Today, we’ll pick up from yesterday’s blog- Christianity Insanity. We were looking at the 6 reasons Barna found that people who are 20/30 something left the church at about age 15.
The reasons are
- Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
- Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
- Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
- Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
- Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
- Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church. One-third said “church is boring” (31%). One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%). Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%)
According to Barna, over half of those who walk away from church; do so because they miss the Bible or God, let that sink in.
As a pastor of 10 years+ (with a good number of those as a youth pastor) that hurts…despite all my events, all my activities, all the positive and encouraging music, and goofy fun, all the really good illustrations; a record number of my students walked away from church-and of those, over 50% missed God…completely.
This should cause us to be willing to honestly evaluate where and how we spend our time and energy on children and youth. If we are 20/30 something now, we had similar experiences with those who left. If we are 40/50 something we were witness (or party) to these things that caused people to walk away. If those methods are all we could ever know, we could feel much like being stuck on a escalator (video worth your 3 minutes). But, because we’re not stuck, we need to look at what’s effective in retaining people over 15.
Oddly, the last time that Baptist churches grew faster than the population (back in the 1880s) is when there was high accountability in membership, church discipline, and more focus was on home discipleship than church discipleship plans (Sunday School or Home/Small Group-pick your kool-aid) (academic cited work on this claim here). Community was emphasized, families were built on the Bible, and stayed together, Pastors knew their people deeply and pointed them to Scripture in all matters of life. We must be practical!!
Wait, did I just say that in reference to something done over 100 years ago?
Yes, practically (according to the research)- a fast growing Baptist church that retains people over 15 (meaning they can’t drive away), has high standards, discipline, deep study, and does not do what caused 20/30 somethings to walk away in the first place…those 6 things above.
My problem (and other pastors) is not that I don’t want to be practical and effective…it’s that I want to be cool.
Which brings us to the boring church. One third of those who left did so because church is boring.
It would be a hard task to prove that these scores of people who were bored were all from a suit and tie/ three hymns and an organ/King James version church. In fact, from the responses Barna is getting on this it seems like they were part of traditional and modern evangelical churches. They did cool stuff, had cool worship, cool preaching, went cool places, made cool crafts.
And those things are cool, but if we are cool and people miss God, it is as bad as being boring and people not learning anything about God. There must be a balance.
“Boring” goes to mode of communication-not the lack of coolness. Communication is the ability for people to remember and apply what they hear/learn. This goes back to contextualization. The methods we communicate must change, but the message doesn’t. We must be flexible in the right things, and unbending in others. Cool when it’s effective and biblical, and honest about when it’s not. Driscoll explains it well (either below or here).