Why Are Young People Leaving Church – Your Questions Answered

By | August 30, 2015

Why are young people leaving churchIntro

There is a massive disconnect between us, young people (or millennials, as they like to call us) and the church. And so everyone is sitting around scratching their head asking themselves, why are young people leaving church?

The answer is quite simple and can actually be broken down into 3 general reasons that I will explain below:

  1. The church is NOT relevant
  2. The church is stuck
  3. The church’s focus is in the WRONG area

I want to make a disclaimer up front: I am NOT advocating that this universally applies to every church, rather that it applies very frequently in our society when looking at churches across America. I am not here to bash church, but to help people understand the disconnect between church and young people like me.


 

Reason #1

irrelevantThe first reason is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, the church is simply not relevant! The church is led by a pastor, preacher,  or priest (or whatever your sub-sect of religion calls it) and that person is usually 40 years or older.

I remember growing up going to church and just being bored out my mind through Sunday service! That was when I was very young, the older I became, the more I improved, but still (up to high school and most of college) never to the point of complete interest and desire to learn more.

Why is that? Because I did not feel like anything they were talking about was relevant to my life. What do you do in class when you’re debating about a topic and asking questions and then someone asks something completely off-topic and irrelevant?

You glaze over, you get frustrated, you don’t understand the connection, and you check out. THAT is what is happening today between us and the church.

I remember being in high school thinking, “What the heck does this 50-year old man know about my life? Nothing!” He can’t relate to me! That’s because the pastor isn’t usually willing to go there.

What I mean by that is talking about the passions, desires, and excitements in life that become the center of who we are and what we do (whether you want to admit it or not)…Hot girls, porn, having sex, drinking, doing drugs (for some), going to parties, having hook ups, and all the rest.

Rarely do you see a pastor that is willing to stand up every Sunday and get real about specific struggles in our lives, let alone the idea of drilling down into the lives of young adults.

You cannot place all the blame on the church because you simply cannot drill down and appeal to each demographic when you have about 30-45 minutes to speak to an audience ranging from newborns to 90-year olds.

But there is a way to reach us and I will talk more on that later.


 

Reason #2

stuckThe church is simply stuck. What do I mean by this? Well, I mean that a church can get stuck in its ways and lose the passion of why they are gathering together.

Example: I went to Catholic church for a large portion of my life and please don’t misunderstand me here because every church has it’s flaws, I am just using an example from my life experience…

In the Catholic Church, there is a TON of rituals and rote repetitive patterns. There are repeated prayers each week and every Sunday 80% (give or take) of the service is the SAME EXACT thing you did last week and the week before that and the weeks before that.

Then the priest will read from the Bible and do a closing prayer before moving on to the next ritual that is conducted week in and week out. The time for Bible reading and teaching a lesson from that context is roughly 10-20 minutes out of an hour service…that’s 16-33%!

Let’s split the difference and say the average time is 15 minutes, that’s 25% of the time spent teaching from the Bible and the rest spent doing other things. Teaching from the Bible is very important for connecting with us young people and more than that, relating it to life. It doesn’t even have to be our lives but at least daily life in general.

Let me be clear, I am not here to bash religion or the church. The church is such an important part of having a relationship with Jesus Christ. But I am here to discern the disconnect between the church and youth/young adults. I love church, but it took me a while to find a great church that really gets it.

Okay so back to my point, Don’t you think you should center your service around the teaching of the Bible and relating it to life? That’s universal if you want to interest people-not just you and I who happen to be young adults.

Now, for the churches that do spend most of their time reading from the Bible and teaching from it-the disconnect for this group is with how you are delivering the message and the extent to which you are willing to go to get real about life with us.

That gap has still not been bridged well.


 

Reason #3

wrong focusThis one is going to sting for the church a little bit, but it holds some weight to it…your focus is in the wrong area. A lot of churches you see nowadays are being run like a business.

What’s the problem with that? Well, a business seeks money before it seeks God. When we see that as children and young adults, then how can we believe in God if we don’t see a genuine relationship with God in your life?

Churches are starting to become “seeker-friendly” meaning that their goal is to be very appealing so that new visitors would want to join. The goal of the church here is to  increase the size of the congregation (people attending) because people who attend donate money regularly. More visitors = more money.

It does not mean that these churches don’t do their best to bring others to Christ, but it’s hard to show it when a church puts their trust in money before God.

This is one of the many “wrong areas” that fall under the umbrella of reason 3. I mentioned this one because it is a new trend that we are seeing in churches across America and is being talked about a lot within society.

Other reasons include agendas, (whether that be personal, political, corporate, etc.) politics, conflicts within the church, division among leadership, division among the church, and many more.

So what is the answer? Or what is something the church can be intentional about to bring us (youth & young adults) back to the church?


 

My Answermy answer

My answer? the best, most simple answer is this: you cannot rely on the church to give you a complete understanding of who God is. The church is essential yes, but it is SUPPLEMENTAL. The main ingredient is to have a personal relationship with God the Father and with Jesus Christ.

So how do you do that? By reading the word of God, the Bible. The book of eternal life!…does that sound way cooler to you? (seriously I want your feedback, please leave it in the comments) because that’s what it is.

We have this view of life as young adults that we think is fulfilling. You know…all the things I mentioned earlier about girls, partying, and sex. So you have all these things that you love to do in your life for fun and that’s what excites you.

But what if there’s more to life?…..

Young adults, let me talk to you for a minute…you say you believe in God right? and you leave it at that and do NOTHING with it, just as I did almost my entire life so far.

Most of you will say “yes” but there will be some who say “no.” To those of you who said “yes,” do you believe that the Bible is the word of God?

If you believe in God, then your answer should be “yes.” Let me get real with you…So then, why don’t you read it? What are you afraid of?

We have this view of life that we think no one in the church understands or has experienced and yet they have but because of fear and other reasons, they do not open up about it. That’s why we don’t go to church.

reviews

So why do you rely on the church to paint you a picture of what it looks like to have a personal relationship with Jesus your Savior? 

Right? You don’t skip out on watching a movie just because you read the reviews of what other people said in the newspapers about it. You go see it and decide for yourself, you go and experience it for yourself and see what it’s really all about.

If you’re so willing to do that with movies, and products/services in this world, then how come you aren’t willing to go and experience God for yourself and see what he’s really all about.

…Your life lies in the balance, eternity is on the line, seriously guys…what will you do?

The reason you are not in the church is bigger than what you know or think. You are living a pleasure-filled life of your own while reading the consistent 1-star reviews of the Christian life and never checking it out for yourself.

Go and see that life! See what it’s all about, I guarantee you it’s not what you think!soul searching

My call to action for you is today is to do some soul-searching and reflect hard on these questions and think about life, is there to more to it than what I’m doing right now? Is there an eternal life that I can live and in the meantime is there a more fulfilling life out there for me?

Thanks guys for reading! 🙂 Please share your thoughts and feelings with me. I hope some of you actually reflect on this and come back here to tell the community what happened when you did.

As always, if you do not feel comfortable sharing publicly on here, then please contact me directly.

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

 

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13 thoughts on “Why Are Young People Leaving Church – Your Questions Answered

  1. Gin

    I like how you personally related to the problem you addressed. It is true that young people often feel disconnected from the teachings of the church as they find themselves lost in life and demanding someone to give them the answer. I think that’s when they feel like the church is irrelevant to them as they expect the latter to delve into their problems for them instead of solving them through finding God.

    Do you recommend integrating a church into school lessons?

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. Matt Post author

      Hey Gin,

      Thank you for the positive feedback and for sharing your opinion on here! As for recommending a church into school lessons, I am not too sure of. That might have to be a whole separate post haha! I think the same applies here as it does in my post…that the organizational structure of church is great but at the end of the day is SUPPLEMENTAL.

      As we grow older and become young adults we are going to make our own decisions but I believe the most powerful way to impact your children for Christ is PRIMARILY through how they are seeing you live it out. We learn best through experience. Ask any recent college grad and they will tell you they learned more in their first 6-12 months in the start of their new career than what 4 years learning from a textbook could do.

      My point is that as young children growing into adults, we learn the best by example and experience. Now, college textbooks don’t hold a chance against the Bible. Reading, learning and understanding the word of God is paramount but the desire to want to go there to check it out and pursue a personal relationship with God starts with seeing the passionate, genuine, desire and love of Christ in the hearts of their parents and other influential models in their lives.

      I hope this long-winded answer helped, please let me know and thanks again for sharing Gin! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Emily

    hi there
    I will start by saying, great post, very engaging! That being said I have to say that I am not a religious person at all. But I am a spiritual person. I am not part of any organized religion and do not attend church. But I follow the Native American ways of life, the traditional ways of living and do believe in a higher power. I simply call that higher power the Creator. Who I pray to and who guides me through life. I have never been a church person. And I agree the model is old fashioned, needs an “update”, it needs to be more relevant and more interesting. Because at the moment, it seems like it is the same thing being said every single week….Unless you go for those preacher churches where everyone gets miraculously cured and everyone is in awe of the preacher in front. Which I find utterly fake. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their beliefs and I have friends who attend church. But it is just not for me at all.

    Reply
    1. Matt Post author

      Hey Emily,

      thank you for sharing your thoughts on here…all backgrounds, beliefs, etc. are welcome here! I hold true to the Bible and the word of God but I am excited to communicate with others who have different beliefs or no beliefs at all.

      You make the distinction between religious and spiritual and so it sounds like you are on the right track. Because of our different beliefs I make the distinction between religion and relationship (with Jesus Christ).

      I wrote this post to show the church the disconnect between what they are doing and why they have lost my age group/generation as a whole. However, I have an amazing home church and absolutely love it! But at the end of the day, it is still supplemental and WE (christian believers/Christ followers) ARE the body of Christ. In other words, we are the church and so the idea is that corporate worship and the gathering of believers is a good and beautiful thing (according to the Bible and my beliefs in Jesus) but it is only one hour per week out of our lives and there are 168 hours in a week…that is 0.6% of our time per week!

      Anyways, sorry for the little rant and thank you again for sharing your background on here. I meant to share everything I said here as an educational moment and to reaffirm my love for the church but also the reason for writing this article is because there are flaws in every church and it’s something we all need to be aware of.

      I deeply appreciate you sharing your beliefs on here given that you are not a Christian and follow another religion or way of life. You have been a trail blazer in starting this trend and I am very excited about that! I hope it encourages others from ALL backgrounds and beliefs to post on here and share their opinions and know that they will be safe and can be assured they will not be judged, criticized, made fun of, feel attacked, etc. for what they believe.

      Thank you Emily and I hope you have a blessed day! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Dianna

    This was quite an interesting post. Those were reasons I stayed away for awhile. Thankfully, my daughter introduced me to a church that I love. It has a very active youth and young adult program. I am not sure where you attend but our minister states that the church is supplemental but you need to have a personal relationship with God (sounds familiar)!

    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more on your site.

    Reply
    1. Matt Post author

      Thank you Dianna, I am glad it was an interesting read for you and that you took the time to read through it all! I think that is incredibly awesome how your daughter introduced you to an amazing church! 😀 That is very exciting, it sounds like you have an awesome daughter and I’m sure you love her very much.

      Hmm wow! That is really cool that your minister said that too! I’m not sure what the chances are that we attend the same church lol but it sounds like your minister is pretty sound, which is truly a blessing!

      Thanks, I will try to post once a week. I would love to post more often but it is hard to do that having a full-time job now. If you know others who might be impacted from this post or this website, please encourage them to stop by.

      Thanks Dianna and have a wonderful day today! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Laura

    I had a smile on my face with every word I read….
    I can almost say “Thanks God for these people!” – hilarious right?
    It’s good to know young people today are starting to realize the church has gone crazy. Yes, I agree, religion had great intentions in the beginning, was helpful at one point and for some specific interests, but it was the most devastating, killing machine on the planet!
    Religions are extremely limited, all of them, as they omit to tell that they are only metaphors that explain life. And we are constantly killing in their name.
    That leaving aside others that only get rich and have nothing to do with religion.

    Anyway, if we could extract the good parts from this religion and open our minds to relate it to life and understand the correlations, than maybe religion could still resist. For example, if we could stick to the idea of reserving one day (Sunday or not) for our (private) meeting with God, for an evaluation of our deeds, for meditating and showing appreciations for our lives and everyone in them, for clearing our heads and relaxing, than we might just transform religion a little and bring it to a different level.

    But I am so pleased that you, Matt, exist and are not afraid to express your feelings. Keep doing it, others may resonate with you and perhaps together you will make a difference in the future.

    Laura

    Reply
    1. Matt Post author

      Hey Laura,

      thanks for sharing your comments! I will actually be writing another post about relationship vs. religion and it seems this is a topic of interest for you, so stay tuned for that!

      Reply
  5. Alex Rossie

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for hashing out this topic.

    You’re spot on that Christianity is far more about relationship with Christ than putting on our Sunday best and listening to the preacher. In fact, salvation is all about knowing our Father. Following Jesus is about more than Sunday. It’s also about life with him throughout Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday too:)

    Thankfully warming pews is not what the Gospel is about. The Gospel is about restoring life to the dead.
    It seems the church is experiencing an exodus, but I think many “Millennials” still have yet to give up on it, but they are waiting and looking for a genuine church to grow in and invite others into. Jesus is looking for that church too, he has yet to give up on it, and he still pursuing his bride (The whole church-All of his followers).

    We as millennials shouldn’t give up on the church either, despite it’s flaws.

    Our generation (Especially those grown up in the church) is known for caring less about show and appearance. We often see right through it. We’d rather not go to church at all then be hypocrites and further perpetuate a false religion.

    True and pure religion isn’t putting on our Sunday best, making it to church 15 min early, saying God bless you or brother/sister. It’s not following centuries of man made tradition. It is what James said it is “Caring for widows and orphans, and pursuing purity/holiness.” 1:26-27

    Millennials are looking for church like the one in Acts.
    Hopefully we’ll start to see that in order to find it, we must practice, follow, and be it.

    Kingdom Come.

    Reply
    1. Matt Post author

      Hey Alex,

      Wow…just wow. That’s all I can say. It is so encouraging to see another young person like yourself that has, seeks, and desires a personal relationship with Jesus. I absolutely love what you said about naming the days of the week because that’s real life. Being in the church for an hour once a week is such a small part of our time.

      You hit the nail on the head about the truth of The Gospel as well my friend. As for the millennials, I agree and it’s a tough pill to swallow but if there isn’t a church that’s doing that, then WE as the body of Christ aka “the Church” need to create that environment and that space within a church in our area and make an impact for Christ in our community. That’s an add-on to the very end of my post that I didn’t mention.

      We should definitely NOT give up on the church, as you said…we should be looking for ways to offer our youthful, dynamic approaches to help advance the kingdom and invite others in to be a part of God’s beautiful, amazing family.

      If I had to guess, hypocrisy in the church is probably one of the top reasons millenials are leaving the church and not planning to come back.

      I love the book of James and that is very true, but I will add this…at the very core of it, it is about pursuing a personal, deep, and intimate relationship with our savior Jesus Christ. James talks about faith vs. works and it’s so interesting-I actually will be doing a podcast on it once I can get my finalized edition past the current hosting issues it is having. You have sparked and reminded me of another topic I am extremely passionate about discussing and providing discernment for on here and that is “Relationship vs. Religion.” so stay tuned for that. God willing I can have it up in a couple weeks but with the technical difficulties of getting my 1st podcast on here, that may be tough.

      Per your last sentence, well said brother…nothing else that needs to be said there. That sums it up perfectly, a great call to action, I love it!

      PS- I love your closing line, “Kingdom Come.” I was listening to my intimate worship playlist in the car today and one of my favorite songs came on. It’s called “Give Me Faith” by Elevation Worship and the name of the album is actually “Kingdom Come.” Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMVvqI1-tM4

      Have a blessed day.

      Your Brother in Christ,

      Matt

      Reply
        1. Matt Post author

          Hey Alex,

          No problem, I’m happy to do it since I’m passionate about it 🙂

          Oh cool!! I’m excited to give it a listen,I’ve never heard of them before actually so I will let you know what I think.

          Reply
        2. Matt Post author

          Okay so I just listened to it and that was a pretty good song! It started off slow but it’s definitely growing on me.

          Reply

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