From time to time, I revisit the question: Why are young adults walking away from religion? Although the answer(s) vary from person to person, there are some general trends that I think apply in most cases.
In the list below, when I refer to “we,” “I” or “me,” I’m referring to younger adults in general and not necessarily myself.
#1 – We’ve Been Hurt
I can actually include myself in this one personally. Sometimes, the hurtful act is specific, like when my youth leader threw a Bible at me for asking the wrong questions. Sometimes, it’s rhetorical, either from the pulpit, in a small group study or over a meal. Sometimes, it’s physical, taking the form of sexual abuse or the like.
But millions claim a wound they can trace back to church that has never healed. Why? In part, because the church rarely seeks forgiveness.
#2 – Adult Life/College and Church Don’t Seem to Mix
There are the obvious things, like scheduling activities on Sunday mornings (hint: young people tend to go out on Saturday nights), but there’s more to it.
In college, and before that by our parents, we’re taught to explore the world, broaden our horizons, think critically, question everything and figure out who we are as individuals. Though there’s value in this, it’s hyper-individualistic. But church is more about community.
In many ways, it represents, fairly or not, sameness, conformity and a “check your brain at the door” ethos. This stands in opposition to what the world is telling us is important at this time in life.
Perhaps an emphasis on a year of community service after high school would be a natural bridge to ameliorate some of this narcissism we’re building in to ourselves.