If you’re in youth ministry, or in church world in general, you’ve read about or heard about the numerous statistics pointing to what some call the “drop out problem.” I don’t want to get into the numbers. (Lately, I am of the opinion that we can get too distracted by them.) But I do want to address something I’ve observed over the last few years.
There’s still a ton being written about WHY young people are leaving the church. And sometimes I think we’ve moved no closer to an answer today than we were a few years ago.
Surely there is truth to the fact that it’s hard to get plugged into a church in college. Surely there’s truth to the fact that some teenagers were never that plugged in to begin with. And yes, numbers show that a portion of young people come back to the church after leaving it.
But I want to offer a few thoughts, things that have been bugging me lately. And I’ll do it briefly, in hopes that you may actually read it!
In five sentences (well, four sentences and one with a semicolon, which is pushing it, I know), here are my thoughts on what may be leading young people to walk away from church:
• I believe that in many churches, we aren’t setting the bar high enough.
• I believe that in the name of cultural relevancy, we spend too much time tailoring Christianity to the perceived needs of the young people in our ministries instead of leading them to the cross of Christ and seeing their “selves” broken at its feet.
• I believe young people aren’t walking away from Christ because I believe it’s impossible to walk away from Christ once we’ve truly encountered Him; I believe young people are walking away from a faith that is woefully watered down.
• I believe young people are walking away from church because the only church they know is either entertainment-centric or people-centric (or both) instead of being Christ-centric.
• I believe many of us are calling young people not to be a part of a Gospel-fueled movement, but to be still another participant in a program-driven social club.
Those are my five sentences. And they may very well be summed up in one: Young people leave the church because the church we’re giving them isn’t the church God intended.
I’m curious what your thoughts are. Am I on target? Off target? What did I miss? What would you add?