The "Youth Exodus" and How to Address It
What is the "Youth Exodus"?
Well, according to research done by the Barna Group, it's a pretty staggering event.
What Barna discovered was that six in ten young people will leave the church permanently or for an extended period starting at age 15.
That's 60% of our youth walking away from the church.
At best, that's the impact culture has on today's young people. At worst, it's a serious failure of discipleship within the church.
Based off the findings in this Christianity Today article, we're convinced it's the latter more than the former.
Why are they leaving?
The article states that the youth in our churches are leaving for six primary reasons:
Isolationism. One-fourth of 18- to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture, and technology that define their generation.
Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.
Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.
Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a "just say no" philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.
Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.
Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they'd like to discuss.
How can we address this?
Although many solutions could be brought to the table, we believe there are at least four ways we can address this issue:
Preach & teach good theology.
According to a new study by LifeWay Research, the primary reason people stay at or leave a church is because of the church’s theology.
“. . . churchgoers don’t like to see changes in their church’s doctrine. More than half (54 percent) say they’d seriously consider leaving if church doctrine changed.”
Don't be afraid to talk doctrine with your youth.
From our experience, youth enjoy engaging in deeper issues. They're aware of some of the major issues facing the world, and they want to be treated like adults. Who better to pour into than those who are zealous to learn and take what they've learned into the world?
Make sure the gospel is primary.
God is right to pull people away from your ministry if you've minimized the rich salvation that he has purchased into a list of rules to follow. The better individuals understand the gospel, the more their hearts will be stirred towards Christ (Colossians 1:9-10). It's from that changed heart that they will begin to serve God with greater joy and faithfulness (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 15:1-10).
We know, "authentic community" sounds cliché, but it's on this list for good reason. Until individuals can know and be known by others, they will never experience the depth of community that God designed them for. If the church is not a safe place for youth to ask tough questions then don't expect them to stick around.
We hope these are helpful to you in your pursuit of discipling the youth in your life.
Ultimately, until the gospel is embraced, no one will develop a lasting desire for God or or his people (the Church). So, let us faithfully pray that God would be drawing our youth to him like never before.