ANALYSIS | For the last decade, churches in America have felt the pinch of young people exiting faster than you can say “Welcome to Sunday Morning Service.” Why do our young people want out?
At a glance, it’s no puzzlement to the man on the street. As discussed in my recent article, “New Organization, Book Explores Reversing the Church’s Bad Reputation,” numerous controversial issues have been handled ungracefully while trying to tell the rest of the world about Jesus and His love.
But for Christians who wish to return America to a more Bible-friendly atmosphere, there are even deeper conflicts and symptoms to be recognized.
Starting from kids on up, a great variety of reasons for the exodus exists. The following are gathered and generalized from well-informed sources: “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith …and How to Bring Them Back,” (Drew Dyck, Moody Publishing, Oct 2010), “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it” (Ken Ham & Britt Beemer, Todd Hillard, New Leaf, Aug 2009); “The Last Christian Generation” (McDowell, Green Key, 2006); and Lifeway Christian Resource Surveys from 2007 and 2010.
* Churched kids and teens spend six of seven days each week hearing other people say how judgmental Christianity is, and that the Bible should be taboo.
* Churches use outdated methods of Sunday School, rotating the same Bible stories year-in and year-out without relating the morals to daily living. When kids want to know why someone like Gabrielle Giffords was shot, they don’t need another lesson on Noah’s Ark.
* Teens can only eat so much pizza at church social events before they see through this thinly veiled attempt at keeping them occupied and out of trouble.
* Those surveyed say there aren’t enough good reasons given for holding Bible beliefs other than “the preacher says so…” or “your parents say so.”
* Sometimes kids are routinely kept out of “grown-up church.” From infancy to four years old, they’re in nursery. Then they get “children’s church” with a short Bible lesson, crafts and refreshments. For teens, a separate youth service geared to “their” music. By eighteen, they’ve never been expected to sit through a whole Sunday service. It’s culture shock.
* Young people can see that the Church in general hasn’t yet been able to conquer racial reconciliation, domestic abuse and the rampant church divorce rate…sometimes in their own families.
* Older generations won’t blend a moderate amount of contemporary music with traditional hymns, to show young people that newer ideas are respected.
* Or, the Church feels pressured to impress their younger members with new technological avenues. So they discard all the old hymns that were written out of peoples’ struggles with life, pride and suffering. Thus, the newer generations don’t hear about how God can help them through hard times.
* Parents are expecting the church to teach what may fall within their own responsibility.
* But then, young parents raised in the last twenty years have themselves grown up under the new pop psychology of never receiving or deserving any discipline or criticism. They’ve seen church become irrelevant. Now, as parents, they’re hesitant to make (or even ask) their kids to go to church or develop a backbone in faith.
* Lastly, everyone’s too busy for church. There are too many other attractions in life.
Many church leaders may pick up these books and surveys only to find the suggested answers to the problems are things their church already tried. Others may not have the means or congregational support to implement changes.
And still more will find it such a daunting task that they just throw up their hands. Maybe it’s time to do just that — throw hands up and pray, rather than create more programs — and leave the rest up to God.
Sheryl Young has been freelance writing for newspapers, magazines, organizations and websites since 1997. Her specialty is American politics, education and society as they intersect with religion. Credits include Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune Newspaper, Interview Columnist with Light & Life Magazine, and a National First Place “Roaring Lambs” Writing Award from the Amy Foundation.