Before you read the new research survey from LifeWay ministries, there are some foundational thoughts we must have going into the survey:
Not every child who leaves the church in college is a Christian (this should be an obvious realization). Often, college is what shows who is and who isn’t a Christian. This means that all the children in our youth ministry are probably not Christians. This means that we should preach, teach, and counsel for conversion and not merely sanctification.
We live in an age of “biblical illiteracy”. It is not surprising that some want to leave the church because what they have grown up with has not been immersed in the biblical teaching but more so in merely cultural issues or felt-need issues. Let us not forget that it is the Word which changes us (John 17:17).
Some of the “reasons” actually can be used as a “cop out” (in other words, they are merely an excuse) to leave the church. Referring back to #1, non-Christians sometimes use these reasons at times to throw blame on others rather than outright saying they don’t believe. I say this out of my own experience from when I was an unbeliever in my early college years and from seeing former students in my years in youth ministry.
The Church (notice I put a Big “C” for Church) has not done as well of a job integrating the youth ministry into the entire body and the youth ministry has definitely not done a good job at showing the importance of the church. We should absolutely point our students to campus ministries and certainly the campus ministers but we are failing if we do not show them the importance of the local church and submitting to the local pastors, elders, and deacons (which is often the youth directors’ faults).
It is no surprise that children who grow up in “solid” biblical churches drop out of church or go to more “seeker-sensitive” churches because we often fail at applying the Bible to their lives. The Bible is first a foremost a book for real life. God is a God who moves towards mankind. Doctrine is not doctrine unless it is practiced. We should seek to bring our students into the depths of doctrine clearly, relevantly, engagingly yet while always showing how that doctrine changes the way you live and demands a change of life.
We should be very grateful for surveys like these and for ministries like LifeWay who would put so much effort into collecting this data BUT we should not get over-concerned about statistics. They can be very helpful and informing about cultural trends but we need to be cautious about how much weight we put on these statistics (not questioning the integrity of any researchers but merely realizing that there is no perfect survey that can accurately take all people into account). Surveys at their best make us aware and urge a response but at their worst can overcome us with fear or pride. No matter how good a research team and survey is, they all have their limits.
Surveys like these should bring us to pray for more than physical well-being for our children and families (often a weakness of today’s evangelicalism in a prosperous culture) but certainly for their spiritual well-being. When is the last time we have seen something like this and began earnestly imploring the Lord for revival? Do we lose hope or seek the Lord after reading something like this?
Lastly, students leave the body of Christ because they don’t love Christ. We should decide to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified as the main tenor of our churches and families. Anything, any feeling, or anyone other than Jesus Christ will ultimately lead us away from Him and His Bride. People who love Jesus love His Bride even when she looks messy.
Without further delay, here are some of the statistics. For the full article, please see the link below:
The 66 percent who said they stopped attending church regularly as young adults cited a variety of reasons for leaving. The survey listed 55 and asked them to pick all that applied. On average, they chose seven or eight reasons, McConnell said. The reasons fell under four categories:
Nearly all — 96 percent — cited life changes, including moving to college and work responsibilities that prevented them from attending.
Seventy-three percent said church or pastor-related reasons led them to leave. Of those, 32 percent said church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical and 29 percent said they did not feel connected to others who attended.
Seventy percent named religious, ethical or political beliefs for dropping out. Of those, 25 percent said they disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues while 22 percent said they were only attending to please someone else.
And, 63 percent said student and youth ministry reasons contributed to their decision not to go. Of those, 23 percent said they never connected with students in student ministry and 20 percent said the students seemed judgmental or hypocritical.