Young Adults Aren’t Sticking With Church

At least that is what an article in the USA Today is claiming and I would have to agree from what I am seeing.

Protestant churches are losing young adults in “sobering” numbers, a survey finds.

Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research. And 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.

“This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry,” says Ed Stetzer.

That may not seem like major numbers, but in my opinion any loss is bad and the church needs to look at why that is happening, and then turn around and figure out what they can do to stop the bleeding. And here are a few things that the article points out that I think are keys.

“Too many youth groups are holding tanks with pizza. There’s no life transformation taking place,” Stetzer says. “People are looking for a faith that can change them and to be a part of changing the world.”

I think that that is a big problem. Youth groups have become not much more than entertainment venues. We orchestrate our services to have the feel of a concert, music festival, amusement park, some big major event, etc. and there is so much time spent on that, that it is hard to delve into the life on life ministry that is much more important, in my opinion. But I am not the big show kind of guy anyway. And that is what Chris Folmsbee is getting at in his book A New Kind of Youth Ministry.

“Unless religious leaders take younger adults more seriously, the future of American religion is in doubt,” says Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow in After the Baby Boomers, due in stores in September.

The proportion of young adults identifying with mainline churches, he says, is “about half the size it was a generation ago. Evangelical Protestants have barely held their own.”

That is another problem that I see. A lot of churches do not take young adults seriously and unfortunately that is reflected by the fact that they do not have ministries geared towards and for them. Instead they think that the main service is good enough for them, because after all “they are adults now”. But the reality is that the main adult service is primarily geared towards people who are in their 30’s and above, and have families. And so most young adults are getting lost in the mix.

Now I know that some churches just do not have the resources to have a separate ministry geared towards young adults, but there are always ways around that. Take for example what a friend of mine’s church is doing, they are pooling together resources with other churches in the area to start a ministry to young adults. It is called Elevate North. What a great idea! And it gives me such great hope for the church, because if we keep losing the young adults, we may lose the church.

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Kim, father to Hannah & Caleb, and the connections pastor at The River Church. The thoughts expressed here are my own and not The River Church's.

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