Why Are Young People Leaving The Church?

We have changed the music. We have shortened the service length. We have stopped holding Sunday night services and Wednesday prayer. We have renamed, reinvented and rebuilt the way we do church. We have introduced technology as a way to interact. We have loosened our dress code, become more lax about showing up late, leaving early and missing a week or two here and there. So why are young people leaving the church?

Maybe the problem is with them not the church.

I guess we could blame the generation. It is in fashion to say they are lazy and rudderless, lack moral and ethical principles but that is a copout, after all it was our generation that raised them so who really is to blame? We could blame the general moral decay in society and the cultural shift from Christian values but historically the biggest growth in church attendance has come when the Christian values were in opposition to the culture. It started on the day of Pentecost and continues today in countries where Christianity is forbidden.

Maybe it is because we don’t provide enough teaching on why Christians are right.

I am not against understanding the scientific and historical evidence that backs up the foundations of Christian faith, but is this really the solution? It is almost impossible to attend a church without hearing a sermon series or small group discussion on apologetics. When it comes to youth, I would even suggest that it is possible they have heard the arguments in favour of Christianity so often that they have become suspicious that we are trying to cover something up.

There must be things we can try to keep the young people in church.

Although I do believe that how comfortable a person feels is influenced by the way a church communicates, interacts and engages them, I do not believe that people will give up sleeping in on a Sunday morning for this reason alone. As a matter of fact, I think the continuing decline in attendance by younger people even though we have made substantial changes in the way we do church is proof that these changes aren’t addressing the problem.

I am blessed!

My three children, 28, 26 and 21 years old, still attend church, one left for a while but now they attend church almost every Sunday. The fact that I am a pastor and have pastored at some very dysfunctional churches, should have led to them leaving the church for good but they are committed and involved. I would like to take the credit but I am not sure that I did anything different than the parents of those who no longer attend church. Truth be told…

…I may have been one of the worst examples of Christ as a parent.                                            

I can think of very few people who parented like I did. I love my kids and always have. I want the best for my kids and tried to express that as they were growing up. I wanted to be kind and caring, the type of father that everyone wants to be but in that area I fell short. I want to be careful not to paint a picture of a tyrant but at the same time I don’t want to understate the failing I had when it came to controlling my temper. I have to admit I often fell short when it came to calm reactions. All this should have led to my kids, or at least one or two of them, giving up on their faith and leaving the church, but it didn’t.

The easy, Christianiese response is to say it was the grace of God.

God has shown His grace and mercy to our family but I think using this type of language to describe the positive outcome of an imperfect upbringing suggests that others who have not experienced the same outcome have somehow missed out on God’s grace. It suggests that what happens in life has no affect.

I guess you could look at my family’s continued church involvement as proof of Calvinist election/predestination theology if you are so inclined. If you are so inclined then you already have your answer to why young people are leaving the church which leads me to ask, “Why are you even reading this blog post?”

I know it is just a theory but I think I have a possible explanation.

I can attend a movie, show people my ticket stub to prove I was there, explain the plot, describe the setting and go into detail about each character but that doesn’t make me a part of the story, just a spectator.

We have a generation that has been to the show over and over again. They know the plot and the cast but they have never personally met the lead character. They have been told a love story but never fallen in love themselves. They have been armed with all the facts as to why they should believe and enter into a relationship with Jesus but they have never actually encountered Him.

Why did my children remain in church?

I know it is just a theory based on personal observations. They encountered the living God personally. No information, regardless of how plausible or well-presented can replace that. They were encouraged to experience God, not just know about Him but know Him. Unlike many of their church friends who were taught emotionless logic and scientific fact while being warned to avoid emotionalism, my children experienced God in a very real way. They knew that they knew God and no one could take that away.

We can’t base our beliefs on emotions and experiences but we can’t embrace our beliefs without them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 (NIV)

Sorry that this is another repost. Sorry that I have not read many of your blog posts in the past month or so. I hope to be out with a new blog next week and to have visited at least a post or two from each of my followers as I am starting to feel like myself. As many of you know I suffered a knee injury followed by injuries to both my shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists and fingers. With the pain and lack of sleep from these lingering injuries, chronic illnesses that I have learned to manage could no longer be managed leaving me exhausted and unable to focus. My memory of the past 3 months is foggy although some of the more serious medical issues are not easy to forget. Just the thought of pain brings back a flood of fear linked to an extended period of unbearable torment. It will take a while to be the me I once was but it would be nice to start this process of reconnecting with you by posting new blogs and reading yours.

15 comments

  1. You are indeed blessed to have three children attending church. My oldest (43) rebelled, married a ex-Catholic/practicing-witch (now believing in nothing). He is so messed up, but refuses to discuss Christianity (It failed him, according to him, but he never experienced it.) I tried to lead the family in the right direction, but I was too legalistic in those days. Our younger son, the one with the neurological, mental, and physical disorders, is a strong believer, but he is struggling to grow. But his wife reads the Bible each day and is finally getting our son to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I will pray for you, Dave. I agree that the root problem is that these kids are being taught about God/Jesus but not encountering Him. I realized this when I started reading the Word for a college course and God started speaking to me through it; I didn’t know I hadn’t been abiding in real faith until I tasted real faith. Sadly, I think many church kids grew up in church-going homes but not truly Christian homes. My parents didn’t treat each other with grace and dignity; we didn’t do Bible studies or pray before bed. All of us who grew up this way have been presented with two sets of standards for living, which causes confusion and disillusionment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just wish everyone could just have one experience in the presence of God that would take Him from the pages of a book and make Him real – once they have one they will seek to encounter Him over and over again but we have sadly turned God into an equation or a process to follow not a heavenly father to be in relationship with – Thank you for your prayers – I pray for you and your battles – I can’t imagine what you are going through but you are an inspiration as you continue to work out , to keep your body going so that you, even with your health challenges can continue to serve Him

      Liked by 2 people

  3. “We can’t base our beliefs on emotions and experiences but we can’t embrace our beliefs without them.
    Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 (NIV)”

    You put that perfectly, my brother. Excellent post.

    I thank God for continuing to heal you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. First Brother, my Friend; I wouldn’t have known it was a repost. Second, in more than one area there I could have substituted my name or myself. I guess this is why I gain so much encouragement and inspiration. You don’t sugar-coat, you make us think, you hit us with the truth and yet the Love behind it comes forth!

    We are to be examples following the ultimate example of Christ Jesus. You hit the mark right on when you said, “people want the experience, not just the show,” (paraphrased, I know), and that is the example of Christ Jesus. He came to SHOW us the Father, to experience through Himself, the INTIMATE relationship that was lost due to sin. THAT my brother, IS experience and NOT just being a spectator.

    There ARE too many today who are satisfied with being a spectator, but sadly, and I mean this with so much concern, they will most likely eventually realize being a spectator is not what the Word of God was given to us for! Jesus Himself, told all who would be disciples, “Follow me!” That is anything but being a spectator!

    Prayers continually coming your way and I’ve said it before; if there is anything I can do to encourage you, to help you in what little ways I can, you let me know, dear Brother. Sue and I are KEEPING you in our everyday prayers! God bless!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you so much for your prayers – I find the hardest thing is feeling ready to write or practice (keyboards/sing) for worship but when I try to do it the limitations although much improved still stop me from doing what I set out to do – I think God maybe making me crave what he has so graciously gifted me with so that I will never take it for granted – I will be a new man with this is over because God is doing a great thing but with that being said this is a long way from over as far as I can tell so your prayers mean even more on those long nights of pain when sleep alludes me or when I sit down to type or play and my mind and body seem to be on different planets

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Last night for me was a long night of little to no sleep and so I spent that time in prayer. My prayer list is growing and yet, my heart feeds on that ability to intercede for others. If I can’t do anything else, at least I can pray for others! I love you brother and I know what it is like to have trouble concentrating. The only thing I CAN add is that from experience, it truly IS temporary and it will pass. As to appreciating what God has given us to do, I can’t agree with you more. The times I couldn’t, it was some of the strongest urges to try I have ever experienced! For now, bask in that craving, it is telling you the Holy Spirit is NOT through with you just yet!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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