12 Witnesses

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Leaving Church :: Remix, redux

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Three Myths about Church Dropouts, by Sam Rainer, gives us quite a bit to think about on the topic of the church’s failure to reach and keep what has become now two American generations in a row.

Brief overview and then a couple of thoughts:

The three myths are that High School Students drop out of church at a rate of about 70% between the ages of 18-22 (for at least one year) BECAUSE… 1) The influence of a secular university has pulled them away, 2) They were already planning to leave as soon as they left home anyway (80% say they had planned to continue in church) and 3) Church Scandals, enhanced by the media, have left them disenchanted.

Most of you know that I was in Youth Ministry for 19 years before becoming Lead Pastor for SDBC a year and a half ago. The fact that I have been pursuing that generation for the length of it’s existence as teenagers is part of what led the committee to settle on me to help lead Skelly Drive to pursue that same generation as adults. Obviously, I processed Sam’s post in light of those years spent with these kids right before they left church. Honestly, at the end of my time in Youth Ministry, my chief frustration was with so many promising kids that had walked away from church after they walked away from High School.

It reminded me of some other statistics from the Barna Group recently referenced by Joe Ball, youth guru (and friend) at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He posted these on his blog, and you should read them.

My OPINION of all of this, through the filter of personal observation as well as statistics, boils down to this:

Youth ministry is often more like the church ought to be than the rest of the church. Not in the gross games nights (I could tell you some stories…), but in that the Youth Group usually does these things well: They are extremely relational; they encourage personal walks with God that are more successful because they are practically facilitated by the ministry; they don’t assume that the participants understand complex theological nuances – or care that much – so Biblical teaching is broken down in to easy to understand and apply teaching points; and the processes of church are explained – like why we worship the way we do, for example.

Most of that stuff disappears when you leave Youth Ministry, and it becomes much less attractive, I think. I recognize that not all Youth Groups share the above list, but the good ones do. One thing that they all share – no matter what – and the thing I think is the biggest factor in young adults checking out of church: relationality. We crave relationships and the church should always be about good, godly relationships with the ultimate relationship being the example of all others: our relationship with God.

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