk. Catholic Church is not Christian. is a Church that is contaminated. that’s why God says : get out of there. and Praise only God the real living God.

  • Theophilus2013

    I would add that our actions have taught them that the American dream, our leisure and etc are more important. So they learn by what we do rather than what we say. I know of few young people who have grown up in a Christian home where they have taken seriously ‘giving yourself on behalf of the poor’ or ‘make disciples of all nations’ and evangelism and holiness seriously where the children have not become and therefore remained Christians or at least have returned after brief prodigal periods.

    One dear lady I spoke to said, ‘I don’t care about other kids I just want to make sure may kids don’t get caught up in smoking and drugs and drinking and all that other stuff.’ I told her she was telling her children that their smoking was more important than worrying about the neighbor ending up in Hell. If you want your children to be saved start caring about the children of others- otherwise you are debunking the very Gospel you claim to believe. If you love your neighbor and your enemy and God with all that you are then your children will likely experience something real and believe in Jesus too. It is an intoxicating adventure.

  • sillypeople

    I’m not religious. I was raised to be Christian though. I have many a friend who is. They dont go. Church is boring. Everyone in there are hypocrites. I’ve been many a times. Ok not everyone is… But majority. I see through the fake smiles.. Ok see the judging going on in peoples minds when they start gossiping with other members.I’ve seen many women roll their eyes at each other behind their backs. Here’s an idea… Why does it matter so much that you you need them to stay in the church? Why indoctrinate your kids to begin with? Its sickening. Why not let them choose what they want and be their own person? So they leave the church.. The reason is obviously they don’t want to be there. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. In my family we were raised by studying the bible itself at home… Not hearing some pastor talk. I’m so thankful I survived indoctrination. And don’t get me wrong.. I don’t care what people do with their lives.. As long as it isn’t hurting people in any way…. Im not here to bash you. I not the type of person who wants to eradicate religion. I really don’t care Lol. I’m just curious as to why its so darn important for you to keep your kids in church. They are their own that age. They can do what they please and they will. Trust me.. You don’t need to change anything. What’s changing is THEM and how they want to spend their lives. And I’m not saying they are leaving their belies either… Maybe they’re just practicing them the way they want to. And GHATS OK. Peace love and best wishes ~freethinker

    • christian adeleke

      “I’m just curious as to why its so darn important for you to keep your kids in church.”

      Please read these scriptures for guidance: John 13:35, 1 Cor 12:26, 1 John 3:16, Ephesians 4:16 b, 1 Cor:12:7, Heb 3:13.

      Hope they satisfy your curiosity and please look for a bible believing church. The devil loves isolated Christians because there is no one to guide them when they go astray from GOD’s will for their lives.

      To know GOD’s will for your life please read the Bible. A book that can also help your faith is the Purpose driven life by Rick Warren.

      Be blessed

  • Michael TAN

    I am a young Christian, baptised in December 1993 when I was 48 years old. I was brought up in a Taoist family where most of the religious prayers were done by my mother (6 brothers & sisters). I envy those brought up in Christian homes, without any necessity to enter deep thoughts about ‘who, why, when and where’ were we here on Earth for.
    At secondary schools in 1958, a Catholic classmate stated that all of us will go to HELL unless we believe in Christ and he himself will go to HEAVEN without giving any explanations. When my father died in 1957, we were told that Taoist kids have to atone for the parent’s welfare in after-life. When my mother died in 1974, being the youngest and most educated, I was in charge of family finances.
    Again we were impressed upon the ‘duties’ that we had to observe. We had a few prayers by Taoist Monks (quite hefty fees impost on us, 7 times of prayers after funeral).
    I started attending a Bible Study conducted by the Holy Light Presbyterian Church Assisstant Pastor in JB, Malaysia in September 1987. I had some of my queries answered and I decided to believe in Jesus Christ as my SAVIOUR in 1992. As a very young Christian, most of my Prayer Requests had been answered, sometimes not as what I wanted them to be.
    I have 5 siblings and my wife has 6 siblings and only I am a Christian (my siblings are not, will evangelise to them) and we are staying in Western Australia. I have 5 grown-up children, 3 in Eastern States and 1 in Hong Kong and 6 grandkids.
    ALL take care and GOD Bless.
    My kids are still strong in our LORD JESUS CHRIST, still attending Church.

  • USMC and America proud

    This article is good! But it misses one key point being said “out loud”! Our kids AREN’T given Jesus!
    No I’m NOT talking the Biblical Historical Jesus! I’m talking about the “Living Son of God”!! The problem with most of our churches is that the history is taught, not the real! We SAY we believe in Him, but when it comes down to the everyday ‘walking down the street’ “Christian”, He’s NOT there! You see in our ‘minds’, where satan pitches his battle, Jesus died “and disappeared 2000 years ago”! He’s not really alive and interested in my ‘every moment of every day life’! How could he be?? We have ‘pastors’ that tell our kids “There-there, it’s ok to be gay! God understands! You can’t help it!” Totally ignoring what we have in scriptures! Our kids read the Bible, see that God hates this sin, but “the pastor says it’s ok, so I must be reading it wrong, or taking it out of context, ’cause God loves everybody, right!”
    See the outright problem that gets danced around in our churches, is that the ‘pastors’ we have in the pulpits don’t have enough true faith and a real relationship with the LIVING Jesus, to blow out a candle! So how can they impart something ‘they’ know nothing about to ANYBODY, let alone our kids! When it comes down to it, 90% of our ‘ministers’ can’t minister! They can speak about Biblical concepts, speak with flowing words and enthusiasm, but they themselves have never actually met the living, breathing, miracle working Jesus, and wouldn’t know him if He were sitting in the front row on Sunday! Most every minister I know, needs to have an ‘upper room’ experience with Jesus! They need to find out that the book of “Acts” does NOT have a “the end” clause! We are STILL IN IT!
    So the bottom line of this article boils down to “is it all about keeping our kids in church, or all about giving them the real Jesus!” The American church has a big problem! And the problem is Biblical! “Having a ‘form’ of Godliness, but denying the power thereof! FROM SUCH TURN AWAY!” And our kids do! With no place to go, but back to the world we’re not supposed to be from! Just in!!

    • christian adeleke

      “Having a ‘form’ of Godliness, but denying the power thereof!”. Thank you for bringing that to the forefront. I am a Nigerian and i am surprised that a lot of people in the western world do not believe that a great number of cases in the life of people is as a result of the oppression and possessions of demons,ancestral curses,activities of witchcraft and strongholds caused by bad habits and a faulty way of thinking. Most of these can be prevented and resolved by having an active prayer life and in the case of demon possession a Pastor should be consulted. Unfortunately most Pastors in your part of the world are not well equipped to handle such cases and eventually the dark forces turn the heart of GOD’s children away from him and towards the world. It is very rarely i hear men of God speak on exercises such as fasting and Prayer combined together to combat the foul and powerful unclean spirits such as that of homosexuality or that of epilepsy plaguing the lives of people. If you come to Africa these problems arise as well but thankfully i believe there are more Pastors here who understand that the threat is real and make efforts to equip themselves well enough to combat spiritual warfare.

      All this being said i should commend the clergy west for bringing the glorious gospel of our Lord JESUS to this continent. My opinion is only that i believe they have watered down the gospel and the power in JESUS. It is because the youth do not see this power in GOD’s ministers that they are seduced into believing the new age principles that place a higher importance in the will and self.

      These are just my thoughts. I do hope they would find meaning with someone. I would love to hear your opinions as well.

  • Jea

    If we got “smart,” then you got dumb.

  • Andrew

    i’m cool i’m hip heyyyyyyy macarena

  • debra roland

    “The middle-aged pastor” – Why do you keep saying that? Is being middle aged now a crime? It is the young 20 something “hip wannabe” pastors that made me flee the church. The real truth here is that kids get out in the real world and discover that life isn’t easy and they have to work for it. Or they actually decide to read the book for themselves and discover that the “Noah and Ark” story really was not a cute little animals story at all but a mass killing of revenge and anger. When they read the book they discover they have been lied to. THAT is the truth of why they leave.

  • PaulandSandy Culbertson

    Great article. The only problem is that you only point out what’s wrong. It’s like people watching someone rob a store and they never call 911 or try and stop them. I am in agreement with this article 100%. We fight hard to be both effective and FAITHFUlL. Without understanding the depth of our depravity and the sin that so easily entangles all of us, the Gospel is made cheap. I’d love to chat with you more about this. My email is . Lets write the next article and put up the issues with solutions that will challenge and prayerfully bring change and repentance to how our youth have been taught.

  • Rachelle LeMond

    Very interesting article. I agree with what it says. It doesn’t come from the opinions of the author but from the kids/adults he interviewed. I lived most of what he pointed out and as an adult, I left the fundamental church of my youth. I didn’t leave God; I left the church I was raised in. I still believe some of what I was taught but some of it I wholeheartedly disagree with. I so identify with the part of the article that talks about being a kid/youth and it’s all about “the law” and less about grace. Rarely, was grace shown. It was talked about as a biblical principal but never shown in daily life. Kids are smart and they figure that out. I did and I left. I don’t know the total answer but I do know that we need to model God’s love and his grace to our kids. Don’t tell them, show them. Love speaks loudly so start shouting. . .

  • HeartsNotInIt

    As an 18-year-old I dutifully decried all the stuff you’re talking about. I despised “hip” pastors and church services that were cheap knockoffs of mainstream culture. My family never us in youth group or Sunday School–it was straight church all the way for us. The gospel you outlined was presented to me all the time, in large doses, and with much fervent repetition. But eventually it just didn’t make sense anymore. I kept pretending faith for a long time, sure that my time of doubt would go away. It never did. After much reading and exploring and praying and agonizing, I simply don’t find the central claims of Christianity credible anymore. I can’t make myself believe something I don’t believe (and trust me, I spent years trying). I still value the community that can be found in church, find many of the teachings of Christ compelling and inspiring, and think there is much that is beautiful (as well as much that is ugly) about Christianity. In fact, I still go to church, primarily to give my children exposure to faith and religious community. But I’m agnostic, and my heart is not in the church. And it’s not for any of the reasons you mention. But hey, I’m sure others’ mileage varies.

  • Dee Sutton

    See, I think the issue is…..are we just going to church, or are we being Jesus in our home, in our town, in our community, in our world? I believe that when we the parents stand up and allow Jesus to change us into His image, for His Cause, our teens will stay in church. My eldest daughter went thru a rough patch…..but you know what, I dont want my children to live out of my relationship with Jesus, they need their own. Thats what its all about. and I agree with Paul and Sandy, lets look at the positives, or at least the ways to help them move on in God, not on in the world!

  • steve

    So they leave the church what wrong with that? You are not saying they leave their faith so what’s the issue, you can’t collect Tithing from them any more? If their faith is real it will survive them being away from the church and if it isn’t then that’s a decision they make after a life time of indoctrinating. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. People don’t have to be a member of the club and attend the clubhouse to have strong beliefs.

  • KA

    This post only tells a tiny part of the story. There are also plenty of youth who have been brought up in a more traditional church with creeds and thinking through the Bible and real issues who leave the church anyway. Why is that? From my own experience, I have found several reasons. Many Christians are extremely judgmental and won’t even consider being around someone who doesn’t believe what they do for fear of being brought down by them. They think anyone who isn’t religious (and Christian in particular) must be a bad person or at least can’t possibly be as good as a Christian with true belief. Then there’s the existence of so many other religions, all of which claim to be “true” and different from the rest. They all have their merits and downfalls. And what kind of god would want to damn a good chunk of the world’s population simply because they were brought up with a different religion that the “true” one? Not to mention all of the horrible atrocities caused by religious disagreement and egocentric belief in one’s own religion. In addition, so many contradictions exist in the Bible and in the church and so many teachings are really anti-loving (e.g. anti-gay). The stories may have some metaphorical significance, but are so highly improbable, from both a scientific and a historical point of view. Real theologians have known this for ages and don’t believe in Bible stories literally, even if some of them have found a way to be a liberal Christian with more metaphorical than literal beliefs. But for me, I just find the whole idea of Christianity and the Bible to be useless, irrelevant, and more harmful than beneficial in the world. I still strive to be the best person I can be, loving others (as well as myself), building strong relationships with those around me, apologizing and forgiving as I can to repair those relationships when we fail, and finding ways that I can make a positive impact on the world.

    These are just a few of the reasons that I and many people I know have left the church or never went in the first place. While this article may explain a few interesting reasons, it leaves out the vast majority of reasons people leave.

    • Ralph

      See Charlie above… The proper way to understand the Bible is to find the literal sense (understanding the culture and needs at the time as well as the grammatical intent of the passage using language in all its finest array). Real theologians trust that the Scripture is the Word of God and not the fancy imagination of men. You lie when you say there are contradictions in the Bible. The Bible speaks clearly and plainly about original sin and the separation it causes between God and man, and between one another. The golden thread that runs through Scripture is that God desires His relationship to us as paramount and gave His Son into death fro our sins so that your sin and mine would not be counted against us. It is not God’s fault when man rejects the only solution for our greatest need… And it is still an issue of faith because all of our works, when done to prove our ‘goodness’, is as ‘filthy rags be fore the Lord’. As the Bible says… man is without excuse. Romans 1

    • Mae

      These are all the reasons I left and will not be going back, I feel like the article completely missed the point in it’s effort to appease those who are still trying to force their worldview on everyone else

  • Charlie

    I wonder if this has anything to do with people leaving the faith/church:

    But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from
    the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of
    demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,…1 Timothy 4:1-2

    “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.… Matthew 24:9-11

    As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”…John 6:66-67

    There is a lot of discussion right now about this issue and they whole trying to be “cool” thing is a hot topic. I did not want to listen to my senior pastor who said maybe the youth ministry was too different from the church. We all fail in many ways and we all need a Savior. But in the end following or not following Jesus is a personal choice of faith that you cannot blame anyone else for. We will stand before God alone without excuse and blaming the church for not doing something.

    • Ralph

      Thank you.

  • Non-believer

    Boy, all of these hit home with me and I’m 66 years old. I read this because I respect the person who posted it and I like to keep informed. I kept trying to give faith a chance and finally around 45 I knew I just didn’t believe. . . in any of it. Christianity is such a paranoid religion; “don’t do this”, “this is bad”, “you’ll go to hell” (back in my youth) and now it’s “you won’t go to heaven.”
    For 10 years, everyday after school, I read the Bible to my Grandmother. Yes, we made it through by the time I was off to college. We had started with psalms and proverbs because they were easier for an eight year old and went to the new testament after that. Shockingly, I read the old testament while I was in high school. That did it. Now people just cherry-pick what they believe in and can rationalize anything the Bible says. Am I a nice person? Yes. Do I care about my fellow humans, animals and the earth we all live on? Yes. Am I afraid of death? No. Do I look forward to tomorrow with optimism? Absolutely.

  • AndinRichardson

    I agree with a lot of what was said, but everything dealt specifically with the church, and unfortunately the church has its problems, but parents are a huge contributor to this as well. The church only has a limited amount of time/impact on teenagers, parents have more time and impact and should use what they have. If they are not living out their faith, growing spiritually themselves, making the God and the church a priority, how can we expect teens to once they are on their own.

  • Soldier

    Ok, nice problem statements. I’m ready to stand up and be the solution. Where are the five pages of solutions?

  • NowThen

    This is a very judgmental approach, one of the major reasons our kids leave the church when they become young adults. Even when they are very young, children watch how adults treat each other. There is so much backbiting, evil, and politics in churches today that those called of God can’t even serve in the church. Children are affected by church politics. They see how their parent(s) are treated by others. There is no room in the church for politics. You are either led by God or you aren’t. The root of the cause of children leaving the church is in the way we treat each other.

    • Happier Now

      This is incredibly true.

  • Peyton Jones

    You’d dig on Church Zero, particularly Chapter 8 entitled “Why Your Church Sucks”, a commentary on why youth don’t go anymore. Everybody has their theories, but Church Zero gives a different view from the postmodern frontlines of Europe. Americans think we’re post-christian already…not yet. Past the point of no return, but not post-christian…not yet. Other chapters are “This is Gonna Hurt”, and “Blowing up the Deathstar”. Through it all though, like you, the author loves the church and points back to what made Christianity radical and dangerous…in a good way.

  • cam

    Youth drop out of church because most Christian homes allow the state to teach their kids for 7 hrs a day, 5 days a week….the whole time refuting and deriding everything they have been taught in church for 2 hrs a week. Duh! add to that the amount of anti-Christ secular television is watched in Christian homes and the Church would pretty much need to be miracle working to save some. I don’t think the reasons kids leave the church are surprising at all….the amazing thing is the parents are content to chase the dollar so they can keep up with the Jones’ while they lose their kids. Christian schools, homeschooling and spending time with the kids instead of using the television for a babysitter, would mean at least one parent needs to be at home and the next cruise may be when you hit retirement age. My complaint with the church is that they won’t preach this because the dollar chasers have deep pockets.

    • Robert Otto Kiehn

      Actually you’ll find that it’s quite the opposite; the amount of self-harm, anti-theist mentalities, in-the-closet gay kids too afraid to come out, and hidden addictions are rampant in Christian schools. I might argue moreso than secular schools. Too many of my christian school friends have shown me their scars and talked about their problems with lust and self loathing perpetrated by such a very caustic environment. I thank God everyday that I was never homeschooled, I would have never known just how much hurt there is outside my home and how many people need the love of Jesus. Yes parents need to spend more time with their children, but that doesn’t mean they can’t both work or send them outside the home. The church isn’t preaching child-insulation is because it doesn’t work. Kids are leaving the church because we’re treating the church like the only way to a proper and happy life, when they look all around and see that it’s not. There’s backbiting, anger, blasphemy, hypocrisy, and we think it’s ok because it looks churchy. We have been more worried about abortion clinics and harry potter in the last ten years than the people next to us on the way to hell. Godly churches will preach good parenting, but not subscribing to church lifestyle as salvation; as if everyone who isn’t a stay-at-home mom with a working husband, 2 children, and a white picket fence is on the road to hell. The church won’t preach this because it’s an outright lie.

    • Happier Now

      This is not really accurate. As a child I went to a Christian School where I was bullied just as badly – if not worse – than at the public school I first attended. Was told to turn the other cheek. I attended church 3 times a week, led a worship team, attended youth group, missions events, etc etc etc. I was only allowed TV minimally, and that usually watching figure skating as I was deeply involved in that sport. I was not allowed to go to the theatre, even for the Lion King. My parents did everything they could to surround me in a very Christian environment.
      This did not stop me from hitting a major bout of depression, it did not stop me from thinking about suicide, it did not stop me from developing an eating disorder. All of which had to be hidden, of course, from everyone in my life as being unhappy meant you were not truly a “good christian”. God must not be “with you”.
      I was denied baptism in my church at the age of 17. By 17, I knew everything they had taught me by heart, participated in every aspect of the church, but still wasn’t “good enough”. Funny, as I hadn’t heard of baptism being refused to anyone who asked John to baptise them back in the Bible.
      Then I went to University. Not a Bible college. It had been made clear that everyone else was going there to “man-hunt”. I wanted to career-hunt pursuing a B.SC. Found out the world wasn’t this horrid, devil-ridden junk heap the church had made it out to be; but I was unprepared to act on my own as an adult. I assumed everyone was looking out for my best interests, especially if they were a fellow Christian. So very wrong. I won’t go into detail but at that point, I’d had it with the judgement and hypocrisy in the church. The ones who hurt me the most after I left home were the “Christian” friends I tried to make.
      Over 10 years later, happily married and in “remission” from the depression that plagued me for years, I rarely go to church. I respect others that want to go, but I never hear anything that I haven’t already heard, and cannot be convinced to go for the “fellowship” that had let me down in multiple churches for years and years. I still am a Christian, and I live my life in a way that I am proud of. For myself, not based on a church’s standard.
      You can’t force feed your belief constantly down a child’s throat and expect that is that, and that they won’t try to find their own way. They need to find their own faith, not be sheltered to the point of ignorance of the world.
      Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than being in a garage makes you a car. I’ve never heard a truer statement.

      • Algoria

        I’m sorry for the legalism and hypocrisy you experienced. I’m still convinced we need each other though. We are meant to be the “body of Christ”, not a lot of scattered body parts. I hope you have some Christian brothers and sisters with whom you can relate even if you never attend a formal church assembly. Perhaps your wife meets this need totally but we are pilgrims on the same journey and sometimes we can help and encourage each other.
        Of course our primary relationship is with God himself so I also hope that is going well for you. Living in this fallen world is never going to be an ultimate success without that, no matter how well we seem to be doing outwardly.

        • Happier Now

          Thank you for your comment. I’m actually the wife :) and my husband is a great support for me.
          When I feel the need to, I can have faith based conversations with most of my friends as well.
          I have not felt the need to go to a church to satisfy my fellowship needs, though I don’t judge those who do – I just wish people could be more understanding of my – and I’m sure many others – not attending a church.

          • Algoria

            I should have realized that when you said others were going to Bible college to “man-hunt”, and you wanted to career-hunt. :)

      • Borghy Holm

        Have you ever read a book called “Safe People” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend? It sounds like your church was very legalistic, unsafe and abusive. There are Christians and churches out there that aren’t like that, and the book helps people learn to recognize safe vs. unsafe.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed, this almost exactly mirrors my life. Except that I have not hit the ’10 years later part’. I have been told that the reason the church was going to hell was because of “people like me” simply for questioning a belief that I did not understand. I was in college studying to be a pastor and the more I studied, the less I was convinced, so the more questions I asked. And the more people told me it was wrong to question. All I wanted was answers and I got pushed out of the church. Do I believe God exists? I guess, but instead of asking myself “WWJD” like we get told to do. I more or less follow the Golden Rule. Have not attended church in roughly 2 years and see no reason to go back there. I still have plenty of friends in the church though that I keep in contact with. Those who were helpful in my journey to find truth, I kept around me, and the others left on their own accord.

  • David Royer

    One more: in many churches, God is taught, not touched. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is talked about, not realized. Spirit-filled people cannot deny the fact that God IS. ‘Educated’ Christians have these doubts all the time! If God IS, His Word is true!

    • Robert Otto Kiehn

      Except the problem he’s stating is that we too often go with what feels right. I have my doubts, but on the things in the church that are not necessary to follow Christ. I doubt the traditional manifestation of speaking in tongues, especially after reading up on the Pentecost, but I know that if someone does believe in it and manifests it that they are no less a christian. Following the Lord is the manifestation of the spirit, sometimes the spirit drives people to perceive, sometimes it drives people to ponder. Doubt is quite healthy, it weeds out what we really don’t believe, and really makes us wonder if this faith is genuine or just a show we put on.

    • Borghy Holm

      Spot on! The Holy Spirit is the Lord. How can we have a vibrant faith without really encountering Him in a deep way?!

  • Driddering

    As a retired pastor whose three children are still serving the Lord I think this article misses the main point. As a pastor for my children I exposed them to the reality of challanges to their faith and walked with them in their transition to adulthood. I let them know that they were not going to be cool if they were Christian – and that was really not important. I taught them authenticity by being authentic – even when my wife went through cancer. I taught them that there are well-intentioned people in church that will hurt you with their clubbish attitudes. But most of all i modeled dependence and trust in God to see them through the stages and come out stronger on the other side. None of my children

    • beachpreacher

      I don’t think the author missed the point at all. From what I read, he made exactly the point you refer to. I also am a pastor and have four children who were raised in church and got instruction at home. They were exposed to the same things you exposed your kids to and yet, not all of them are still following Christ. The point is, or maybe A point is, that people make up their own minds. Yes, there are factors that go in to their decisions, but ultimately they decide whether or not they will continue on the path. If I understand your statement, everything will be fine if parents just act right. That’s a judgment that just doesn’t always hold water my friend. Maybe you missed the point.

  • Driddering

    Left the Lord though they attend or lead in churches of their choice. My son has planted a church and being faithful to God and the Bible. In summary, modeling is more important than posturing. We all need to know this.

  • jamal

    People are leaving the church because the act of going to church is meaningless. What matters is how you live your life and how you treat others. A terrible person can still go to church every sunday and fancy themselves a Christian.

    • Tod Thompson

      The fact that you think the church is something you “go to” instead the Body of Christ is a huge part of the problem. It’s supposed to be a body of believers doing life together in Christ Jesus, but sadly it seldom is.

    • Tim

      Sorry, Jamal, but that is not at all what matters. What matters is that we die to ourselves and offer our lives as a humble sacrifice to our Saviour and Creator. It has nothing to do with “good” people or “terrible” people.

  • Jonathan Hughes

    Christ is not in it .That is why. Church is all rituals. Church is like what Jesus faced with pharisees. The truth Jesus has is simple. The religions complicate it missing the mark. People that miss the mark will pervert verses to make them think that harming another is good and acceptable before God with conviction. People are seeing how evil that is getting out to get into Christs church made without human hands.

    • julia

      Adventists are very good at preaching but not practicing. Could it be we dont know the true character of God? Is most of the church pharisees and always will be? too often we use works as a measure of our good christian standing. that is very easy to fake to each other but teenagers can smell a hypocrite a mile away. I say dont lower your standards, but truely love and care for these kids without the body language of condeming them. How many adults even know the names of the youth in our church? alot of times they are known as so and sos son or daughter. that is very demeaning a teenager. Yes, it is every persons own choice but lets help them find the way by reflecting the light of Christ.

  • Joe

    All terms that are negatively defined and the author has a “sarcastic” attitude towards are found within “quotations”. Not helpful. Spending time on solutions and what is working somewhere for someone would be a better use of a discussion.

  • Old n’ Rich

    Human nature demonstrates in every generation that young adults tend to become irritated at whatever they have been most familiar with during adolescence. They move at least a short distance away from the perceived source of irritation and eventually fashion their own stability. Some move farther and faster than others. If you were a fisherman, and your young person was a fish on your line, when the “fish” makes his run would you give it some line or just give up because your “fish” didnt want to just passively jump into your boat? Keep the lines of love and relationship intact. Don’t give up. Learn and turn to Jesus yourself. There are other phases coming soon.

  • ragemin

    Here is a real possibility as to why they leave the church. And I am not just talking about meetings on Sundays…I mean the body of Christ which they at one time professed to be in.

    15 vDo not love the world or the things in the world. wIf anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life3—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

    Just a thought. May it the scripture is way more accurate than our “reasons” why they left the church.

    • Mar Komus

      Maybe a bit of both

  • Pkid

    I left because of a pastor who abused his position. He set himself up as a sort of god on Earth and ran the church as his on mini-kingdom. He treated the people of the church as his playthings and tried to run their lives according to his will. When he decided that my husband and I could not marry, and even better that my husband (boyfriend at the time) should marry a different girl of his choosing, we had enough…and we left. We left the church, the area, everything. It took a long time to recover from that kind of abuse and I am the daughter of a preacher. What it took was good friends taking us to a good church that believed in the things that I was raised on and we could feel the kindness of others in the whole church not just the pastor. As they say, they don’t just “do church” they “are the church.”

    • DRiddering

      Good for you!. we must never forget that Jesus himself and other Bible writers warned us against this kind of leaders. I thank god that there are enough true followers of Jesus to help people who want to recover after a bad experience to help you back to healthy faith in a healthy church. Never take your eyes off Jesus!

    • ragemin

      So you actually didn’t leave the church, which is a great thing. You left “a” church. Totally glad you found a church home and brothers and sisters to do life with! Soli Deo Gloria

      • Pkid

        We didn’t attend an actual church for 10 years. We went back because of our children and because before my Dad died it was something he asked me to really look in my heart to see if I could find my way back to. I never left God, just the attendance of church.

  • Clint

    I would ask if maybe one of the reasons young adults quit the church might have to do with the fact that many churches are more like country clubs than anything else? It seems to me that many of the reasons older people go to church has nothing to do with sharing Jesus, but that they feel comfortable there. They get to go on trips and get together for meals. They also get to hear there favorite music on Sunday Mornings. This will be seen as a negative comment, but after I returned from a summer mission trip when I was young, I looked around and noticed most of what the church was doing, involved church people. I do agree with this article, but it seems to me the mindset in many of our churches is get them here and train them to love what we love. IF that were only Jesus it would be ok, but not everyone loves the same things yet sometimes common beliefs will hold you together and make you better. I know me and my wife are such opposites in so many ways, but when it comes to Christ we love him and want what glorifies him.

  • Thomas

    These are interesting hypotheses, but at least here in Southern Illinois, I don’t think they hold. The church that draws around 1000-2000 students (5%-10% of the University student body & and many of them from unchurched backgrounds) every Sunday is The Vine — a charismatic, seeker-friendly, rock music playing group — many of the things this article says are negative. It is also deliberately multi-racial, missional, and small-group oriented

  • Brian

    Kids do leave churches because they aren’t authentic and actively trying to make a difference in the world. But bringing the church, and our kids, back to “traditional” and ancient traditions isn’t the answer. For them, that’s all they are. What our kids need is a place to develop a real, personal relationship with God in a REAL way that makes sense to THEM.
    To often, we try to teach our kids to learn and follow our faith. They do need the lessons, and they do need to learn and remember the past. But those things them need to be applied to them personally, and they need to be given room to make it their own.
    Basically, if we want our kids to stay in church, we have to find a way to step aside ourselves and give the next generation room to own it for themselves. And that will mean for us in the older generation of leaders, adapting to a new way of doing things, and HELPING the younger generation to be all they can be for the Lord.

    • Mar Komus

      Best way is for them to mimic the faith of their leaders

    • Borghy Holm

      Well said!

    • C_Alan_C

      You miss the point. We must return to preaching “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The author is not talking about bringing back your great grandpa’s “ol’ time religion,” or some Victorian era message. No, it’s much older than that! He’s talking about returning to a 1st century Gospel, centered on the blood of Christ and laying the foundation principles (Heb 6:1-2) that we’ve been glossing over for a century.

  • James Wiske

    I left because I was tired of the hypocrisy and the hatred coming from the church. How the Bible is the inerrant word of God when it comes to why we must deny equal rights to certain groups of people, but then they cherry-pick like the rest of us what they like from the Bible when it comes to everything else.

    • Mar Komus

      Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, Pot.

      • Chris

        He has a point. Christians are becoming militant against anything that doesn’t fall in to their beliefs. And within the community of the church we have every right to. But just as we have been told to not conform to the ways of this world, We cannot make the world conform to the ways of Christians. I’ve seen pastors who are up in arms over gay marriage get caught 6 months later in sexual immorality themselves. Which sin is greater?

        • amos8

          Perhaps we can say with confidence that the “greater” sin is that of teaching falsehood, or allowing falsehood into our churches and homes–which then destroys individuals, families, churches … both now and in eternity. Yet few seem to care about this, and seemingly most “put up with it” (2 Cor 11:3-4).

          Paul (and others) could have been (mischaracterized) blamed as “becoming militant” when the did not put up with compromisers (Gal 2) or false teachings/teachers. But in today’s PC church and society, those who do not put up with this, who dare address the assaults against God’s Word/Church get blamed, rather than those who are doing the attacking and compromising (1 Kgs 18:17; Rom 16:17-18).

        • Mar Komus

          I know he has a point. I got it. I didn’t say he didn’t have a point, did I? My comment was simply to point out that he’s no better for leaving. He’s cherry-picked his own likes/dislikes and admits as much, but seems to gloss over it simply by giving it a formal nod. He should have fought until they kicked him out. What has he done to fight for a more sane solution? As for Christians not making the world conform to Christianity: you’re preaching to the choir! I’m not part of those who would vote for or against laws to make what I see as Christian morality mandatory for the rest of society. Who am I to judge outsiders? God will judge outsiders. That includes homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. But ESPECIALLY if the offender is an INSIDER who is held to a higher standard.

      • James Wiske

        Yes, I, as a person who doesn’t believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, am still somehow using it to deny equal rights to people. My hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  • Algoria

    Is some of our falling away from God possibly also a sign of the times in which we are living? We’re now almost 2000 years closer to the promised event Christians are waiting and hoping for. I’m not saying this is the time, but we need to remember that one day “this very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.” Before that there will be great upheaval, according to the Bible.

    War is as old as mankind but the previous century produced the most destructive wars and the worst mass murders ever committed – at least 150 million killed. Perhaps even worse, in our own era (in the past 40 years) over a billion unborn children have been killed worldwide; over 100 million aborted in the US and Europe alone. The mere mention of this will give some readers the vapors (not because of the atrocity we have committed, but because someone is bringing it up yet again.) The world is also in the process of sanctioning homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage, contrary to God’s will and design. The behavior is old, but the sanctioning is new.

    This is no excuse for the way many of us have failed in training our children. However it is time for those of us who can read the writing on the wall to turn to God in prayer and fasting. A previous article on this site ended with this advice. It applies to our prodigal children as well as the world at large:
    “Prayer has power to do incredible things in our lives and in the world around us. As we see this gathering darkness in the world, prayer is the key to unleashing the light.”

  • Mike Spencer

    This article has hit the bullseye! Don’t talk to me about how many kids are coming to your charismatic rock concert, because the fact is they are not there to be part of the body of Christ. This is to say, they aren’t there to be fed the word of God, to edify the body, to encourage one another to do good works, to share in the sacraments. to operate in the gifts of the spirit, or be encouraged in the work of Christ’s mission to make disciples. No, they are largely there to be entertained. Guess what, what is relevant to the world is irrelevant to eternity. Traditions be damned, these kids couldn’t distinguish law and gospel with a roadmap and a flashlight. And guess whose fault that is. I am done with seeker-driven, church growth scubalon. It is good for nothing except being trampled underfoot. It has lost its saltiness. It’s a dead bird, take it out and bury it. Get on with rightly interpreting the word of truth. Your job as a pastor is to feed the sheep, and not with the nutritionless filler of vision-casting twaddle all you Andy Stanley clones try to pawn off week after week. You need to feed the sheep with God’s word or shut yer’ yap’!

    • Borghy Holm

      Okay I get your passion. But from your tone, I wonder if you’re going to be feeding them with a pitchfork!

  • Jerico

    Who cares? Jesus was not a member of a “church” either. He too left his parents. He turned water into wine. He wandered homeless for years. People looked down on him in disgust. He used truth and not the man-made (hand selected) writings called The Bible. Kids grow their own attitudes based on their environment. Shove anything down their throat and they will learn to dislike it.

    • Patrick

      No, He *did* use the Bible–> He used the Old Testament, which He said testified about HIM.

  • Lance Hostetter

    Why do Christian kids leave the church? For the same reason I left for a time and millions before me:
    —People love sin. John 3:19
    —Following Jesus (which means you are part of his bride the Church) is not easy. John 6:67

    • Elisabeth Hope

      Thanks Lance! Saved by the blood which is applied to our hearts.
      Now, we serve a Supreme GRACIOUS God.

  • Borghy Holm

    Amen to the middle-aged pastors stop it with trying to wear the skinny jeans! Gosh I hate that. Also ease up on the hair gel spiked hair men. It just seems silly.
    As for the part of this article that calls the “love God and love people” vision statement hollow, I guess I have to disagree a bit on that. Because really “love God and love people” sounds like what Jesus gave to us as the greatest commandment–certainly something we should attend to. However I do agree we should shore up our kids with some strong doctrinal teaching and the centrality of Christ-in-us, grace and faith. Not just watered-down attempts at “coolness” and a stale list of dos and don’t.

    • Tom Reed

      I never thought straight guys wore skinny jeans, lol, why do Men wear them, boys can Men shouldn’t.

    • Robert Campbell

      I don’t think he was talking about getting rid of “love God, love neighbor”, but that it was the perversion of the command that made it a “feel good expression all the time” part. Loving God and loving neighbor is not without the reality of the self-sacrifice which mirrors the cross. Love is warm fuzzies, but love is also dealing with cold pricklies. The church does not deal with cold pricklies very well-if not at all.

  • Been there

    Suggest they read the Early Church Fathers in context. Then they will understand what 2000 plus years of Christianity is suppose to be about. ….the foundation and pillar of truth. 1 Tim 3:15

  • John

    I am a 42 year old associate pastor who was saved at age 31 as an atheist.

    At first glance this article seems constructive but…

    What I am reading is a bunch of excuses by immature children who have fallen into the same trap that they do in school, peer pressure. More specifically, they wanted to act like what they saw was going on rather than pick up the bible and read it for themselves.
    When they take a test in school they pass or fail based on what they have read/studied! Whether or not you choose to be a christian is based on what you read for yourself in the bible, not what your mom, dad, friends, elders, pastor, etc. do! Remember Phil. 2:12? Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

    This is part of the problem in our church body. Rather than confronting immature Christians about their irresponsibility, we enable them by regurgitating their excuses.

    I’ve heard all these excuses before and I respond the same way every time. “So what you’re telling me young man/lady is that you turned your back on Christ and his Body because of what you deemed was other people acting disingenuous???” Then I follow up with this question…”Do you love Christ?”, the answer is always yes, then… “how can you not love his body and be reconciled to it?”

    Regurgitating their excuses for everyone else to read just fuels their justification for leaving!

  • Alice Hoffman

    I left”church” when I was 16, living in Louisiana and not seeing anything that was real to me. At 28, I met a person who lived her faith and taught me what i had missed my whole life. I actually went back to the pastor in my home town and asked him if I missed him preaching the love of Jesus !( I came away with a message of don’t do this or that , certain people were not welcome at church and nothing I heard helped me learn about Jesus or be like him. ) Churches are full of people who fail. Some are great and some fall short But are we missing the point? Jesus did not have hair sprayed hair or look the way he was ” supposed to look.” He was radical,loving , challenging, bold , unconventional, and invited us to a life of leaving behind so much of what we were taught was important ,to follow Him. I am sure in my life I have fallen short of living a life that showed people the love of Christ. But I do not believe we should expect a “church ” to teach our children about Christ. We need to not preach but to live the gospel of Christ. Then I hope our kids/grand kids will find a body of Christ where they feel at home. We have to be real! Alice Hoffman

  • Geoff Hubbard

    I left church at 18 for several reasons. First I had tried so hard to be perfect but never could. Second a church from a denomination I thought a lot of had locked its doors when some Black people came to worship there and had them arrested for trespassing. i remember when that church’s pastor spoke at chapel all I could think was “how can he love God whom he has not seen and so shamefully treat people he has seen?”

    At 28 I came back also for several reasons. I had tried the other extreme of booze, sex, and weed and it left me so lonely. As a teacher the love I felt for my kids reminded me of the love I once had for the Lord. And starting with my dad surviving an illness that was supposed to kill him, the Lord kept putting people in my life that answered question after question, including some I didn’t know I had.

    Now as a pastor for 32 years and a missionary for 7 I never cease to marvel at how the Lord never gave up on me, how great His forgiveness is, and how the joy of serving Him through ministering to the least of His brothers and sisters is just so wonderful. As the hymn goes “but the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul; just to think that God loves me!”

    I may not know as much doctrine as I’d like but that doesn’t stop our church from feeding lepers in Uganda and sending at risk kids to Christian camp.

    Yes I’ve had kids drop out of church. But I’ve also had the joy of seeing some of them come back to a church that never stopped loving them.

    The love of Christ, the love of Christ.

  • selah

    Young people leave the church because it is full of hatred. Hatred is not a natural part of who we are, its taught and beaten into people through fear and manipulation. Young people today have enough exposure through the internet and social media to see that there are alternatives to the hatred (acceptance, tolerance, love) and they simply do not want to be a part of it.

    • Derek Morgan

      I dissagree, the whole entire point of Christianity is love. Keep in mind, saying you are a follower of god is also saying you know you aren’t perfect. A lot of horrible things have happened in history “in the name of the church”. when you really look at these events (assuming you know both sides of the story) these people were not truly following/listening to The Word of God. If you truly feel that the church is full of hate, I’m so sorry you had that experience. I’ve seen so many selfless loving people who do everything they can, even for a stranger, all in the name of Jesus Christ. I bet if you visited a few different congregations you would find one that speaks to you. Its the law of large numbers. Just because people say they are “Christian” doesn’t mean they understand the true meaning of what they are saying.

      • Tortfeasor

        The entire point of Christianity is love, but the church doesn’t always go with that as their driving force. Take the LGBT issue. I, as a straight man, could go on a 6-month bender where I drink, do drugs, and end up with a different woman every night. Most people in the churches I’ve attended would say something behind my back to the effect of, “Oh, we really need to pray for him, he’s falling apart.” One of my good male friends, on the other hand, has been in a monogamous relationship with the same man for 10 years, and the worst vice of his is smoking. Present him to the “flock,” though, and they will oftentimes condemn him to his face for being gay. People don’t take the church seriously on the LGBT condemnation as being a threat to marriage when the divorce rate is 50% and people barely utter a word.

        • Jim Snyder

          This is extremely well said, and I agree with it 100%. As a 20-something (until Jan. at least) that was raised in the church and grew further and further apart from it as I got older, this is generally what made me do so. I had nothing personally against any of the people there it was just the general hypocrisy of giving the message that Christians are supposed to be the examples of love and tolerance, but are as a whole, on the complete other side of that as demonstrated by their actions. I decided that I don’t want to subscribe to a belief system that says one thing, but immediately turns around and acts in an opposite way.

          The trying to be relevant thing is a whole different eye-roll completely that I’ll save my comments for later on.

          • Guest3

            As a man, is it worse to lust for another man or lust for a woman? The Church would say both are equally sinful. Those who acknowledge that they do either and find no wrong in it would be denied Communion (not turned out of the Church!) until they confess and repent. I am a man just like any other, and I struggle with lust. It is a sickness given to all men by our poisonous, sex-obsessed world. Yet it doesn’t mean that I don’t fight with it. I repent, I go to Confession, I try to avoid being tempted. If a gay man struggles with the same thing, there is no reason The Church would deny him Communion or judge him. Our hands our too full and we are too busy at war (yes, war) with our own sins to go digging for another man’s. We are weak, but we are given strength, our hands our empty and we are given weapons, we fall and we receive forgiveness through Christ’s love, and all this happens in The Church. THAT is why we come. We struggle against the spiritual forces, not against our fellow man. We are not here to judge another for his sins. We are here to allow Christ to heal him and empower him to struggle with sin. On the other hand, we will not pretend that sin is not sin or that it is not evil.

            The Church is not a courthouse. As my Priest says, The Church is a hospital. I would add also that it is a spiritual armory and a barracks, where the true warrior is Jesus Christ. Lord, have mercy!

        • Bananadrama

          Agree with all of this. Plus, Jesus LOVED everyone even if he didn’t agree with all of their lifestyle choices. It’s not the church’s place to use secular law to enforce adherence. Spending time and millions of dollars of lobbying money on things like DOMA is ridiculous when there are homeless people who could use a hot meal or elderly people in nursing homes who would like someone to visit them. Jesus would have done that instead.

  • Hank

    I get it but 2000 years ago the church was relevant. Their dress and style of music was the same as the world. Even today, you go to Africa and if a village comes to know Christ they will worship him with the style they are already familiar with in their culture. To do something in church that is more “ancient” is to be relevant to the culture your mimicking hundreds of years ago. Kids are leaving all churches, not just the ones with middle aged pastors in skinny jeans. If the kids grew up in the church then their parents have forgoten how to disciple their children, and if they got saved as teenagers the church forgot how to develop mentors who disciple. What’s fake to young people is when adults go to church and the rest of the week they are hyporcrates. Young people need to see that the church not only matters, but it is vital.

  • Jon

    They leave because we don’t teach them the real reason for church > risking their life for Christ on the mission field – going to the unreached and making a difference. They can’t make a difference sitting in the pew and going to youth camp.

    World Missions Awareness

    • Nathan

      That sounds pretty works-based to me. Anyone can make a difference doing anything in their life whether it be sitting in a pew, going to church camp, or yes, even serving Christ on the mission field. There are people who don’t believe that you come across in your everyday life that need that person to plant the seed.

      • Jon

        Huh!? I don’t think you get it. We’re talking about giving young people a reason for staying in church and getting discipled. An awareness of what God is doing in the world and how He calls us to be part of His mission is transforming. So, are you content with letting them sit in the pews? Join us on Sept 21 at World Missions Awareness 2013. You can be transformed too, Nathan. God Bless you.

        • Abby

          This is interesting. You abdicating short-term missions as a means to get kids to understand the weight of their Christianity. Real talk? I’m a youth minister’s wife. Every year, parents beg us to organize a week long trip to a third world country for “mission work”. Do you know why we don’t? It’s not being we “don’t get it”. It’s because short-term missions play into the idea talked about above where theatrics and feelings rule out over roots and knowledge. The other problem is that you could send the money youth groups use to go over seas and pay a missionary. I promise, they can do a lot more good with fifty thousand dollars than they can with lazy teenagers. Finally, I think short-term missions use residents of visited countries as commodities to deepen our children’s spiritual growth. I’m not okay with that. Want to see what God is doing? Take people to your nearest big city. Spend a week feeding and loving on the homeless. Spend less money, take more kids, don’t have a language barrier and have the same “effects” you’re after.

          Also, if you went to have your kids “risk their lives” on the mission field, you’d get the pants sued off of you.

          • Jon

            Abby! Abby! Abby! I am not talking about short-term missions or sending your teens to the field when they cant tie their shoes or go potty by themselves. Those that leave the church early are most always HS seniors and young adults. And we sure wouldn’t want to put our babies at risk going to an Indian reservation. After all, Jesus suffered and died and put His life at risk for them, right? So much for the cross they wear around their necks. If young adults are not willing to answer the call, they should take the cross off and just sit in the pews(in the back row), go to camp and grow up in Christ by themselves first. But we don’t want to get in the way of God’s purpose for their lives. And by the way, we love you guys.

          • been there

            There is NO God and Jesus is his son.

          • Jon

            Ooooo!! Now that’s original. So, how does it feel to be in the minority? Well, you still have some time left. 3 years ago I spoke with 2 guys who said the same thing. There helping with church plants among indigenous peoples in India who also have said the same thing. So, gosh, maybe there’s some hope for you. Huh?
            So, anyway, God loves you, too, and so does His Son, Jesus.

          • Loves God

            Dear Been There, May I ask if you know everything? If you do not, Then Please do not claim that there is no God or Jesus. I pray the Holy Spirit enter your heart , mind, and soul, and show you his love and truth.

          • susan

            Are you serious? “And we sure wouldn’t want to put our babies at risk going to an Indian reservation. ” How condecending, ignorant, racist…I really hope that statement was sarcastic because if it isn’t you surely have no clue. Many Native people are Christians and show it in ways most cannot.

          • Jon

            Hi Susan. Who are you? You shouldn’t read other people’s mail. I think you’re being judgemental. That’s a NO! NO! And how do you get racism out of visiting an Indian reservation?

        • zaphod1

          what god is doing in this world is precisely NOTHING, except watching starving disease ridden African children die and laughing at prayers beseeching him to stop the carnage.

  • Charles Hewitt

    Kids leave the church because they know–even they cannot verbalize it–that Christian believers have a “hypocrisy of silence”. As one of many examples, Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, as originally ratified, legalized a horrible attack on families, and yet Conservative Christian believers honor (by their silence or worst) military commanders such as Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson who so strongly defended this horrible attack on families.

    • RecoveringCatholic

      Kids leave the church because the Constitution authorized congress to tax? Yikes.

  • Alan Thompson

    This is a more general complaint. I see articles like this day after day… “5 reasons for this,” and “3 truths about that.” There is no statistical research, no supporting data, just one more person’s opinions muddying the waters. I find the personal testimonies in the comments below far more helpful. I’d respect the content far more if it said, “X Reasons That I Left the Church.” The attitude that a writer’s personal opinion should be given the weight of fact is part of the problem, not a solution. Anyone with an opinion is an expert!

    • Mike Kever

      Ummmm……did you miss the part where he said that these were the answers he got when he talked to “a large number of 20-somethings” and said “I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of conversations.”

  • JM

    Sorry, but blaming the church for the actions of individuals? Really? They leave because they CHOOSE to leave. On June 1, 1984, I helplessly watched my father die of a heart attack right in front of me. I CHOSE to blame God and walked away from church. I eventually returned after 14 years of anger, bitterness and depression took its toll on me. I realized my father’s death could have opened up a whole new phase of God in my life and shudder at what I lost because I CHOSE otherwise. I have no one to blame but me, myself and I. The Bible tells us that we are without excuse: Romans 1:20.

    • Matthew

      This article is not saying the church is responsible for youth’s actions. I believe it is saying quite the opposite. Many churches have tried to make themselves more appealing in an effort to draw youth in and keep them. I believe this is because the church does feel responsible for the choices that youth make.
      But with a more appealing message often times comes a watered down message that doesn’t have the power to change lives like the simple truth of the gospel does. There are literally thousands of messages that youth will encounter when they leave home and go to college and if the church doesn’t present the gospel as it was originally presented, with the power of the Holy Spirit, there is no reason why any of us youth would choose our church’s message over similar secular messages. As for me, I’ve seen the youth groups that this article talks about but I went to one where we weren’t all about the fun stuff but taught the Bible and did a lot of outreach ministries. The faith I had seen was real, and so I chose to continue growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
      We, as a church, can’t blame ourselves for youth’s choices, but we shouldn’t depend on secular devices to get youth to go to church. If we value our youth, and of course we do, then why not return to the methods of the early church: Prayer and waiting on God and trusting that He is the One that will do the changing, not us.

  • SB

    Attending a small group Bible study is the “answer for the world today.”

    • Penny

      If they are indeed studying the Bible. Usually though it a “Christian” author book club and there isn’t much Bible being studied at all

  • Recovering Catholic

    I think a glaring omission from the top 10 is POLITICS….When a church attaches to 1 of two political parties–statistically, you are starting out with 50% of the population opposing you.

    • Network Butterfly

      I would argue that (internal) church politics far outweighs the effects on our youth than civic politics.

      • zaphod1


  • MaLa

    Sorry, but these reasons aren’t surprising.

  • Alan Muehlenweg

    My difficulty with this is that youth have been leaving the church like this for the past 2 decades, yet we’re now blaming “modern-esque” efforts of outreach and evangelism as to why it’s happening in 2013?

  • At Peace

    What is church really? It’s the business of religion. We’ve seen the effects of greed & corruption in all aspects of life and church is no different. Young people see through hypocrisy & politics. Personally, I prefer my religion a la carte.

    • Abby

      Going to have to disagree with you there, buddy. The church is corrupt and it is full of hypocrites. But it’s also the bride of Christ.

      • Been there

        The church is a business….a really BIG business.

        • d foucart

          And I hate businesses. Especially the ones that hires tons of people, that pays people. so that people can have lives, and families. Down with business. Down with family. Just send me my check.

  • sssss

    I believe in God. Yet I know the one thing in life that connects us to reality more than a make-believe feeling we all have is the morality we feel from life as it surrounds us. And so I don’t attest to any religion in particular. Why are you people all so sure Jesus is the true lord, and why is it so important (other than the fact that you might burn in hell? I refuse to attest to a religion such as this when God is supposed to love us all). I often also feel I do more good outside of church than I do inside. Life is about educating oneself… even Jesus didn’t spend all day in the church.

    • Mountain

      sssss, The problem is sin and there is no other answer to that problem, which affects us all. Really there are only two religious systems in the world: the gospel of Jesus Christ and everything else in myriad forms. “Everything else” is the religion of “I,” which is what characterizes all man-devised religions when we cut through all the fluff. So, there are only two alternatives, the gospel in which acceptance with God is based on what God has done or everything else, wherein acceptance with God, however that is perceived in these various religions, is based on human merit. The “everything else” is the “way that seems right to a man but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Jesus Christ is God’s Way (John 14:6).

  • Steven Chaney

    Sorry to say, you’ve missed it all. Church is not a building. The Church is a people. If the only “Church” they encounter is in a brick and mortar building on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, then we are losing kids because we never had them in the first place. Church starts in the home. It’s lived in the home. It’s not perfect but it’s real and the kids must know that we know we are not perfect. If we are not demonstrating Christianity every day in our homes, then the best hope is that a guest evangelist comes into the church and reaches our children and hopefully as they walk the isle to choose Christ their parents will follow.

  • Charles Hewitt

    This is not about taxes; instead, it is about Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, as originally ratified, which designates certain things in the Bible Belt as “….three-fifths of all other Persons”.

  • Taylor Sorensen

    I left the church as soon as I could because, at the age of 12, I actually read the bible. It is a deplorable read of genocide, misogyny, God-induced abortions (hypocrisy), inequality, murder, and degradation of science. Then there’s the New Testament, which is more morally deficient than the Old Testament. I left because I had better morals than the God of the bible and I did not want to follow that horrible immorality. Also, there is the evidence factor. As in, there is 0 evidence for God. That one was big for me.

    • Mountain

      Taylor, so what’s your answer to life? It seems like you have it all figured out.

      • gregor_samsa

        I suspect Taylor has some very good answers that don’t rely upon superstition and magic.

  • Ranjy Thomas

    I read this article and a few others from this author. I find his writings to be very arrogant and lack respect for so many Christ followers. I don’t know what kind of fruit this person has in his own ministry but it appears that his posted writings assume most others to be false teachers. I couldn’t find any articles where this author lifts up a current pastor or ministry as excellent. Several of my friends have responded favorably to this author… Because I have so much love and respect for these friends I’m trying to look for the truth in the findings of this author and his larger body of insights. It has become a popular assumption that young people are leaving the church because the church is failing. It appears She (the church) has become an easy target for both Christians who don’t relate to a particular type of church and people who are not interested in Jesus. Throughout time the people who have been most effective at getting people to walk away from Christ attack one type of church flavor vs. another. Most attack music style, what people look like/wear and what (if any) kind of equipment/environments (video screens, speaker systems, coffee shops etc) they employ to communicate their message. Young people are not leaving the church because of any of these things (in fact data would prove the exact opposite… but that is not my point) YOUNG PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH because the world is very attractive and full of self gratifying experiences until of course the rug gets pulled out from under them and they are left lonely, confused, hurt and perceived damaged. I have watched it for years and it breaks my heart. It motivates me to want to share the Gospel. Let’s stop attacking churches and assessing everyones doctrine. Let’s be accountable for the doctrine of the local church we choose to make our own (choose a church you believe is sound based on all that you have read in the Bible). The best way for us to encourage young people to find life in HIS church is to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I (Jesus) have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

    • Jack Forbes

      I agree with you on some points. I believe is is healthy to evaluate our approaches, and rationales and models of ministry. If there is failure we need to address what components of that failure we are accountable for as a body. There is a difference in that and in finding fault or attacking. I had an eye opening experience when I was asked to teach a youth SS class. First off I learned not to make assumptions, I learned that I need to challenge my perceptions and notions about why things are the way they are. Youth by nature are curious and unsettled as was the prodigal. Yes there are powerful attractions in the world. Having said that, my observations and experience of teaching those youth, some of which had backslid and returned, tells me that many of the points in the article are spot on. The problem is that we (the Church) are so concerned with protecting our youth from the world that we have done everything but the thing we are suppose to do. Prepare them to face a sinful world and find their way in it as Christians. We don’t have real conversations about the complexities of living a life rooted in Christ and the conflict between that life and the belief systems of the world. Our middle school and high school SS classes and youth groups need to go beyond Friday night lock ins and Sunday morning Bible stories about Kind David, Peter or Noah. They have heard that for years and it really does them a disservice. What they want, what they crave, is to understand how those stories apply to their struggle as they attempt to discover who they are. What do these stories have to do with the struggle of going to public school and maintaining faith. What does it have to do in the face of all the negativity of the world to Christians, the retaliation that comes with attempting to have a prayer group at school, in the face of friends who bring to school the pain of alcohol parents, abusive fathers, (or absent ones) girls kissing each other in the hall ways, homosexual friends that treat them as friends yet are told from the pulpit that those friends are abominations to be avoided, and then in the same sermon taught that Christ is love (where is the reconciliation in these doctrines?) Friends on marijuana or even worse, heroin, friends who cut themselves. Friends bound in depression, eating disorders, and hatred and fear of authority. We are so disconnected from our youth. They are not kids, and yet they are not adults. We work so hard trying to define them and attempting to tell them what they need, all the while we are so blind and so deaf that we just can’t see or hear their needs even though they are expressing it right before us who they are and what they need. That my friend is the failure of every adult in the body. As a result they seek answers where they may. It is time we get out shelter mode, to recognize their is a difference between insulation and isolation. We need to stop being so afraid of talking real talk about sex, drugs, pornography etc becasue they are hearing about it from everyone but the Church.

  • bkbr

    I am 62 years old. I was raised to attend church every Sunday. I believe in God but I too left the church as a teenager. In later years, when I began to look for s church family, the churches were all about rock praise song, shorts, tee shirts and sandals…the “cool” factor. I wanted the old church, old hymns, hellfire and brimstone sermons and respectful congregations. Hard to find. It’s no wonder that young people today haven’t a clue about commitment to church values.

  • George Chochos

    As I leave for Yale Divinity, I’m grateful I read this article. It has challenged me to reflect on how I will approach “youth ministry.” Thank you for this insightful and most needed convicting article.

  • danny

    bloody good article… sums up completely why i left and still struggle with going to church… i completely believe in Christ and Gods grace, but the church environment, culture ect… i can not deal with – it causes so much pain – i used to think it was just me, but i have found countless of others like me.. and as the statistics quoted here show – there is a ridiculously high ratio of kids who walk out the door and never return.. are the ney-sayers disagreeing that this is happening? as for the church … its like a business and the sunday service is the main product along with all the little added products like connect group and youth group… i hope an answer can be found, cause i dont want my kids growing up in a church if it means they go through what i did… i dont want them growing up without knowing God either… leaves quite the conundrum

  • Cathy

    I think that it is important to be relevant enough to get the message across, but I find that many churches have gone beyond that and try for being “cool”. That’s not relevant, that’s high school. And we’ve all left/ or will leave high school….

  • Anonymous

    I found the article to have some valid points, but I find my personal experiences to be much different. I attended churches that according to this article, did all the “right” things. Though I found that I attended church because I was supposed to and not because I actually wanted to. I think we would be shocked how many actually fall into that category. Though I did not leave church physically, I left church spiritually. Mine was due to a lack of a personal relationship and freedom in Christ. It was all about the do’s/don’ts as mentioned in this article. It was all about appearances. It wasn’t until I got into a church that focused on a true relationship with Christ that things changed. It was no longer about “what is wrong with everyone else” but rather what was MY relationship with Christ. For years I have heard pastors get behind the pulpit and condescend about other churches. The common theme was usually music style, dress standards, and version of the Bible. This article does the exact same thing. Instead of addressing how to keep your kids in church, it seeks to apply blame for why kids leave. In my opinion, the church itself has very little to do with it. If you want your kids to love Christ then they need to see their parents love Christ. How will our kids learn to be the hands and feet of Jesus, if the parents are nothing more than religious robots. Proverbs 22:6

    • Sojourner

      Your comments are right on. I am thankful you found a church that focuses on a true relationship with Christ and not on what everyone else is doing wrong. Thanks for sharing from your heart/experience.

  • gregor_samsa

    I’m not actually sure how to read this. I’ll come clean up
    front and tell you I’m an atheist. Hold on now; don’t panic. That doesn’t
    automatically make me the enemy – it just means I don’t believe in something
    you believe in. There’s room for dialogue, I hope.

    I’m curious to know how you decided upon the ranking of the
    reasons. It sounds like you’ve spent some time talking to college-age kids
    about why they’ve “left” the church, but have you ranked the reasons based on
    accurate counts of their answers, or upon a subjective assessment of the
    “importance” of the answers? Are these ALL of the answers they gave, and how
    can you be sure they were honest with you. They’ve chosen to leave the church,
    so they may be somewhat suspicious of someone from the church questioning them.
    Anyway, that’s just a point of curiosity.

    Your point about the church being “relevant” as a problem is
    truly interesting. You described it as a historic 2,000-year-old faith, and
    then lamented that the failure is in trying to dress it up to look like
    something that matters in our modern world. In fact, because you can’t simply
    forget the Old Testament (a serious problem for you, I think), your religion is
    actually about 3,500 years old. It is critical to recognize that the world has
    changed almost immeasurably in 3,500 years – even if you DO start with the New
    Testament, the world is obviously radically different now than it was then.
    Your religion, however, hasn’t changed at all – despite your attempts to put a
    thin coat of skinny jeans and rock-and-roll rhythms on it.

    I think you may be misinterpreting the message these kids
    are giving you. Maybe it’s not that they long for a return to an archaic
    superstition, but rather that they’re turned off by hypocritical attempts to
    make it appear to be anything else. The religion is NOT relevant, and
    pretending to make it so only makes it more obvious. As you point out so many
    times, these kids are pretty smart. If something doesn’t make sense they’re
    going to figure that out. Any attempt to trick them into thinking it does make
    sense is only going to create resentment.

    Your numbers 8 and 7 (They get smart; You sent them out
    unarmed) are linked together and raise some interesting questions. In number 8
    you point out that agnostics and atheists treat “your” youth “as intelligent
    and challenge their intelligence with ‘deep thoughts’ of question and doubt.’”
    You then try to explain that your faith has answered those doubts over the
    centuries (in great depth), but I’d argue that your problem is … it hasn’t done
    anything of the kind – and that’s why your number 7 is, “You sent them out
    unarmed.” By “you,” I assume you mean the parents of these lost young souls.
    But first, back to 8.

    I wonder what “answers” your 3,500-year-old faith has
    provided over the centuries. Since it hasn’t changed much in that time, the
    answers now are exactly as they were then (philosophical, sexist,
    superstitious, hierarchical/authoritarian and mysterious). You gently accuse
    atheists and agnostics of challenging young intellects with “deep thoughts” of
    question and doubt. That you chose to use the quotations strongly suggests that
    you are mocking the actual depth of our deep thoughts. But, in any case, you
    have misrepresented most atheists and agnostics. You use the terms “question”
    and “doubt,” with a negative connotation. I prefer the terms curiosity and
    skepticism. That fact that evangelicals and fundamentalists both shun curiosity
    and skepticism is, in my opinion, strong evidence of the weakness of your
    positions. If your ideas won’t stand up to even mild scrutiny, you may need to
    rethink them. Perhaps that’s just what many of these young wanderers have done.

    As to number 7, it is, indeed, linked to 8. You’ve sent them
    out unarmed because you have no arrows in your quiver than can pierce the armor
    of science and reason. Your answer, stunningly, seems to be to revert to
    orthodoxy and historic faith – making your church even less relevant in our
    modern times. I suspect that approach won’t bring back some of these wanderers,
    but chase more away, leaving you with only the most gullible, needy and
    incurious in your pews. Why on earth would you want to do that? Why not upgrade
    your arsenal instead? I suspect it’s because such an upgrade would require some
    radical changes – you’d have to replace the superstition and magic with
    straight philosophy and embrace the natural sciences. More on that later.

    As you move on to numbers six and five, it becomes more
    apparent that you are left to admit evangelicalism and fundamentalism simply
    have very little to offer these young people. Of course you are correct that
    you can’t make someone else “feel” like you do about something. But, again you
    miss the critical point. You suggest the error has been in not instructing
    these young minds in the orthodoxy of their parents’ religion, and that if you
    simply give them the “physical elements of bread, wine and water,” they’re left
    with nothing but subjectivity, and the exciting college life gives them much
    more interesting things to “feel” good about.

    I guess what you’re saying is that you should mold your
    young people into creatures of pure objectivity, so they’re not lured away by
    the carnal temptations of … reality? That’s been your problem all along! Other
    words for that include indoctrination and brain washing. That’s why science
    outduels religion in every debate, and it’s why the more curious and creative
    of your kids wander off. Science says, “It turns out we can fairly accurately
    date the age of things that were once organic, and it appears the Earth is
    WAAAAAY older than 6,000 years.” Your response is, “No it’s NOT! Because …
    well, because some guy added up the ages and generations of people mentioned in
    the Bible, and this simple addition based on non-historical accounts added up
    to about 6,000. No amount of evidence can change THAT!” A curious and
    thoughtful kid is going to go, “Um, that just doesn’t make a lot of sense, and
    why does the Earth have to be 6,000 years old for the lessons of your faith to
    be relevant?” I mean, if you tie certain parts of your faith to things that are
    simply incorrect and impossible, you risk diminishing the credibility of ALL

    In number five you seem to bemoan one of the actual useful
    things still left in religion – community. Apparently, because you’ve taught them
    to enjoy the benefits of “community,” they are susceptible to being lured away
    by other communities. In number four you expand on the idea by again suggesting
    that the church’s failure to focus on the fundamentals and only encouraging
    kids to “be nice” and “love jesus” leaves them vulnerable to being lured away
    by such evils as “volunteering at a shelter.” You admit that the good feelings
    created by these other kinds of communities can be authentic … so, why is that
    a problem?

    This leaves me wondering what kind of adults you want your
    kids to become. You seem to want to cloak them in the armor of pure objectivity
    and religious orthodoxy, and discourage them from experiencing “communities”
    that approach the world differently than they’ve been taught. That seems almost
    criminal to me. If you shelter them from other ideas and pound them with the
    orthodoxy of your faith for their entire youths and then discourage them from
    openness to other ideas in their young adulthood, what have you really done to
    them? You’ve closed all the doors and windows to the wider world, turning these
    young people into robots of your own faith rather than willing participants in
    it. If your god actually does exist, and he genuinely wants people of true
    faith, you have robbed him of that opportunity by creating followers through imposed
    ignorance, rather than through honesty. You’re forcing the best young minds to
    leave your ranks by giving them an impossible choice – embrace the magic and
    superstition or go to hell. Insanity.

    In number three you say a lot of these kids tell you, “The
    church is full of hypocrites.” You claim this is because you’ve failed to teach
    them the actual “law and gospel.” Again, I think you’re identified a genuine
    problem and decided upon the exact opposite of the cause. The reason these
    young people have correctly determined that the church is full of hypocrites is
    because … it is! And this is evidenced by the fact that your leaders
    consistently do preach the law and gospel, but fail to live by them. That’s what
    hypocrisy is, right? This is where your problem with the OT becomes tangible
    and unavoidable. You have one god – the same god the Jews and Muslims have, but
    you’ve chosen to describe him somewhat differently. Because you believe Jesus
    is the promised messiah, and that therefore the New Testament represents a new
    covenant, you’ve created an impossible problem. Jesus was a Jew, but the New
    Testament is interpreted by Christians in a way that makes him seem like
    something else.

    If you believe there was a Jesus, and you believe he was at
    once God and the Son of God, you’re stuck with hypocrisy as a creed, and you’d
    better get comfortable with that. Are you suggesting that Jesus came to change
    God’s message to his people? Why would an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent
    god ever change his mind? Did Jesus rebuke the priests and Pharisees because
    they were following the laws of the OT too closely or not closely enough? Had a
    perfect god’s law somehow become obsolete? Had Jesus come to lay down a new
    law, superseding more than 1,500 years of covenant? It’s impossible. So, you’re
    stuck with problems like the OT god encouraging his people to wipe out entire
    towns full of non Jews, but Jesus encouraging his people to turn the other
    cheek and love your enemy. You have the OT god requiring his people to stone
    loose women to death, but Jesus rebuking people from obeying that law.

    In any case, it seems you’ve identified a perceived problem
    here – that young people are leaving the church, and many are not coming back –
    but you’ve reached some bizarre conclusions about why that’s happening and how
    to reverse it. You often write something like, “Our kids are smart,” but then,
    instead of suggesting an update of your religion to make it actually relevant
    in the modern world, you recommend returning to orthodoxy and, presumably,
    literal interpretations of your holy books. You seem to ignore the fact that
    the intelligence of your youth empowers them to perceive the hypocrisy and
    contradictions inherent in the way to try to practice your faith. You can’t win
    them back by intensifying the hypocrisy and contradictions.

    When you say one problem is that the church has become too
    relevant, you really miss the boat. Adding rock rhythms and hip language to
    services doesn’t make you more relevant – in fact it highlights the problems
    you really have. Instead of pretending
    to be relevant, perhaps the church should consider real reforms that lead to
    actual relevance.

    Perhaps it’s time for the church to ditch the magic and
    superstition and embrace the philosophy. I’d suggest ditching the OT completely
    – it’s a violent, archaic, tribal book. Embrace science, because you simply
    can’t fight the truth with crazy myths. Pick out the lessons and stories that
    encourage people to treat one another well and to focus on quality of life,
    rather than on quantity of things. Of course, the easy way to do that is to
    simply follow your kids out into the real world and become secular humanists,
    but that may be asking too much too soon. There are things of value in
    religion. The sense of community, the encouragement toward emotional wellbeing,
    and so on. Why not focus on those things, rather than cling to 3,500-year-old
    ideas that no longer work in a world that has moved on?

    • zaphod1

      Beautifully written and exquisitely on point

  • Nick

    Also the most important thing: we’re figuring out that the stupid religion called Christianity is fake (like all religions) and just sitting down for 5 minutes and really thinking it through. Just think about the atomic structure, or even the human body. The Christian community will use both of these examples as “proof” of their god’s existence, but in reality, they just don’t understand the laws of physics nor biology.

    I cannot believe I wasted so much of my life adhering to a Christian lifestyle that just kept me in the dark about the world, and sheltered me into not doing the best things in life.

    Life, people, is not a destination–Heaven, Nirvana, etc.–life is the present; life is your own perspective and perception. Trying to please any human or deity is not what we as human beings are supposed to do. Life is the experiences we have on our journey to self-realization which is blocked by the religious bullcrap we’re either forced to live with, or is shoved down our throats.

    Christianity especially is a live-to-die philosophy that strips you of your ability to discover what life really is: a chaotic and random universe where people on a little, water-covered planet happened to evolve and become intelligent and self-aware; and once this occured, the masses were easily ruled and manipulated with the invention of gods and an afterworld until the lies became accepted truth.

    Don’t live to die and go to heaven. The one true GOD is your own consciousness of yourself. Live in the now, and naysayers be damned.

    • Grace Carr

      I agree. The biggest thing missing from this list is exactly that – waking up to the lack of evidence for theism as a whole.

      I think that the main thing that differentiates someone who is willing to live as a theist (whether that is remaining in, returning to, or joining any religion as an adult) is a willingness to live with the extreme cognitive dissonance required of professing to believe things that are obviously false.

  • luvbingbald

    This is ALL hogwash. Kids want to be “entertained” and made to “Feel Good” 24/7.
    Adults needs to let kids have their own imagination, but it is their duty to bring them to church and be role models of what a true Christain is and does. It is so easy to just go to church one hour a week, and proclaim your doing God’s work. When people say they are spiritual, but not
    religious they self-identified a life stance of spirituality that rejects
    traditional organized religion as the sole or most valuable means of furthering
    spiritual growth. Being privately spiritual, but not religious, not what the
    bible teaches. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by
    oneself. What the bible teaqches is doing work in community, where other people
    might call you for your assistance, or to give your own testimony to allow
    others to relate to your spiritual victory. Where life with God gets rich and
    provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all
    for yourself. Kids pick up on that stuff, and think it is ok to just ‘feel good’ for a tv show or going to visit their grandparent one day a year in the nursing home. Is this really how we want our kids to grow up?


    I’m sure that the author of this list isn’t really going to read my comment but here it is. I left. I was super involved. I was committed and excited and it was my life. I was so lonely though and i know now that being lonely is part of being a kid. I left because once i was on my own and able to meet people who think like i think. They laugh at the things i think are funny and i met my husband who is my partner in crime through all of this. I had no reason to try and fit back in to that world. I world that i never really believed in but to be apart of it one has to “believe”. I didn’t fit because i didn’t believe. To have faith that God’s word is law. To believe that their is a perfect place after death. To believe that you are always right because this book said so. That i am a lesser being because some woman ate an apple?!…..i still struggle with all of those. That’s why i don’t go back. Those are questions of faith. My experience of the christian community isn’t one that has discussions about those kinds of questions. To be apart you have to believe. The list was good. But you can’t create faith in others, if you could then we’d no longer be in a war. Only a god could do that. I will listen to arguments but being in church isn’t about working on all those struggles. They look at you and tell you what the bible says as if that settles all the questions. There are some really big questions that can’t be answered by that book unless it is viewed as an absolute truth. I don’t have that kind of faith and i obviously don’t see the church as a place to ask. Good luck in your journey.

    • WhoAmI

      Totally Agree with SBRDD. I was super involved, and still an outcast. Church was a place of exclusion, a place we were taught that we were better than everybody else because we believed and did X,Y,Z. Everybody that didn’t do exactly what we were doing were going to hell. Then came the real world. The church wasn’t preaching love and true acceptance. It was being taught by a person who was groomed for ministry from the beginning, so he had no outside experience. Even the people he picked for ministry all had the same mindset and thought just like him. When asked a question they could only answer “because it says so in the Bible.” When idealism meets realism, realism always wins. Being taught rote memory verses does nothing if not taught application.

      True belief doesn’t come from memorization, it comes from facing our doubts and finding truth.

      As a youth I was always taught that church could be more fun than anything “the world” has. BS. It will and can never be as fun. However, that fun comes with a price. Unlike SBRDD, I came back to church – a different church, different philosophy however. I met my demons and found they are stronger than me. I also met my doubts and found truth.

  • sharon

    Kids wil stay in a church where they are loved and appreciated…the christian maturity will come in time with good Biblical teaching. IF your church is not covered in cookie crumbs, pieces of crackers, paint on the floor or walls from art projects you are not reaching your yourth. Letting these youth get involved with simple things like taking the offering, helping clean up at service, solo’s, etc (and not just once a year on “youth” Sunday or if they’re dressed properly)
    … are NOT loving your kids/youth to stay and they will leave. My kids got SOOOOOO tired of grumpy old people making snotty remarks to them and their friends, it got to the point of why go. LOVE YOUR YOUTH at your church and show it by letting them be kids, make mistakes and LOVE THEM ANYWAYS and if they leave for a while they will return. Instead of making a bunch of unkind comments here, reflect, think, and figure out why America has become a post-christian country on YOUR watch and figure out what to do about it.

  • AroundTheBlock

    You’ve forgotten (or are glossing over) the Big Reason:

    The kids turn 18, and they have the “right” and/or “freedom” to start making their own decisions as Adults.

    They use their Freedom to Choose to make choices that don’t give them good consequences, and are not in keeping with God’s laws. They sin, and they don’t feel comfortable any more around “church folk.”

    Their reactions to the “church folk” they meet during their period of Prodigal WalkAbout, particularly the ones in their home church, will either serve to bring them back, or else entrench them in their lifestyle until they reach a Crisis, or need an Intervention by the Almighty.

    • gregor_samsa

      Ha. Or maybe they’re making their own choices instead of being forced to go to a church that just doesn’t work for them. Maybe they’re choices aren’t sin; they’re just against your ancient rules that make no sense.

      • Ty-Quaisia

        yeah! take him and his ALMIGHTY down a peg!

      • turk1668

        Which rules? Are you saying you know better than God? It’s hard to believe in something if you don’t understand it. God understands you more than you understand him and that’s because God loves you!

        • gregor_samsa

          No, turk. It’s easy to believe in something you don’t understand — if you’re gullible. It’s silly to believe in something with absolutely no evidence. I think I understand “god” better than you do.

          • turk1668

            God gives us free will, we can believe or not, no one can force you to believe. If you do not feel close to God, guess who moved! I pray that God will continue to bless you. Take care.

          • gregor_samsa

            OK, Turk, let’s get crazy. Free will. I’ll start with the
            logical reasons why your concept of free will doesn’t work. There are also biological reasons. For now, I’ll have to start with some assumptions about your version of God. I assume you’re a Christian and that you ascribe to one of the myriad Christian versions of the deity. Most of them have a few things in common though, so I’ll also assume that your god is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent (which is to say he isn’t constrained by time the way we are. He doesn’t live forwards or backwards, but lives at all times). So this god who
            knows EVERYTHING for ALL TIME has granted you free will. He apparently said to you, “Here’s the deal. You can choose to believe in me or not; also whether or not to live by my commandments. If you choose the way I want I’ll grant you
            eternal bliss in heaven. If you choose the other way I’ll damn you to eternal suffering in hell … but it’s totally your call.”

            From a purely logical standpoint that simply can’t work. God
            is present in the future, and he knows everything, right? He already knows every choice you’re ever going to make. He knows whether or not you’ll keep his commandments, exactly how many times you’ll choose to whack off and exactly
            where you’ll do it. He already knows if it’s heaven or hell for you. So, if ANY being knows exactly every move you’ll ever make in life there can be no free will. If your future actions are known you are destined to make them all. You
            can be deluded into believing you’ve had free will, but God knew you were headed to heal long before your mama met your daddy.

            If, on the other hand, you admit that you can surprise God –
            that you could make a choice he didn’t see coming, then you have to accept that he is not omniscient. Oh, my! That’s a problem, right? If God doesn’t know everything, and if he can be surprised, he’s capable of making mistakes. Maybe
            that explains why he was such a dick in the Old Testament, but then seemed to soften his approach (at least to Jews) in the New Testament. Maybe it was the ultimate “My bad.” But if he got it wrong then, what’s to say he doesn’t get it
            wrong all the time? So, either you have free will and an imperfect god, or you have destiny and a perfect god – who also happens to be a sociopathic asshole, but so it goes.

            As for the biological reasons why you don’t have free will I
            would direct you to a very short, but very powerful book by Sam Harris titled … “Free Will.” It’s a good read, and will at least get you thinking.

          • amos8

            ….if you don’t believe in free-will then why try to convince someone otherwise if you truly believe he/she has no free-will? If he/she has no capacity to choose, then all your endeavors are pointless.

          • zaphod1

            beautifully stated

    • zaphod1

      bravo for them!

  • Das Santos

    Well I think you’re making “kids” a lot smarter than they are. Simply put they leave church because it’s boring, they don’t like the music or the “style” or they don;t have good friends there. Remember they are in school for 7 hours a day for 5 days a week, that’s 35 hours per week. They are in church what, maybe 3 hours per week? Ofcourse church will lose. The people in school teach them about drugs, sex, music, movies and everything that corrupts their minds, they’re having fun, laughing, getting invited out by friends to hang. Weekend comes along and what? The only time they spend with christian people and they cant even talk, they have to sit still for 3-4 hours and just listen…BORING. We don’t have enough influence on them. Then we have the major contradiction in science. While we teach them that everything was created by God, school teaches them that science created everything. What we try to build, the schools destroy. It boils down to family, they spend more time with their kids than the church. parents need to make the home more “christiantinized.”…I could go on forever..

    • Gene

      Also, you must realize that parents have about as much influence on their teenage kids as a boring church service or a strict household do…they’re gonna do exactly what their gonna do, and usually they have no idea what it is and they usually fail, but that’s life–trying things and learning to deal with the consequences. To rob them of this ability is the true disappointment.

      • Das Santos

        The parents have more time with their children and can show them a “fun” way to learn about God that the church won’t allow.

        • zaphod1

          God is FUN as he lets children die of disease and starvation in Africa. Kids are smarter than you give them credit for. they can SEE the reality while you try to fill their heads with pie in the sky fantasies if heaven. too bad YOU can’t see it.

      • zaphod1

        for once I wholeheartedly agree with a post on this otherwise brainwashed page.

    • Matt Sprinkle

      I think that you are trying to dumb down students more than they actually are. They can understand what the pastor is saying if they apply themselves. This also takes for pastors and parents to speak to them and teach them in an applicable way. Why did Jesus use parables? It is quite frustrating when people say that students are not as smart as we know they are. They can go and get good grades and pass classes in school because they have to. We need to help them to grow a desire to sit under the authority of a church body. The desire and wanting to learn and change can only be found in an authentic relationship with Christ.

      • Das Santos

        Dumbing down is more appropriate then the explanation in this post. Even I couldn’t follow along. I too have spoken to “kids” and simply put they have doubts, no one answers them and church is boring. I blame parents for not placig more of God in the home, being more strict about it and not answering their childrens doubt in a calm tone.

    • zaphod1

      So, your solution is to keep them ignorant of proven science? Yeah, repress them, that’ll work.

  • socalme

    Sounds like you’ve jettisoned fire, brimstone, and fear from your churches (thankfully). Without that fear, freedom of choice prevails. Just had a long conversation with a religious relative. Kept hearing the fear of the modern culture, of being “worldly”. The fear of progress of culture and a worship of the past and the old days. Somehow change is bad (forgetting your own changes from your parent’s generation). Of course there are bad choices and bad actions and bad people. But the vast vast majority are good people. People trying to do the best they can. I have faith in my fellow man, and when you meet them – the “others” that the church rejects and fears, you realize they aren’t all that bad. Not much worse than you, with common goals and foibles and weaknesses. Being religious doesn’t make enough of a difference to see the benefits. The benefits after death. Imaginary, perhaps?

    • 16 yr old

      Its not about being ‘good’ y’know. I mean, how can you be good enough for a being who created good? Its about realizing believing in Jesus is the only way you can be ‘good’.
      That being said, its sad the church has made you believe. There really are a lot of self- righteous people in church who reject and fear a lot of ‘change’ and defend it using the word of God.
      its not about the benefiits after death, it is about fellowshipping with Him and realizing you need Him to make you ‘good’

      • zaphod1

        you CAN be good without believing in the tales of bronze age goat herders. when you are older hopefully you will learn this

  • MC

    Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in My name there I am.” Quite right, for where the body is the Head has to be there, which equals to “Church.” (According to the Bible, Church is the body of Christ. So Church really begins at home isn’t it? How healthy is the Church at home will reflect. Could that be the reason why many walk away…?

    • Matt Sprinkle

      You totally took that verse out of context. The verse you are looking at applies to church discipline.

      • PastorZeb

        Thank you Matt. I cringe every time I hear that verse quoted outside its original context. And yet one more illustration of the failure of the Church to foster biblical literacy.

    • zaphod1

      the buybull was written by ignorant goat herders

  • Alyssa

    I agree with #2 and 3 the most. my boyfriend stopped going to church because of the “hypocrites” I’m one of the 20% of young people that has kept going to church. I’m one of 2 left from my youth group that still attends church. He started going back to church when we started dating.

    • zaphod1

      hopefully you’ll come to your senses

  • kitkat

    I really like this article. I was talking to the head pastor’s of the large church that I sometimes attend. When I asked where most of the funding was going, they said it was in the kids, so they don’t lose faith when they go off to school. However I think the problem with this is that a lot of the funding is going into “entertainment programming” for kids, and when they are in college and are suddenly called to help out with what the church has invested into, and they have to sit through boring sermons given by the head pastors, and there is no longer the fun ropes course or water skiing ministry at the summer camps, there is no longer a reason to go. While I was at college I decided to attend a church where there was no modern music, I sat in a hard pew, and the pastor gave long and overdrawn sermons that took a little bit of effort to listen to, but they were biblical. I’m tired of funding church daycare up to the point when kids get out of high school. It’s not that I’m against modern music, and whatnot, but I feel like a lot of times the message gets lost in the media.

  • youthleader

    Great essay! It hits the nail right on the head! So marc you need to show us a model of the what the new improved youth group should look like and one that kids will attend. I think you have to have all the parents involved b/c they are usually part of the problem.

  • Emmers

    Thank you for your honest thoughts. I agree, but you are overemphasizing the role of the church and under-emphasizing the role of parents. Studies and experience have revealed this one major point you left out – kids leave the church because their parents don’t take their faith seriously. There have been several articles going around lately about empty-nesters leaving the church. Part of the reason is that the parents go to church not because of their own Christian convictions but because they feel obligated to raise their kids in the faith. The kids pick up on that. When I surveyed my own youth group many said that their parents forced them to go to Sunday School to learn about Christianity, and that when they were parents they would also force their kids to go to Sunday School to learn about Christianity because “I don’t know enough to teach Christianity myself.” Many kids aren’t Christian – they’re moralistic theraputic deists – because that’s what their parents believe. (Check out Kenda Creasy Dean’s work.) We have some wonderful faithful parents in our church, and when Christianity means something to the parents and they are able to talk about their faith with their kids and their kids see the difference it makes in their lives, the kids have a deeper faith. But when church is just something parents do on Sunday morning because they’re “supposed to”, and youth group is a place parents send kids to “have fun, make friends, and be safe,” the kids see the inauthenticity a mile away and tolerate it as long as they’re living at home. (Because with fun camps and gimmicky games it’s really not that bad.) However, a few hours a week (tops) rarely makes up for the witness of the parents the rest of the week long. That’s why family ministries are so vital to the church. We need to reach out to new parents the first time they step into the church with their babies or children and disciple the parents in the Christian faith and how to share it with their kids from day 1.

    • tina

      I was just going to say this same thing! At church, the teachers, pastor, and congregation can NOT ever come close to outweighing the impact of the parents and their attitude toward church, so church can’t take even half the blame for kids leaving the faith. If their parents are “fake” in their faith, the kids know it and won’t see any value in it. If the parents are genuine and show that they turn to God’s guidance and the Bible when times get tough and praise Him when times are good, the kids will grow to think of Him as part of their daily lives. When kids graduate, if they move away to go to college, we should all expect them to find a church “home” right after they find an actual physical place to live…and we should ask them if they have done so as much as we would ask them “where are you going to school? what will your major be?”

  • standingupforJC

    I couldn’t agree more! We’re missing the important things while living our daily routines. Let’s pray for all these kids, teens, young adults and even adults that are being misled, that they will be willing to follow God no matter what the world tells them.

  • Dalton

    I don’t think this article has a single scrap of actual information in It. You started off with a statistic and then babbled from then on. This isn’t why kids are leaving the church. It’s because when they start paying for their education, they finally learn the alternative theories to why we’re here (big bang) and they realize that these theories are much more supported by evidence. So they don’t go back. If we’d teach at a college level in high school, they’d leave the church BEFORE graduation, as they should.

  • The Leap of Doubt

    One big reason anyone leaves is because the gospel you’re preaching is not the gospel Jesus preached. Some human (in your case, probably during/after the Reformation) created a different problem/solution paradigm and that you bought into with your mind (hence the “saved by the unmerited grace of a sovereign God” tagline – I know what those code words mean… been there, done that). But that’s not the good news Jesus brought….which is what people are REALLY hungry for. Chances are you won’t find Jesus’ good news inside a million dollar building with a paid staff that tries to get you to eat from the tree of knowledge. These people are looking for the tree of life, and your paradigm isn’t about that.

  • 16 yr old

    and 1 more. The church is less of a church- the fellowship, and is just a building where we all go to listen to someone and leave when we are done. I am 16 and I have a good relationship with God now more than ever before, but I refuse to go to church because there is no fellowship.

    • frumpus

      The church only teaches you bigotry and intolerance. I am glad that you’ve discovered on your own that you don’t need the church to retain your own spirituality and morality.

      • Don Marsh

        Hey! so do you!

  • frumpus

    It’s too bad it’s not 100% that leave the church. The sooner religion is wiped out, the better.

    • snuggleflumpys

      Our country was founded on biblical principles. God is already out of every aspect of America. That is why our country is in the predicament that it is in

      • Imass

        You seriously need a history lesson.

      • zaphod1

        that’s a load of crap, and if you had read the writings of the founders you would know that.

      • Telly

        “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense,
        founded on the Christian religion…” -George Washington, Treaty of
        Truth is, the founding fathers abhorred people like you,
        that sought to infuse religion into government, which has never happened
        without also inflicting tyranny, suffering, persecution, and death.

    • Joshua McDaniel

      It will never be 100 %. The church is here to stay and you can take that to the bank.

  • Andrew

    Great article, my friend.

  • zaphod1

    8. 3. 2 and 1. They realized it’s all a big load of crap they’ve been fed by adults since they were little and they’ve grown up and no longer believe in fairy tales.

  • Aggie

    Engaging article. For me, it was that it was in all probability just wasn’t true. I found it impossible to be honest, humble, and a Christian. All the inconsistencies and varying opinions overwhelmed Christian apologetics. NT fulfilled “prophecies” so often seemed to use the OT out-of-context. God’s cruelty in the OT and his “eternal conscious torment” of the damned seemed an air-tight refutation of the claims that God could be “love.” Prayer seems no more effective from denomination to sect to other religion. The Christian faith keeps changing– from age to age, from denomination to denomination, from person to person. Is birth control OK? Are we saved by faith alone? Is drinking OK? Are the sacraments miraculous? Are there 7, 3, 2 sacraments or none? Are slavery, torture, and crusade God’s will? Does God care if you work on Sunday? Play games? Is gay marriage OK? Headcoverings? Women pastors?

    • TeeG513

      Aggie, it sounds like you have had a serious clash between you and religion in your past. People will waver and change their perspective on Gods word because it serves them at the time. Our “fallen” nature is to serve ourselves and that will never change (saved or not!). In fact, it’s that nature that “should” keep us from ever having even a “choice” to be with God. And it’s only because of Gods massive love for you and me that we even have the choice to choose Him. He never changes. We try to… but He does not. There are alot of teachers/pastors who do not represent the accurate truth in Gods word, but that does not change the fact that it is truth. That’s why each of us our independently judged for how well we know Him and seek Him. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves. I can’t blame anyone for my choice but me…

    • jamielt

      Jesus has not failed nor can his church fail. Jesus was crucified wasn’t he? But Jesus suffered because of his obedience to the will of God. The truth is and always will be found in our relationship with God. God is truth and he loves us so very very much and I pray that we who claim to follow him will love truth and live true lives. We are hidden in hi, God. We are chosen by him to be where he is, to abide in his presence and worship him. We love and know one another because his Holy Spirit is in us, leading us in the path of righteousness for his name sake. So if the world hates us know that it hated God first. The People of God ought to stand together resisting the attractions of the world. Remember if we are lukewarm we are not walking with God. We need to be discerning and wise in our walk with Jesus. Yep, love is the key. And the question is… Will He find faith in the earth when He returns?

      “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (‭Luke‬ ‭18‬:‭8‬ KJV).

  • Joe Bigliogo

    The most relevant reason is that young people have simply stopped believing what the church and the bible have to say. They may even have stopped believing in the existence of any God(s) if they ever believed. There are so many other alternate viewpoints and ideas that clash with religion and Christianity. We no longer live in monotheistic cocoons like our grandparents. The information age is on us and the internet is a diverse playing ground of competitive ideas, many of them in polar opposition to Christianity. Our youth are finding these alternate answers to life’s questions more convincing than Christian answers.
    The meme “the internet is where religion come to die” is proving itself every day.

  • Joe B.

    I disagree with the assertion that the opposite of “relevant” is “authentic.” The opposite of relevant is “irrelevant.” If a church is irrelevant, it will gray and die within a generation because no young people will want to be involved.

  • jon mooney

    I am a fully surrendered servant of Jesus Christ. And none of the 10 reasons you list in this article even remotely apply to my life. Raised in a loving and Christ loving family, and reared in wonderful Evangelical Christian Churches—I deliberately and willfully chose to live a life apart from God, His rules and my family. I chose heathen friends, alcohol, cigarettes, fornicating and money over the Way I knew to be right. I considered myself way too good looking and hip to hang with Christians. Allowed by our Lord to live long enough to regret the life I had chosen, He took me back like the foolish prodigal in Luke Chapter 15. Twenty seven years after being taken back by Christ, I have never looked back. I am no longer “too good looking”, or hip, or worldly. Just a sinner saved by grace.

  • Joe Bigliogo

    Here are three major factors. The information age, culture exposure and integration of other religions and a growing trend towards skeptical and atheist thinking. Atheism has a new respectability it never had in western culture and in the arena of ideas Christianity has far more competition than it has anytime in it’s history. Everything a preacher preaches can be fact checked and Googled yielding countless hits that tear it to shreds. Even Christian apologetics are competing with a barrage of counter-apologetics. Young people are listening to all sides and are becoming progressively less convinced by Christians and the bible have to say.

    I’m not sure what concerned Christians can do but I have one tip… lose the fundamentalist, literalist biblical interpretations and more specifically… the anti-evolution, young earth creationist teachings. In an age of science and reason those beliefs are some of your single greatest liabilities and will generate a mass exodus greater than any since Moses liberation of the Israelites.

  • Jason

    If a child can experience the presence of God, the fullness of life he brings through salvation and a personal encounter coached by a person who is real and genuine in their faith and relationship with the King they will never leave. If a child is taught the Kingdom like Jesus preached versus only salvation they will never leave. If they can see what is unseen versus what is seen they will never leave and only want more.

    • Joe Bigliogo

      Before a child can experience “the presence of god”, “the fullness of life through salvation”, a personal encounter, “the kingdom like Jesus preached” and “what is unseen, he/she first has to believe those things are actual artifacts of reality and not just delusional rantings of religious sycophants. More and more young people don’t believe that any of it is the slightest bit true.

  • Sara Huizenga

    Or maybe they grow so close to Jesus that they discover how unscripturally relevant a brick and mortar church community is to begin with and that their faith in Him grows stronger outside of the confines of …

  • Sara Huizenga

    The church has so the opposite of Jesus enmeshed itself with politics and all too often turned into the manipulated pawns of the religious right.

    We have also, since having our toddler Ari move to heaven, discovered how nearly nonexistent the church’s eternal perspective and hope filled grief are. They look no different than how those without belief in heaven react – in fact probably have even more of an unhealthy grief style.

  • Jacob

    I would encourage you to read the story of Noah’s ark again! (assuming you have before) It explains pretty clearly why God drowns the earth. Oh btw, just some additional input, Romans 3:23 says that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. Knowing these two passages, don’t we all deserve death? I believe so. Unfortunately as sinners we’ve brought it upon ourselves as well. That’s the bad news! The good news is, well… the story of Jesus.

  • amos8

    I would posit to you, that today’s notion of “unconditional love”–even though it is frequently taught be Christians and non-Christians alike–is not love/the love of God. This also does not mean that His love (or true love) is “conditional.” Those terms/concepts tend to misinform, if not pervert true love. I have met many who were thrown off by that faulty assumption (of love, or that God’s love, is “unconditional”)

  • Jacob

    I take you as an intelligent person Lynn (and I honestly appreciate that), however, I think you’ve been seriously misled as to who God is and how He works through His people. He IS a loving God but we can’t forget that the he is also just, good, holy, merciful, perfect and many other attributes. Everything He does pertains only to who He is, meaning that He cannot be unjust, bad, sinful, merciless, imperfect etc. If my God exists, then He is who He says He is, and we have no place to argue that.
    Hell was NOT created for humans! It was created for Satan and the fallen angels. Unfortunately, man rebelled against God and therefore “earned” hell. God’s intention was not for man to “burn in hell” but rather to “burn for Him” so to speak. We were created to worship and His intention was for us to glorify Him.
    God exists in all you see! Everything you are made up from was designed by God, I have faith that this is true because not only do I see evidence of a designer in all of nature but I see that God is the only thing faithful and the only thing true in my life. He’s pulled me out of depression and thoughts of suicide and called me His own. I see that even people who deny God still have the ability for morals and love and everything God is. You see the fact that we even have these invisible concepts called morals only further my belief in God knowing the He put the morals in us at the beginning of creation!
    He not only died for me but conquered death for me just to be with Him. Maybe I’m a little misinformed but i think that MIGHT be love…

  • zaphod1

    what unmitigated bullshit

  • zaphod1

    ”loving, just, merciful, perfect” He drowned all the children and pregnant mothers, because he was pissed off. sounds pretty messed up to me. and you worship this psychopath?