Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why kids leave church...

For years, something has disturbed me about the church in the US. (Actually, a lot of things disturb me, but let's take them one at a time.) It's this fact: according to one study, 70% of kids who grow up in church leave it after they get out of high school. Of that group, 65% don't come back.

What happens, or doesn't happen, that allows kids to walk away from something that has been such a big part of their lives? This question bothers me, because I know that if these kids were experiencing God's presence in their lives, they wouldn't be going elsewhere. (And, yes, I am equating leaving church with leaving their faith, because for many Christians, the two are linked.)

If you look at the numbers in this study, kids don't leave for theological reasons. They leave because they go to college, or they move too far away from their home church. They leave because they work Sunday mornings. Some just want a break from church, or want to hang out with their friends.

Some of the people surveyed said they left because of differences with the pastor's teachings, or because the church was hypocritical. But apparently, these kids didn't try to find a different church that was more to their liking.

Underneath all those reasons these kids gave, there's one truth that seems clear to me. These kids had the appearance of being committed, but their relationship with God is either non-existent or severely underdeveloped. That may sound harsh, but my experience is that when people who are committed to Christ leave the institutional church, they still have a desire to hang out with God's people. That desire seems to be lacking for a lot of the kids surveyed.

So how do you get whole groups of kids who can "act Christian" but are lacking a true relationship with God? That's the question. More personally, as a father, how can I keep my kids from following down that path. I want them to really know Jesus, not just act like they know Him.

I think there is an answer here, and part of it found in some of the responses to the survey I linked to. But this post is way too long already, so I'll pick this up again soon...

p.s.-If you've read this all the way to the end, here is my gift to you: possibly the greatest song ever recorded.


Michelle said...

I left church while I was in college because I was told that the only reason a woman pursued a college education (I guess it didn't matter if I got the degree or not) was to find a husband. I found that very degrading and wondered why I should date guys who obviously wanted a stupid woman for a wife. Also, the church was pretty legalistic and I got tired of hearing how we needed to hide from the world because everything out there was "so bad."

For me, it wasn't lack of a relationship with God, it was I had one, wanted to know him more, but couldn't learn about him in a healthy way from older Christians. I just gave up trying to figure it out. (fortunately God is bigger than church leaders/pastors)

Richard J said...

Wait. You think women should be educated? I knew you were trouble. You're so subversive! Next you'll be wanting to vote or something.

I do know some people who seem to think that women only serve God when they are married and pumping out kids. It drives me insane.

The studies I'm looking at were of kids who leave church and don't come back. You were in a different situation. When you're in a church that rally unhealthy, the best thing you can do is get out.

Now, go make me a sandwich!

(I kid, I kid...)

Michelle Knisley said...

"pumping out kids".....that is hysterical!

I can make you an Ukrainian sandwich but you are going to need to have a healthy appetite for mayo, sausage and raw pig fat.

Richard J said...

You know, on second thought, I can make my own sandwich...