When last I posted about the topic of why young people leave the church, I concluded:
But as long as we as Christians are more concerned with the politics of morality and shouting down scientific evidence than we are about feeding the hungry, helping the unemployed or reaching out to the homeless, young people will continue to reject the church. As long as we’re more interested in forwarding emails about Rick Perry than having honest conversations about the issues with which our youth are struggling, we provide them no choice but to find their own way in a world that has plenty of alternatives to offer them.
In the comments, Shawn Smucker pointed me to a link from Barna, which does all the churchy research you could ever want, providing six poll-deduced reasons why the American church is struggling to keep its youth.
Here’s a summary:
Continue reading Lost in the American Church (Again)
I had a post all set to write this morning, and then I saw this one from Richard Beck:
I think every Christ-following church should start talking to their youth groups, saying unambiguously: We want you to be a wall of protection for kids like Jamey. Seek out and protect–emotionally and socially–every weird, weak, nerdy, lonely, queer kid at your school. We don’t care if they are a goth, or a druggy, or a queer. Doesn’t matter. Protect these kids. Churches should train their youth groups to be angels of protection, teaching them to find these kids and say, “Hey, I love you. Jesus loves you. So no one’s going to bully you. Not on my watch. Come sit with me at lunch.” That’s what I think. I think every Christ-following church should start Guardian Angel programs like this, teaching their kids to stick up for kids like Jamey. Not with violence. But with welcome and solidarity. Because it’s hard to bully a group. So let’s welcome these kids into a halo of protection and friendship.
That’s what I think Christians should be doing to change our public schools. We shouldn’t be fighting battles over stuff like school prayer. Because you know what I think God thinks about our battles regarding school prayer? I think God is shouting from the heavens, “Why don’t you shut the hell up about school prayer and start sticking up for Jamey?”
And if you think my language is strong, sensitive reader, know that I’m just paraphrasing the prophets. Read how the prophets speak about prayer, song, and worship when the People of God allow injustice at the gates. You want God in our public schools? So do I. But guess what? God is already inside our public schools. Standing by kids like Jamey.
Read the whole thing.
Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has started a new book discussion, this time about You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church … and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman.
Everyone has their own pet theories about why young people are leaving the church, and they usually happen to line up exactly with their own beliefs about how the church should function. In the not-so-recent past, I would have said people are leaving the church because it’s not judgmental enough. Don’t laugh. I might not have said it in quite those terms (probably something more like presenting a stark choice about the realities of heaven and hell), but that’s what I would have thought.
Kinnaman’s theory is probably a little bit sounder. According to McKnight, Kinnaman finds three overriding traits of modern young people, and as a self-described modern young person, I think these sound right:
- Access: Immediate, pervasive ability to access information, which means gatekeepers are increasingly irrelevant.
- Alienation: Families are less close-knit while at the same time adulthood is harder to achieve (I would add a large part of this is probably because the economic conditions are worse for young people than for anyone else in the country), which leads to skepticism of traditional institutions.
- Authority: “There is a profound skepticism of authority,” including that of Christianity and the church.
Here’s the thing though: None of these things should be dangerous for the church.