The problem: Several years ago Barna published statistics revealing that 65% of young adults in the U.S. that grew up in the church participating in evangelical youth groups, walk away from their faith when they leave home for the first time. Since then other studies estimate the rate may actually be as high as 70-75%. The SBC Family Life Report issued study findings in 2002 that 88% of children in evangelical homes leave the church by the age of 18.
Some suggestions as to why this might be?
- They succumb to temptations they haven’t faced before
- They didn’t learn to think
- They are often consumed with the demands of making a living
- They see right through the charade of those who profess the faith but don’t “walk the talk”
In a book published in 2005 entitled “Soul Searching”, students were asked why they left the faith. “Why did they fall away from the faith in which they were raised?” This was an open-ended question; there were no multiple-choice answers. 32% said they left faith behind because of intellectual skepticism or doubt. (“It didn’t make any sense anymore.” “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof.” “Too many questions that can’t be answered.”)
In 2006 a Barna study revealed the majority of young adults in their 20s (61%0 had been churched at one point in their teen years but are now spiritually disengaged.
In the book “The Last Christian Generation” published in 2006, the study findings concluded:
- 63% of teenaged Christians don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of the one true God
- 51% don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead
- 68% don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is a real entity
- Only 33% of churched youth have said that the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home
- 70% will leave the faith in college
- Only 35% eventually return
- 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 – both evangelical and mainline – who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23
- 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30
- That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church
- “The most frequent reason for leaving church is, in fact, a self-imposed change, ‘I simply wanted a break from church’ (27%).”
- “The path toward college and the workforce are also strong reasons for young people to leave church: ‘I moved to college and stopped attending church’ (25%) and ‘work responsibilities prevented me from attending’ (23%).”
A 2007 Study of Student Ministries by Inquest Ministries revealed:
- 63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God
- 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths
- 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead
- 65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity
- 68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real
A 2011 book entitled “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith” concluded:
- Nearly 25% of the 18- to 29-year-olds interviewed said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” most of the time
- 22% also said the church ignores real-world problems and 18% said that their church was too concerned about the negative impact of movies, music and video games
- 33% of survey participants felt that “church is boring.”
- 20% of those who attended as a teenager said that God appeared to be missing from their experience of church
- Many young adults do not like the way churches appear to be against science
- Over 33% of young adults said that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” and 25% of them said that “Christianity is anti-science.”
- 17% percent of young Christians say they’ve “made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.”
- 29% of young Christians said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and feel they have to choose between their friends and their faith.
- Over 33% of young adults said they feel like they can’t ask life’s most pressing questions in church.
- 23% said they had “significant intellectual doubts” about their faith.
(Part 2 is here ... Barna identified 6 primary reasons that young adults leave the church. The comprehensive research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. )