This time, we look again to the Leadership Journal/Barna group (really, the only serious organization that consistently "measures" issues within ecclesiastical circles – Pew is good too – also, you can't ignore doctoral work even though usually it isn't as comprehensive). Here is some more information on young adults and their leaving institutional expressions of faith journeys (what people call, "church"). Now, what is interesting to me is that when things like this are "aired" publicly it usually surfaces those people whose first line of "defense" is to attempt to act as apologists for their particular institutional movement. Inevitably, we will hear it, "oh, that's not what we do"; OR "we have been the only church that has the theology/practice that faithfully ministers to…"; OR "if these kids were really Christians, they wouldn't be having these issues." Oh sure, there are a plethora of comments that I've heard over the years when some meaningful critique or snapshot of reality makes its way to the consciousness of church leaders/people. All I'm going to say is this – "STOP and listen." The issue here is to listen to the feedback and ask ourselves some very pointed and intentional questions as well as to begin to have some conversations with people (in this case younger adults) who may (or may not) have these perceptions, feelings and experiences. So, for those of you who DO have some investment in institutional religion, it is time to heed the words of Jesus, "for those who have ears, HERE what the Spirit is saying to the churches… (Revelation 2 and 3)."
Six Reasons Young People are Leaving the Church
Editor's disclaimer – my experience tells me that it isn't that all young people are leaving "faith" or even "followership/discipleship"…they are many young people who are actually adhering to faith…what they are talking about MORE (no doubt there are many who are questioning faith as well) is their relationship with institutional forms of "church"…many of the young people I know crave authentic community…that's the issue that is most prevelant to me…but like I said above, it is time to listen!
Isolationism. One-fourth of 18- to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture, and technology that define their generation.
Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.
Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.
Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a "just say no" philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.
Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.
Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they'd like to discuss.
—Adapted from a list by David Kinnaman in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church … and Rethinking Faith
Six in 10 young people will leave the church permanently or for an extended period starting at age 15, according to new research by the Barna Group. And for the generation now coming of age, it's more than the usual "driver's license to marriage license" joy ride, according to the pollsters. For church leaders, the question is, what will we do about it?
Today's young adults are marrying later, if at all, are technologically savvy, and hold worldviews alien to their upbringing. Barna Research president David Kinnaman, after a five-year-study, declared that church leaders are unequipped to deal with this "new normal."
Their response is mostly at the extremes, both dangerous. Many ignore the situation, hoping young adults' views will be righted when they are older and have their own children. These leaders miss the significance of the shifts of the past 25 years, Kinnaman contends, and the needs for ministry young people have in their present phase—if it is a phase.
But the opposite reaction is just as problematic: "using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults." This excludes older members and "builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God," Kinnaman said.
Kinnaman prescribes intergenerational ministry. "In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God's purposes."