Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis, an organization that promotes a biblical view of creation, is concerned about how few young adults there are in many of the churches where he speaks. He enlisted America’s Research Group to study why young people were leaving the church. Based on the results of the study, Ham wrote a book entitled Already Gone. The results of the survey are shocking: “95 percent of 20 to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55 percent went to church during high school. And by college, only 11 percent were still attending church.” Ham concluded, “The next generation of believers is draining from the churches, and it causes me great personal and professional concern.”
After studying the inﬂuence of Christianity in American society, Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, concluded, “While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even ﬁve years ago.”
Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, has written extensively about this issue as well. Referring to the decreasing number of young believers, Stetzer says, “This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry.” There is no arguing that the statistics reveal that fewer young adults identify with the Christian religion now than ever before. If such trends continue unchecked, the organized Christian church will soon find itself in serious trouble.
Though the numbers reveal a decline of Christianity at the national level, this does not mean that every church in every town or area is facing imminent closure. A number of bright spots on the horizon demonstrate that churches can grow in the current spiritual climate. Some of the most-encouraging examples are found in the most unlikely places. Vermont is a great example of a place where the next generation is being reached despite all the statistics that make it seem improbable. In my next post, I will share examples of what God is doing in Vermont that seem to defy all the national trends.Adapted from Terry Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.