Why are our youth leaving the church? This question comes with its own various sets of answers. Is one answer or reason better than the other? Really depends on what you are looking for. The fact remains; it is an unfortunate fact that youth from middle school age through college are becoming disenchanted with traditional religion and the church. They are sadly looking elsewhere. It is not that they are indifferent to religion. Actually, they are hungry for nourishment in “what is it we believe”. Too often they will not ask this very question out of fear of being ridiculed by friends and parents. As the frustration of non-fulfilling religious beliefs rise, the interest in the traditional church diminishes.
When we, in the church, embrace a doctrine of rules and regulations to achieve salvation; we are then going to lose the majority of our youth. Various studies show the church is losing 80% to 90% of their youth as they approach and are in their college years. It is now being found that this movement is starting as early as middle school. You can force your young person to attend church, Sunday School, or whatever. You assuredly can’t force them to want to learn or believe what they are hearing, much less come back for more. What is the reason for this mass exodus and lack of interest?
1 Corinthians 13:11 Contemporary English Version (CEV) teaches us: “When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do. But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways.”
If we continue to feed our youth baby food, they will soon look for other nourishment elsewhere. Our youth need to and most want to understand Scripture. A clear and realistic understanding of Scripture can equip our youth with the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong. A close relationship with God can allow them to understand and have the strength to make right decisions. However, we must remember the teaching of the apostle Paul when he said:
Romans 10:14 Contemporary English Version (CEV); “How can people have faith in the Lord and ask Him to save them, if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them?”
Today, we are seeing a growing trend of hostility towards Christianity; a lack of “tolerance” for Christian beliefs disguised as a push for more “tolerance” of others beliefs. We hear the word Apologetics as a means of teaching our youth and children how to defend their beliefs and the Bible.
1 Peter 3:15 Contemporary English Version (CEV); “Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.”
2 Timothy 3:16 Contemporary English Version (CEV); “Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.”
There are basically three places where our youth will learn about life and how to fit into our society; the home, at school and in church. They are born into the home; they by law must attend school; so that leaves the church. Going back to one of our earlier statements, why are our youth leaving the church? Let us be honest. Are they leaving the church or are they leaving the traditional church; the legalistic church? We may even ask; is the church leaving them? Are they starting to question empty rituals and ceremonies? If we want them to bring Jesus into their everyday life, then they need to be able to bring their everyday life, with reverence, into the church. Maybe they want to wear other than “traditional” church cloths at church; or listen to non-traditional music. Is this so bad as long as they are worshiping the same God? Rather than criticizing the mega churches and the small non-conventional churches, perhaps we should embrace them as a means of reaching our youth. What those in middle school are looking for and questioning today, are things you and I never even thought of until well into young adulthood; if ever. Religion needs to be replaced by Christian principles. Acts and ceremonies need to give way to an everyday lifestyle of Christian creeds.
We have entered a new technological world. Our youth are merely looking for their own way to understand what they really believe. Is it that much different from what we believe? Actually no. They just want to go about learning and understanding it in a slightly different way.
Bill Davis serves Lighthouse Ministries, an outreach ministry of North Anderson Baptist Church, Anderson, SC. For more info, go to: http://northandersonbaptist.com/nabc/