Four More (BIG) Reasons Young Adults Quit Church

There has been a surprisingly positive response to the article I published earlier in the week called “Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church.” And as I noted, it was hardly a comprehensive list. There were several others I thought were worth noting if I’d had the room, so I thought I’d continue with the same theme today.

And as I said in yesterday’s article:

- Although the answer(s) vary from person to person, there are some general trends that I think apply in most cases, and;

- In the list below, when I refer to “we,” “I” or “me,” I’m referring to younger adults in general, and not necessarily myself.

    We Don’t Want to Be “Talked At” Any More: There’s a very strong case that can be made for the value of sermons. Jesus did it. There are times when someone in a position of expertise has something they need to share with a group, and the best way to do it is didactically. But what if people stop listening?

    I asked a friend of mine, who is a minister, if he was planning to attend an upcoming conference. He said no, not because the content was off-base, but because he said he couldn’t tolerate more passive learning environments where he sat back and was a receptacle for more information.

    Our daily realities are becoming more interactive. Compare the passivity of reading your daily paper with the engagement a blog offers. We expect to be able to take part in the learning process now, rather than it being so one-sided. More churches are going with a model that reflects this, dispensing entirely with the traditional sermon. I’m not sure this is the answer, but more active engagement in one’s discipleship is a must going forward.

    Christians Are Seen As Hypocrites: From the scads of TV evangelists busted for impropriety to Catholic priests sexually abusing children under their care, there’s a face on Christianity in the media that says one thing and does another. Though this is hardly the baseline for all Christians, there’s a phenomenon of human consciousness that tends to seek out examples that reinforce existing stereotypes. Things that don’t align with our prejudice get filtered out. The result: everywhere we look, we see examples that reaffirm what we already thought about Christians.

    Related: Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church

    This may not be fair, but it’s reality. And the only thing that tends to change a social stereotype as embedded as this one is a concerted, collective effort to break the prejudice wide open, not with a competing media campaign or by shouting louder. Rather, it happens one person, one story and one relationship at a time. It’s the same way other stereotypes are dismantled, so why should Christians be any different?

    Church Seems to Lack Relevance: We are swimming in the wake of a self-help tidal wave that swept through Western culture over the past thirty years. This, combined with the custom-built media universes we’re able to construct for ourselves now, reinforce the question: How does this affect me in my life today?

    But at the heart of the Christian message is a counter-cultural theme, particularly in today’s culture: it’s not all about you. This can be a tough sell. After all, who really wants to hear that it’s not all about them? And there are plenty of pandering prosperity gospel types who will opportunistically affirm that it is all about us after all.

    But it’s not.

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    That said, we still to have to be mindful in church about waxing theological, while neglecting to identify with the humanity of the people around us in our congregations. At the heart of this connection is story. Not just telling them, but also making space for others to share theirs. And when I say “story” I’m not talking about some inspiring anecdote you plucked form a forwarded email; I’m talking about your story.

    If you haven’t already, go listen to the recordings that are part of National Public Radio’s Story Corps project. It is the narrative of a culture, longing for meaning, belonging and to feel something. Church can do the same; we just don’t often enough.

    Nobody Looks Like Me: A Young adult commented on my first post on this subject, published on the Sojourners website, that they tried really hard in college to find a faith family that felt right. But despite visiting many churches, she said that all she seemed to find were older people, families with children and a handful of youth, but no other young adults like her. After that it didn’t matter how good the music, the sermon or the coffee were. She didn’t feel like she belonged, so she left.

    This long-standing chicken-or-egg conundrum has been a challenge for churches for a long time. It’s kind of like trying to get credit when you don’t have an established line of credit. Where do you start?

    First of all, you don’t start by hoping they wander in on Sunday mornings and magically feel comfortable, surrounded by people unlike them. Look into concepts like the ministry of “third spaces” meeting off-site, or spontaneously organizing “hang outs” to help people connect. But I can tell you that we don’t have to look any further than ourselves when wondering why young adults feel marginalized.

    My wife, Amy, and I published a book about young adult spirituality a few years ago called “MySpace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation” (clearly an outdated title now, but what can you do?). We were frustrated when it was labeled on the back of the book as a “youth” book. Why? Because there was no such thing as a Young Adult section in most bookstores and catalogs.

    Still wondering why YAs feel ignored?


    Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. Christian has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.Visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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    About the Author

    Christian Piatt

    Christian PiattChristian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004.He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. Christian has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. Visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.View all posts by Christian Piatt →

    • Anonymous

      You provide your reason for why young adults are leaving church when you list that it lacks relevance.  I agree with this reason.  This IS the reason.  The other items on your list are tangents of this central point.  However, your support of that claim is misguided and short sighted.  You completely miss the point of “irrelevance” as it is assessed by those who leave.  Sure, church lacks relevance.  But that has nothing to do with people being selfish.  That’s a unsupported accusation and demonstrates your lack of understanding of the audience that you wish to retain.

      These “story” telling and listening opportunities that you describe are not unique to churches or the religious.  One can find the opportunity to share and connect with others on a local and global scale more readily than ever in our history.  Church is not relevant because it is not necessary for what you are seeking to provide.  Sure, some people choose church as an outlet for this type of social support system, but again, churches no longer hold a monopoly on this type of interaction with their communities. 

      But when people ask, “What does church provide?” they aren’t being selfish. They are telling you that they are getting that sense of community, support, and philanthropy from another source which does not require a belief in some sort of supernatural being.  They are asking for a simple reason for why they should believe in god.  You should not be asking how can church be made relevant.  You should be asking why the concept of a god is relevant.  Whether one can admit it or not, people would not leave the church if they really believed in that church’s god.  In other words, it’s not about why people aren’t going to church.  It’s about why there is no void when they do.  There is nothing demonstrably missing by abandoning religion or belief in god.

      The question is simple.  The answer appears impossible.  I really would like to hear your answer and I hope you can be honest with yourself if you choose to answer it.  So, from you as a believer, I (a nonbeliever) would like to know, why should a nonbeliever adopt a belief in god?  Just to save some time, don’t bother with redemption or salvation.  That is meaningless to a nonbeliever, and is no different than telling a 30 year old that they should be good so Santa comes on Christmas eve.  Also, if your answer involves anything that can be attained through secular means, it is invalid in terms of offering reason for conversion. 

      Again, this is the true crux behind your list of reasons.  It is not about how you convince young people to stay in church.  Church is a tangent of the god concept that will rise or fall with a belief in the supernatural.  You need to get to the meat of your problem, which is, why should anyone continue to support an institution that is founded upon a principle for which there is no demonstrable evidence?  Convince people that they need a god, and they will attend church.  Efforts to come up with other reasons are interesting and somewhat self reflective, but evade the real problems behind why young people are leaving their congregations.

      • Aurora

        Hey Deadline 1865 I love what you have to say here, do you mind if I quote you for my study that I’m doing on this very question? (Don’t worry, it’s not published high level stuff). Don’t know that I have a great answer for you (as a believer) but I do think you have hit the nail on the head thank you. I often ask the same question and I can only say that my experience is that God is real and in the midst of the harsh realities of life he is a constant who is there wanting to have a relationship with us. Somehow life with God works. 

        • Deadline1865

           Sure.  Thanks for asking and answering.

      • Eli

        one partial answer that comes to mind is that really the message and invitation of the church should primarily be for those that have a level of awareness of their lack. Thats the problem with mass marketing and organisational goals, there is an attempt to try make the message appealing to everyone. Unfortunately much of christian outreach can devolve into manipulating perceived needs. Add to that the majority of churches simply cannot provide what jesus provided to his listeners… healing, deliverance, genuine care etc. Most churches are just as devoid of the supernatural as any other community club so I agree why should anyone stay if they can get those needs met elsewhere without the abuse and hypocritical rhetoric. In some ways it is quite simple, if a church can’t solve problems in peoples lives that surrounding society can’t or is struggling with, church quickly loses relevance. Once again though the message probably isn’t for the person who is doing fine financially, isn’t medicated, has healthy relationships and already helping the world around them. I know many christians will disagree with that, as they claim we should push our beliefs on everyone because of hell or just because god is real, but fact of the matter is even jesus could not get through to everyone and didn’t bother with many people, he knew his target audience.

      • Drew

        You are making the assumption that young people who leave the Church do so because they do not believe in God.  This is misguided and false.  Young people are leaving the Church but still believe in God or some idea of “God,” which is what Christian and others are trying to understand.

        • Deadline1865

          I’m not making any assumption.  I’m speaking from experience.  I  grew up a devout Christian, never had any negative experiences involved with religion, and only left religion at around age 30 when I realized that the answers to my questions did not exist.

          At that time, I had not rejected the idea of a god or even the Christian God.  I still wanted to believe.  I just wasn’t able to be honest with myself yet.  The point is, people don’t leave because one day they stop believing in god.  They leave because they find the church to be unnecessary to be happy and content.  Only after people leave do they come to grips with their real thoughts about a belief in the supernatural. 

          The point is, even if people tell themselves they still believe  as faithfully as ever when they stop attending church,  (i.e. when people say, “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.”) they are just at a different point in their acceptance of disbelief.  Keep in mind that this article and my posts are not talking about people who never attended church regularly.  We’re talking about people who stop going to church regularly.  Some of these folks may never fully reject the concept of god or a particular faith, but their faith is not as strong as it once was. A decrease in attendance is evidence of that. 

          People of devout faith attend worship services, plain and simple. People of stagnant or superficial faith attend only on major days of worship (i.e Christmas and Easter).  People of diminishing faith, stop going to church altogether.  Stopping or decreasing attendance indicates some degree of a loss of faith.  Maybe it’s not flat out rejection, but it is an indicator of at least some degree of diminishing faith.

          • Anonymous

            On a related note, I think you’ll find that a majority of people comprising America’s atheist population were at one point faithful Christians.  We left the church for different personal reasons.  But, at the heart of all of those reasons is the central issue…we started to doubt and became dissatisfied with what the church could offer.  That alone isn’t the flat out rejection of god.  That is the first step towards the flat out rejection of god.

            • Drew

              If you think that the majority of atheists were devout Christians, I would like to see your evidence.

            • Anonymous

               I’m not saying that at all.  I’m saying that, traditionally, the majority of Americans are reared as Christians.  Thus, an American atheist is likely to have received religious training of the Christian type. 

          • Drew

            Your anecdotal experience is not a substitute for statistical evidence.  The statistical evidence points to a majority of young people still going to Church, and out of the minority that do not go to Church, a majority of them still believe in God or some idea of God.  Again, Christian’s article is about explaining that disconnect, and there is no evidence to support that every one of those individuals is on the path to Atheism.  Many young people eventually do rejoin the Church.

            • Anonymous

              I’m all for statistical evidence of all claims.  I don’t disagree that a majority of young people still go to church.   But the statistics also show that the church is losing people in record numbers.  You may not like anecdotal evidence, but you are wrong to dismiss its value.  Do you want speculation from people who still go to church? That’s what the article gives you.  Nothing stated in the article is profound.  Or, do you want insight from those who have actually left the church?  Your point is moot.  Your motives are suspect when you claim to value statistical evidence.  Are you willing to apply that same empirical attitude toward faith and religion?  Because, when or if  you do, you will realize that the founding principle behind the church, god, is statistically invalid…which leads us back to the meat of the subject. People leave the church because they see a diminishing need for it. The logical fruits of that realization are a rejection of faith.

            • LucyLou

              Correction – the church in the U.S. is losing members. The global Christian community is thriving and increasing. I know its difficult as an American to think you’re the only country in the world.

      • TC

        ~ “…why should anyone continue to support an institution that is founded upon a principle for which there is no demonstrable evidence?”
         
        What would you accept as demonstrable? 

        Also: Thank you for your respectful and thoughtful tone, something I find lacking on 99% of all religion-centered Internet posts from both sides of the discussion. Much appreciated.

        • Deadline1865

          For me personally, demonstrable evidence would mean some sort of observable evidence of something supernatural…as in beyond natural explanation.  And not just something that stumps me/scientists/the world etc, but something that is so clearly alien to our awareness that it defies all logic. I don’t know of anything in the world that fits those parameters. 

          That’s not to say that everything about the universe is known.  Of course “we” don’t have all of the answers.  I don’t expect infinite knowledge.  But all indications point to us (humans) as being on the right path to understanding existence as a natural phenomenon. Then, even if there was some sort of supernatural revelation, for me to accept the doctrine of one particular religion as true, that evidence would have to clearly show validity of one over the other. 

          Is a Christian’s faith any stronger than a Muslim’s, or Hindu’s, or Jew’s etc?  Every religion has those who are devout, yet none can provide evidence that their faith is the correct belief vs. the other.  In fact, people’s religious beliefs are clearly tied not to evidence of a particular deity, but rather the part of the world and/or community into which they were born.  You know what I mean?  Religions clearly spawn and evolve geographically.  Isolated people don’t adopt a non-native religion until they are forced to do so via invasion, and/or converted due to evangelism.  In my eyes, if one religion were actually true from a supernatural standpoint, that religion would have spawned across the globe prior to any missionary campaigns or military rule.

          I guess the real question is, “What do I need to experience in order to believe that a god exists?”  My best answer is…anything at all that is not clearly the product of man made or natural phenomenon.  I mean, all religions have founders.  For the world’s predominant religions, the history of those founders is archived in their holy books.  But as far as WHY those founder’s claims are actually true, I haven’t seen any evidence that gives one religion a monopoly on truth over any other.  By in large though, those claims tend to rise or fall with military conquest and/or rebellion.  Religions and gods that evolve with civilization do not appear to be the product of any supernatural force, but rather human intervention.

          • steven rozzi

            As I was reading this thread, I kept thinking of a speech I read a few months ago. And on this question of demonstrable evidence, I think it has some good points. The speech was given by Max Weber – one of the founding fathers of sociology – in 1918. It’s called “Science as a Vocation”. I think you might find it very interesting. Basically, Weber argues that what we know as science is based on the presupposition that the rules of logic are valid. Though I don’t study philosophy or logic or anything close to it, and do not pretend to know how one could go about “proving” that this is or isn’t so, I think this is a good point. However, at the same time, Weber (who, from what I understand, was a devout Protestant) claims that what we know as religion is based on the presupposition that there is actual meaning (however you want to understand that) in this world that we can actually discover (again, how it would be discovered is another question). Just a suggestion. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here: http://www.ne.jp/asahi/moriyuki/abukuma/weber/lecture/science_frame.html

        • Anonymous

           Much appreciated to you and others here too.  It’s nice to be able to have a civil discussion over this.  I really like talking to Christians who have strong faith.  I’m fascinated by what drives that faith for people individually.  Sometimes it’s lunacy and that seems to get a lot more publicity these days.  But, sometimes it’s very introspective and profound. 

          I don’t think one can really know much about their own true convictions without learning about the convictions of others.  One has to really be challenged to understand the limitations of their own ideas.  You either learn from and change those ideas, or you learn from and strengthen them.  Either way, I think that’s a personal responsibility for anyone taking any sort of position either for or against faith.  That’s my opinion anyway.

      • Sarah Van Blaricum

         I like this question. I like it because it is difficult, and it forces me to think about why I choose to believe.

        That being said, I don’t have a ready-made answer to your question. I think faith is something that is personal and unique to each person, and simply hearing a believer’s case for God–no matter how good–will do very little to convert a non-believer. It might plant a seed, it might cause the non-believer to chew on it for a bit, but I don’t think anybody is going to go, “Oh, SNAP! I hadn’t thought of it that way! You’re right! BOOM, going to church on Sunday.” I think for true conversion to happen, something needs to happen to a person where God becomes a personal thing, whether it be through some dramatic experience or simply by asking the hard questions and doing some digging in order to find answers on one’s own.

        For me personally, I have faith because I choose to. No, I don’t know definitively God exists. I have had some experiences that I personally can’t explain that seem to back up my faith, but I’m even taking that on faith! I grew up going to church, but that “religious conditioning” only took me so far. There was a period where I did stop going to church and wasn’t taking my faith too seriously, but after awhile, I began to miss belonging to a faith community. So I decided to start going back. I decided to do some research and figure out what I believed (as opposed to my “beliefs” from religious conditioning). I CHOSE to go back and dig deeper into those Bible stories I grew up on as a kid. I made faith personal to me, and I found out that it is a dynamic, living, exciting, difficult, challenging, and beautiful thing. I am more excited about my faith and God and Jesus now than I was all those years growing up in church. I am in a constant state of learning, a constant state of spiritual growth, and I love it.

        Thank you again for this question, Deadline1865. It is definitely a question I will ask myself again time and again. And I hope you will find an answer as well.

      • Leo Staley

        Perhaps the article could have been more clear that it was addressing specifically believing young adults who left the church culture. People who, despite believing and perhaps even WANTING to attend church on a regular basis, simply stop attending. Sometimes this eventually results in a disbelief in God, but not necessarily, or even usually, I think. Nevertheless, the point of this: Many people DO feel something missing by not going to church, yet churches fail at doing what they are meant to do, and so people, unable to get that, stop trying. There IS a void when people leave, as many people I’ve spoken to agonizingly confirm.

        To address your other question, you cite as things which non-christian sources can provide, “sense of community, support, and philanthropy,” all of which are meaningful, laudable, and excellent. So how is belief in God relevant to them? Without God and an afterlife, they are ultimately, in the end, meaningless. Leo Tolstoy asked, “ What meaning is there in my life which the inevitability of death does not destroy?” Further, if there is no ultimate, arbiter of true justice and meaning, capable of enforcing it; if there is only the self and the phyiscal world, even if one lived forever, what meaning would there be which the lack of justice did not destroy?For me, this is why, no matter what, the idea of God is ALWAYS relevant.  Next, Redemption IS central. Recognition of humanity’s desperate need to be saved from the destructiveness which they wreak upon themselves or in the very least, one’s own need, is the first thing which brings a person to a point of converting to Christianity. Without this no one can be or ought to pretend to be a Christian.

      • Anonymous

        Again, I agree with you in that it makes no sense if I just want you to come to church to agree with me about some intellectual content.  But I have met the living Jesus in my spirit, and that changed everything for me…and I believe the living Jesus wants you to meet him, too.  I am aware of his presence every second, and there is a spiritual communication that changes how I view everything in my day and my world. He is at work in me changing me, and is in daily debate with me about my self-centered tendencies, seeking to help me see others as he does – this makes radical change in my personal agenda, and he is growing humility in me, I think.  There are others in my church who live this life, too – so we don’t want you to “agree” with us, we want you to know him, too.  That’s the evidence.  And we do have “twenty-somethings” coming to our church, who want to know more.  So my question to you is, would you be willing to meet him?  Or would that challenge what you are already devoted to?

    • Terri Nestel

      my church has a large young adult population and special services and programs for them. I always thought it was great, now I know it is, since apparently it is not the norm. :)

    • From the UK

      I think the relevancy issue is around the way that the gospel is communicated so that it can be discounted as either imaginary friends, which I see often, or as Deadline1865 says below salvation from some afterlife hell, and I can sympathise with his thoughts on that.
      For me Christianity is a radically different way of life. It does not necessarily require church in the institutional sense, although it does require it in the friends of Christ sense however that might manifest itself.
      Whilst it can be argued very well that “being good” does not require God what Jesus taught is not about being good it is something so much more radical than that. A true Christian life is something very difficult to live out but when it is the world around that life changes such is its power. Then it becomes relevant.
      If the millions of Christians in the world could just get close to the life Jesus taught us to live then Christianity would thrive, but as Gandhi implied Christianity rarely looks like Christ.

    • Erinvechols

      Reasons this 20-something left the church: http://erinvechols.com/religion/reasons-this-young-person-left-the-church

    • Marcus Ames

      Beautiful. The hypocrasy one sealed it. That very thing is what kept me from church until I was in my twenties, and makes me loathe church even though I’m now on the same side of the faith.

      One the first messages I got as a four-year-old was when a friend invited me to Sunday school was about how the Bible was meant to be literal, not added to or subtracted from. He later talked about Adam and Eve in Eden, and Satan come disguised as a snake. He accompanied this with the passage from Genesis about this, and there was no mention of Satan. As a four-year-old would do, I called him out on it. He said it was implied. I told him he just said you weren’t supposed to add things to scripture. He said something messed up and the other kids went into bully mode while I was made to stand in the corner. I wasn’t invited back.

      By the time I got to high school, in addition to the bombardment I received of televangelist scandal news back in the 80s, it was stuff like Phelps and Operation Rescue. I lived in Wichita at the peak of the “Summer of Mercy.” Abortion doctor became the only occupation that had to wear body armor to work to protect itself from peaceful Jesus followers.

      And don’t even get me started on the delightful logic of Ray Comfort or Dr. Dino.

      Today, I still hear it all the time everywhere I go. I don’t have that ability to go into “denial and persecution mode” that people born into the faith can do at will. I know what it looks like from the other side. And I often wind up being the guy who talks to the uncomfortable wierdo visitor. The last time, it was after one of our head pastor’s anti-Muslim rants. So at coffee fellowship afterwards, I wind up being the guy refusing to apologize for him, but feeling just as hurt myself, to a refugee from Afghanistan who just so happened to be occupying one of the seats that day.

    • Drew

      What impresses me most about this series, Christian, is that you are not a young adult yourself but seem to have a pretty good grasp of what is going on.  It’s clear you’ve done your homework.

      This topic is really a two-way street.  The Church fails young adults and young adults often fail the Church.  However, I give you credit for emphasizing where the Church fails young adults, something that is not discussed often.  It’s too easy to put all the blame on young adults.

      The question I have been thinking about lately a lot is why is this a problem now as opposed to earlier in history?  Some of these problems are new and brought about by the times we are living in, but most of these problems have always existed.  So what is unique about these times?  I think you mentioned one (lack of a bridge in modern times between being a youth and an adult) but I think there are others as well.

      • Frommdavidr

         Good conversation.  For me – writing as an adult and a pastor whose life experience spans two denominations – my sense is that “the church” is stuck.  Political powers starting around 1979 (Jim Wallis) have figured out how to use Christianity.  As a result, today – rule driven fundamentalism is the predominant image of Christianity in the media – unfortunately.  Too many adults are busy preserving their childhood faith.  My sense is Young adults/ Youth are looking for a church that honestly engages the scriptures, the human condition, science, and the world situation in an honest dialogue….probably as openly as does Chris Hedges.  Young people are leaving “the church,” but at the same time as Anthony Padavano once remarked “disillusionment is the beginning of faith” – my sense is that faith is alive – rejecting the idols….looking for the holy….hopefully in places that liberate life.

        • Drew

          Thanks for your response.  My first thought on the topic is one of fatalism.  This is a multi-page essay of an in itself, but Matthew 24 says that Jesus will come again after the Great Commission is fulfilled and the end times will be similar to that of the time of the Great Flood.  In my opinion, this means that although the Gospel will be heard everywhere in the world (which I think has or will soon happen), it will not be embraced (not a whole lot of Christians and people living for Jesus).  Perhaps young adults falling away from the Church is the start of this.

          My second thought is that since we are called to not be fatalistic, the question of “why now” deserves a non-fatalistic answer.  In my opinion, the answer as to why young adults are falling away from the Church now is due to the rapid pace of change taking place in the world and the fact that the Church has not kept up.  (Mind you, I do not think the Church should change beliefs, as some do, but rather believe the Church needs to stay relevant in terms of messaging).

          I’ll take one example – young adults getting married later in life. Due to the rapid change in the length of time it takes a young person to get established enough for marriage (complete school and start a career), it has gotten to a point where the average marriage age has been pushed back to 28 for males and 26 for females in the U.S., and is well into the 30′s in Europe.  It is pretty difficult to tell a 16 year to not have sex until they are 30.  I’ve seen this create huge problems.  Many young adults just give up on chastity altogether, deeming it impossible to wait that long.  Some young Christian adults I know, including members of my extended family, have simply gotten married at 18 or 19.  They were not established – only knew the significant other for a year or two, had no jobs or minimum wage jobs, had no educational or career plans yet – but knew if they got married they could at least have all the Biblically-sanctioned sex that they wanted.

          I have not really seen the Church keep up with this change.  Instead of recognizing it is harder for young adults to stay chaste than ever before, they just repeat the same scoldings over and over.  I don’t know what the solution is (more young adult groups?), but I do know that if the Church keeps ignoring the issue, more people will ignore the teaching, and that has a snowball effect (once you start picking and choosing Church followings, it usually does not end).

    • http://twitter.com/vikingdrewby Drew Stiling

      I think that one reason that often doesn’t get discussed is that many people (especially single employed young adults) are generally happy in life and don’t feel the need for something spiritual. Most of my young-adult 24-27yo friends aren’t particularly interested in “spirituality”. They’re happy enough with their good jobs, dating, Saturday nights out at the bar, Sunday morning brunches, going to sporting events and concerts and shopping, weekends at the beach, working out, volunteering (for some), pursuing a master’s degree, etc.. With all those “fun and interesting things” in life, who “needs” church?

      For people who already rate themselves as “happy” (as many 20-something employed professionals would), it’s hard to get this group to realize that they actually need something more in their life.

      Even for me, I feel like I’m much more likely to get involved in church when I’m in a new city, or feeling “bored” with life, versus when I’m at a point that I have a lot of other things interesting me in life.

      Obviously the group I’ve referred to above is at best about 30% of the population (mainly, those with college degrees).

      This might sound like a radical idea, but maybe the church (especially urban churches) should stop concerning itself with attracting young people, and instead focus more on loving those that Christ most loved: the poor, the downtrodden, the immigrant. I think a lot of churches are so concerned about trying to be relevant to ‘young professionals’, when that time, effort, and money could be much better spent ministering to those less fortunate.

      • http://zackallen.me Zack Allen

        The problem you describe in the first paragraph is, I think, precisely what Jesus was getting after when He said, “It’s harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

        • Wit

          @ Zack: Jesus wasnt talking about being a member of a church then. You can be a church member but not part of the kingdom / out of a church and still be part of the kingdom. Am I wrong?

          • Drew

            It is common for people to attend church and not be part of the kingdom; however, it would be very rare for people to not be part of a church and still be part of the kingdom.  Christianity is a community thing; dozens of Bible passages to support this.

            • Marcus

              If you only find that safety in those walls, so be it. There are those of us who don’t live in one place for too long at a time, others of us who spend our lives going place to place for missin work, etc. Does that make us weaker or rarer Christians for our lack of a home base to call our own?

            • http://zackallen.me Zack Allen

              A “home base” is not, IMO, the point. The point is community and accountability. Regardless of where you find yourself, I do believe it is important that every believer be submitted *somewhere*.

          • http://zackallen.me Zack Allen

            Wit, I think the former is certainly true, but not the latter. I have to second Drew’s comment that Christianity is a “community thing.” Part of what it means to follow Jesus is to enter into community with mutual submission.

            But to my original comment, Drew (Stilling) noted that these folks are not interested in “spirituality” because they do not sense a need for it. I think one major reason it is difficult for the rich to “enter in” is due to a similar lack of such a realization of need. Why would we need when we lack nothing (or so we think)? That’s as far as I meant for that comparison to go.

            Blessings.

      • Drew

        Drew,

        This is a good observation.  However, this is not a reason why young adults are leaving the Church.  At this point, they have already left the Church.  Rather, this is a good reason why as to why young adults may not come back to the Church (worldy success outside of the Church).  In my experience, most young adults stop attending Church as soon as they get to college and unless they join something in college relatively quickly, they continue to not attend.

    • Thrice

      The reason I left the church is because I’m tired of listening and not being heard. When they “try to listen,” they give me answers “by the book” and have this “holier-than-thou” personality. Mind you, the church I go to is full of younger people than a young adult like me, so the last one on that list doesn’t apply to me. The church I went to isn’t open to anyone who has opinions.
      Thankfully, my religiously-devoted mother has accepted my reasons and doesn’t drag me to church anymore. 
      Another thing, that stereotyping issue. As much I’d like to avoid stereotyping, the majority LOVES to stereotype. I don’t want to be lumped together with the gay-bashing, redneck, king-of-the-hill stereotype. Besides I have my own views that sometimes differ from this group, why do I have to be labeled the bad guy for the shits that other people did?

      The stereotype is more of a minor issue. I can understand that belonging to a group will eventually lead to it, as other people find it convenient to stereotype. But what I can’t stand the most is the hypocrisy (as you have listed there above) as well. That issue is pretty much evident all around us.

      • Thrice

        *apology on the grammar; non-english speaking native with migraines here.

    • Jo

      How about making sweeping statements?  When I was in college, struggling every day with whether I should even be on this earth, a Sunday School teacher said in my class, “If you have ever or are contemplating suicide now, then you cannot possibly be a Christian because there is no way you cannot have hope if you believe in Jesus.”  Needless to say, I did not return.  Unfortunately, among my denomination, sweeping judgmental statements are the norm rather than the exception.  I am now in my mid-40′s and I still have strong feelings against churches and/or organized religion.

    • alex

      What about the outdated patriarchal beliefs that reduce more than half of us to a life of servitude? Or the insane bigotry that so many face for believing differently? Or the insane fear tactics (i.e. hell) that most are sick of? Or the closed-minded approach to everything they see? Or the fact that some people have learned to think without using Christianity as a crutch? Or the seeming intrinsic need to limit women to being barefoot and pregnant? Or the vast amount of Republicans in the church? Or the idiotic bigoted rhetoric? I was raised southern Baptist and all these and more are why i despise the church as a whole. Don’t thinly veil your contempt for my misfortunes in prayer. Don’t reduce half the population to nothing more than subservient broodmares.   Don’t harm my friends for being gay. The church has more issues than young people leaving it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/aileen.williams.77 Aileen Nevaeh Williams

      I think this is actually pretty much all wet. The problems don’t have to do with appealing to a new trendy style. They have to do with doctrinal suicide and liberalism giving no on a reason to attend churches, and government schools propagandizing people into State worship from age 5. It has to do with anti-intellectualism and a cowardly retreat into a sanitized world of veggie tales. We look ridiculous, and we are ridiculous, and we’ve done it to ourselves. Christianity has had nothing to say to liberalism in this country, which has been dominant for 200 years (anyone who says Thomas Paine was not a liberal is delusional). Nietzsche was right: Christianity took cianide and went for a nap. Now we’re surprised no one cares what we have to say?

    • SA

      As a YA I have to say my main struggle with finding my place in a church has to do with the “Nobody looks like me” issue. I am a single university student. None of my friends have a desire to attend church. But I desperately want to be a part of a church family. For me to do this, it meant I had to show up Sunday mornings and sit by myself in a congregation of mostly couple/families. It took a good month or more before people started to reach out to me. Even still, I didn’t really feel there was a ministry for me. I got to know the pastoral staff, since they were the most open to talk to me, go for coffee with me, encourage me to volunteer, etc. Then my church went through a major upheaval where most of the pastoral staff were let go and the rest pretty much followed them out the door one-by-one. The church was reaching out to heal hurting people in it’s congregation during this time of upheaval but I was never on the receiving end of this outreach. Somehow when the pastoral staff all left, I was allowed to slip through the cracks. And as a child of divorce, I couldn’t help but feel all the old wounds open up as the church essentially was going through a “divorce” of it’s own in a lot of ways. I stopped attending this church. And even though I’ve gone to another church once or twice since then, I went from attending church every single Sunday to only attending on special occasion. I went to church because I craved the community (unlike, as you say, some YA) and all I got was another place to be lonely.

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