Why are young people leaving the church?
Genesis and the big bang
Young Earth - Old Earth, what does it matter?
Science and the Bible can be harmonized
The Bible and Science in Conflict
Understanding Genesis Chapter 1
Scriptural Evidence for Long Days
The Origin of the Universe
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 1
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 2
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 3
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 4
Entropy, the Fall, and Adam
The Tree Of Life
What I learned at an Answers in Genesis Conference
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Science finds a purpose for the appendix
Flat Earth - A lesson to all of us
Why are young people leaving the church?
Why Does God Hate Me?
Links to the World and Beyond
|Why are young people
leaving the church?
I heard a survey quoted recently claiming 86% of the young people in the evangelical church leave at age 18 and never come back. This figure sounds incredibly high to me but even if it is in actuality only a fraction of that amount it still shows there is a real problem in the Church today. I don't have any statistics or surveys to back up what follows. This is simply my opinion on the subject.
I didn't catch the original source of the survey but it was used in a conference by a speaker for Answers in Genesis to make a case for teaching young-earth creationism to our youth. The argument went something like this - Our kids go to church and learn Bible stories. They go to school to learn facts. The facts are often science fiction but are so heavily reinforced by popular culture that the Bible stories look ridiculous by comparison. The church is just as much to blame because we present Biblical accounts as Bible stories in the first place. As an example the speaker displayed a typical Sunday School picture of Noah's ark. It was a tiny little boat with giraffe heads protruding through the roof and elephant and lions poking their heads out the portholes. Very cute, and very unbiblical.
AiG's solution is to teach our youth young-earth creationist astronomy, biology, and geology. The thinking is if we counter the popular culture with YEC science then our kids will stay in church. I do not doubt AiG's concern for our youth or their sincerity in looking for a solution. I will say however their strategy would have had quite the opposite affect on me. It would have pushed me right out the door. Actually, it kept me from going in the door in the first place until I was 35 years old.
Besides the solution is too narrow and misses the real problem. Ask a creationist how to keep the youth and they will tell you to teach Biblical science. Ask the music department and they will tell you music is the key. Ask the trendsetters and they will tell you we need to be relevant. Ask the traditionalist and they will tell you we need to hold firm. All of us want more of what we are interested in. Has anybody bothered recently to ask God what is the problem? Actually, He has already addressed the issue.
Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." If our young people are leaving, the obvious problem is we the adults are not properly training them.
Wait a minute, isn't that just what AiG is proposing we should do? No. First we have to deal with this whole the earth is not 6,000 years old problem, but even if they were proposing we teach old-earth theology I would still say the same thing (just not as loudly). I am a big supporter of apologetic training. All members of the body should be ready with Biblical answers to faith-based challenges but that in itself will not keep the young adults in church. The training they need is far more than simple head knowledge. They need training that affects every area of their lives and every fiber of their being. How do we do that?
The first step
The most important training we can ever give our youth (or anyone else) is so basic to our faith that it should not even be necessary to cover. It should not be necessary but it is. If you have never been taught what follows where you worship please pack your bags and run. Take the youth with you. In fact take anyone you can grab hold of and find a congregation that is teaching the Scripture.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Rom 3:23)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:23)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Rom 10:8-10)
Before you can help the young adults you have to be in a right relationship with God. This is not a complicated process. Scripture says if we believe in our heart and say with our mouth Jesus is the risen Lord, we will be saved. Eternal life is a free gift. You can't earn it and it's not something you can pay back. What you can do is be thankful for the gift and be willing to share it with others. If you have never confessed your sin and asked for salvation please pray -
"Jesus, I know You love me, because You died on the cross for all of my sins. I confess to you that I am a sinner and cannot save myself. I now ask You in faith, to forgive me of all of my sins and come into my heart and be my Personal Savior. Thank you for Your love and eternal salvation. Amen."
Now go and teach this to the youth. Teach it to them often. They may not be ready to hear it the first 77 times you teach it.
The next step
Ok, so you are teaching salvation regularly. Let's assume you are also solidly preaching and teaching from the Bible. People are still leaving. Why? Its time to kick things up a notch.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19 KJV)
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22 KJV)
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31 KJV)
That's simple enough, we will make our kids love God and force them to love one another then they will stay in church. No. We have to example loving God to them with our lives. We have to example loving one another in front of them. If we change our focus they will change theirs.
I can't speak for the rest of the world but I have noticed that in America we have become far too adept at compartmentalizing our Christianity from the rest of our lives. We go to church on Sunday, then we go to work on Monday, and we go play on Saturday. We see these as separate areas of our lives. Church is church, business business, politics is politics, and my fun is my fun (and nobody else's concern). We treat them like they have nothing to do with each other. There are many problems with this but the first one that needs straightened out is that as believers we do not go to church; we are the Church. We don't go to the Lord's house; we are the Lord's temple. We are His body. Until we really understand this point nothing else will sink in.
Who we are on Monday and Saturday really determines who we are on Sunday. If we are fully committed to being the Church on Sunday then we will desire to bring praise, honor, and glory to God during the rest of the week.
Our kids aren't stupid. We can drag them to church every Sunday but if they see us cheating others or being abusive the rest of the week (or even on Sunday) they will know what is really important to us. If we are letter of the law legalistic they will know our religion is more important to us than our relationship with the Lord. You want your kid to stay in church? Then be the Church. Live the commandments given in Mark 12.
If we 'grown-ups' would grow up and commit to loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and determine to prove it by loving one another then most of our church problems would go away. The youth would be less inclined to leave at the first opportunity. Dare I say it, even the lost would be drawn to us because we would be offering them something of true value the world can't offer.
Much of what goes on in a local assembly has little to do with God. Take an honest look at your church - what are you fighting about? Money? Music? Who gets to be in charge? Who is or isn't doing something? Attendance? Are we really behaving any different than the world? Well, they are more rested than us since they are sleeping in on Sunday and missing all those committee meetings.
Seriously, we live in a time of unheard of comfort and increasing moral bankruptcy. Even in the homes of our poor you will often find a color TV, microwave oven, probably a gameboy and a DVD player. Cell phones and computers are everywhere. Yet the biggest problems are loneliness (lack of belonging) and lack of purpose. Even the wealthiest in our society suffer with the same longings. Unfulfilled needs open the door for greed - 'I must have' is no different than, 'I must hold onto'. Pride is right there speaking too - 'Look at me!' says the same thing as the condescending, 'look at Him!' We may not recognize the cries as the same because we associate one with success and one with failure. The one who dies with the most toys is not the winner. The one who dies to self and is resurrected in Christ is the true winner.
Love, acceptance, and purpose that is what we are all looking for. As believers, we know these can only be truly satisfied in a relationship with Jesus. The world, our youth, need to see we know it. They need to see us live it. You want the youth to stay? Let them know they are loved and needed in the body. Don't just say it - show it.
You ever notice how we treat young people in church? We are always telling them to shut-up and pay attention. Yes, their behavior sometimes shows a lack of maturity, manners, and proper respect. Look past that for a moment. Why aren't they paying attention? They are bored. More often than not they are probably just being more honest than the adults.
So what is the cure for boredom? The simple answer is purpose. I mentioned this earlier but thought it could stand being expanded upon.
When our kids are choosing careers we should try to help them figure out what purpose God has for them. If money is their driving factor, the career seeker is headed down and unsatisfiable course. They need to know that nothing satisfies like being in God's will. We need to do the same for them concerning their place within the local body. How does God want to use them in the local congregation or in the community? Here is a clue - their purpose is not raising money so they can go to the water park. When we do give the kids a job in the church it is almost always some menial job we don't want to do ourselves and it is almost never related to their actual giftings and desires. We need to listen better. We need to encourage more. We need to accept that what we think they should be doing may not be what God wants to do with them.
You want young adults to stay? Then as the Body, love the Lord; love one another - including the youth. Let it show. As the Church, find your purpose in the Church and do it. As one having eternal life, help others find their purpose. Encourage them to live it.
God, Genesis and the big bang
Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Sluder
All rights reserved