Barna’s “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church”
No doubt you’ll see references to this article all over the place this morning. Barna’s research group did another survey that tried to figure out why people leave the church after the age of 15. With a 17- and 13-year-old daughters at home, this is a concern to me. And those of you who shepherd congregations and likely just started another round of junior confirmation instruction must have your concerns as well. Here is a summary of the “six reasons”
Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
What I notice in this list –and see in my kids — is that even teenagers have substantial questions, and that the church is not a place where those questions are being answered. Notice a theme — “shallow,” “science,” “simplistic,” “doubt.” All six of these “reasons” are expressed by seminary students, BTW. Perhaps laser-tag and pizza isn’t what kids want. But neither slapping a Bible passage down nor giving the bullet-point answer from the stuff at back of the synodical catechism is likely to help., either.
How do we help our young people think and act? How do we foster an environment where they can voice their doubts, where they don’t feel like they’re no longer Christian just because they have doubts, and bring them to places where the Spirit works through his means, in spite of their doubts?
Thanks to Rev. Bob Herring and his blog for bring this to my attention.