Five Reasons Young People Are Quitting Church

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1 – They don’t have a voice. In every other area of their life they are used to having a platform and a voice. From Instagram to Tik Tok they can post things and get affirmation. Not so much in the church. Their voices are not typically valued on the same level as others and they notice. It is important to ask young people what they think about what happens at church and if any of them should ever come with ideas count that as a blessing and make sure they feel heard.

2 – Culture has shifted. Culture used to value older people and experience. Today the culture values youth. I am not saying churches should compromise. I am saying be smart in considering how to value everyone.

3 – Youth ministry. We created an age segregated group that isolated them away from the relationships they would need upon graduation. When teens graduate they have to leap into the larger congregation and if the relationships don’t exist long before, don’t expect many people to successfully make the jump. We put all the burden on them in building that bridge and they just aren’t going to do it nor should they be expected to. Try to get to know them. Youth ministry isn’t a bad thing…it just became the end all for faith development for teens and that just won’t work. That leads to the next one.

4 – Parents checked out of the faith formation of their children. The youth ministry is supposed to do that but that isn’t fair to the youth minister. We need to disciple our own kids and then see youth ministry as a supplement to at home training.

5 – Hypocrisy. When parents expect things of their kids they won’t do themselves the kids will reject it.

Bonus – our gospel has been too small, just not robust. By not robust I mean not as comprehensive as the biblical gospel. We said the gospel is about getting to heaven when you die. What does that mean to you when you are 19 and think you are invincible? But the biblical gospel is more robust and comprehensive than that…the kingdom has tangible and significant meaning and impact TODAY!

We effectively planted two churches under the roof of any congregation that has a viable youth ministry instead of creating a community of intergenerational connection that would be mutually beneficial to all.

For more thoughts on this check out our video at Wineskins YouTube…if you don’t know about the channel we are pouring a lot of resources into making it helpful and are up to 300 video resources there!

4 Responses

  1. For too long, churches created tiers of Christian. Widows, elderly couples, and married people with children were the highest tier and then there were tiers 2 and below which utilized marital and parental status and gender to determine tier. The youth were a separate entity until they had to cross the gulf to adult church and figured out they were in tier 3 with no voice at all and that there was no way out/up for 20 more years.
    Let’s look at cofC and similar churches. When the eldership was old and semi-controlled by their peers and that group was happy, then why change anything? The preacher was controlled by the leadership and so had to keep them satisfied, thus the sermon only had to reach the controlling group, not the youth or the younger people who wanted it to be applicable to daily life. Add to that a leadership who does not talk to the mere mortals and operates in secret, a few condemnations to hell for the sins of others and it is no wonders people quit church.
    Also, the cofC decision to not ever read the Gospel was one of their absolute worst. Jesus interacted with ordinary “sinners and tax collectors” in daily life. He taught some hard lessons while showing compassion but not denigrating people. All these small stories and parables have a ton of applicability but overlooked as either being too simple or not a proof-texted sermon on why IM is prohibited.

  2. Quite a few believers have spoken out about the separation into age appropriate groups. I have worked with teens on and off over the past 43 years. One of the best experiences, according to both teens and older members? Put a young person with an old person, and let them go at it in conversation.

  3. Wow! best summary and analysis I have seen on this extremely important topic.

    We home schooled our kids, and over the past twenty five years we noticed that the church youth who were in conventional age segregated schooling during the week and then with the church youth during all the church services/classes increasingly did not relate to adults, the elderly or younger children. The home schooled kids had no problem getting to hold the babies or having good conversations with the elderly (wisest) members. Conversely, when we tried to greet the other youth, often they didn’t hear us say good morning from two feet away until we waved a hand in front of their face or yelled, “Hello!.”

    Many of my friends who have been youth ministers have seen these trends building and have expressed frustration that they are expected to assume sole responsibility for the spiritual welfare of all the youth.

    Thank you Matt for boldly laying this out. It couldn’t be more timely.

    1. We also homeschooled and had the same experience that Mark describes here. The kids schooled to insist on being always and only with their peers will indeed claim that they have not voice in the church; but it is a hollow claim. 95% of them will refuse to talk with a church leader who is trying to get their input. We have had that experience even with kids who attended private schools. They do not know how to talk reasonably, so they avoid interaction with adults – and then complain that they have no voice.
      But Matt’s other points may be even more important. Parents have “checked out,” they are not obeying their responsibility to bring up their children in the Lord. And the gospel is not being clearly articulated. Thus the church appears irrelevant, not significantly different from the “American dream.”

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