David Kinnaman has just released a new book based on eight national studies by the Barna Group. The studies explore the challenges of faith development among teens and young adults and the findings are included in the new work titled “Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church.”
The research identified six themes and uncovered why nearly 59% of young Christians today are disconnected from church after age 15.
Here are the 6 reasons outlined in the study:
1. Churches seem overprotective – Young Christians expressed concern about how the church seems to “ignore the problems of the real world” and is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful.” Their experience of this kind of Christianity is fear-based… and must be abandoned.
2. Teens’ and twenty-somethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow – A second reason cited for leaving the church is the lack of an experience in church. 31% of those surveyed said that “church is boring,” while 24% said “faith is not really relevant to my career or interests.”
3. Churches come across as antagonistic to science – Young adults feel disconnected from church or faith because of the tension between science and Christianity, according to the study by the Barna group. Three out of ten young adults with some sort of a faith background stated that “churches are out of step with the scientific world,” while some even cited “Christianity is anti-science.”
4. Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic and judgemental. According to the findings, young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they tend to be more conservative in their opinions about sexuality and 17% of them said “they have made mistakes and feel judged within the church because of them.”
5. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity – Younger Christians have been shaped by a culture that embraces tolerance, open-mindedness and acceptance for all races, sexuality, religions and cultures. Three out of ten surveyed (29%) said that “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and they “felt forced to choose between their faith and their friends.”
6. The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt – Young adults think the church today does not allow for space to express or embrace doubts. Today’s young person wants to be able to ask pressing life questions within their faith community and the current perception is that there is disregard for those who have significant doubts about their faith. Additionally, one out of every six people surveyed said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems they experience.”
What are the implications for youth ministry?