The most optimistic estimate is that at least 60% of Christians leave Christianity between the ages of 18-25. That is a big hole. But there could be something even more troubling that we have noticed in our ministry that is going to take us some time to address. There was a long time at Northwest where we had a vibrant youth group but nothing after that. So when people graduated they pretty much fell off in line with the statistics.
That is problematic in and of itself but it gets worse. What happened 7-14 years ago, the drop off of young adults and young families means the congregation had an extremely small number of children being born for a 7 year stretch. We are now six years into our ministry to young adults at Northwest and we have had a baby boom. We now have a ton of kids ages 6 and younger but those who are 7-14 are few and far between and what is more, we don’t have as many families in that age range who are involved in the spiritual well being and maturation of this children as we once did. That gap will move up through the youth group, college group, 20s & 30s group over time and it is a noticeably large hole.
So we are experiencing the exodus of our young adults but what will effect will that have on the church 10-20 years down the road? The effects we have seen are substantial. I am convinced that the mass exodus of young adults from the church is one the most serious problems we are currently facing in Christianity. I am glad to see more and more people aware of it and doing something about it. I am also glad to see guys like Wes Woodell teaching on this at Pepperdine in a few weeks.
Lack of evangelism multiplies this problem. If you aren’t reaching new people and are dependent upon your kids to age in order to fill these holes the problem gets even worse. Over the last few months I have become convinced that one of the big keys to Christianity moving forward is evangelism…purposefully reaching out to those who need Jesus, studying with them, connecting them with other Christians, etc. That sounds like a no brainer and it should be but somehow we have lost our gumption and don’t invest in others like we used to. This has to change.
Has your congregation experienced this? It is not to say that this makes me feel hopeless. God can work good out of any situation. It is a reminder that the young adult exodus has repercussions we might not yet have noticed but will also need to be addressed.