Faith’s whole staff recently attended a seminar focused on why many young people are leaving the church and may never return. They are saying, “You lost me,” that is, the church stopped making sense to them.
The seminar named “7 Reasons Young People Leave the Church.” There is no question this trend is real. Yet, as I listened to the reasons people leave, I hardly recognized the church as it was described. Their perceptions of the church do not match mine at all. Of course, I may just be too deep inside the church to recognize how others experience it.
I responded to the reasons people leave with my sense of what the church is like or should be like. My purpose is to help us all consider how effective Faith’s ministry is and how others perceive Faith.
7 Reasons Young People Leave Church
Reason #1: We are immersed in a culture that the church rejects and demonizes.
Response: Church leaders try to engage the culture, pointing out what is and is not helpful in it, but do not deny or reject it.
Reason #2: The church is repressive and backward about sex.
Response: The church celebrates sex as a good gift of God, but is also painfully aware of how destructive it can be when it is misused. It seems only loving to guide people toward its proper use.
Reason #3: We value science, but the church is anti-intellectual and against science.
Response: This may be true in some corners of the Church, but Lutheranism came out of the university. The church has great respect for science and wants it to be in conversation with faith.
Reason #4: The church is close-minded, intolerant and exclusive in its beliefs.
Response: The church welcomes everyone, even as the Gospel challenges everyone. We believe the Gospel is true, so how can balance welcome and conviction?
Reason #5: The church doesn’t allow questions or doubts.
Response: Doubt is in a constant shadow-dance with faith. Faith always seeks understanding, so God and the church welcome all questions.
Reason #6: Church is boring and shallow. It doesn’t relate to real life.
Response: Sin and salvation are always relevant topics. The challenge is relating those basic truths to a wider demographic (in the same setting!) than any other institution in society addresses.
Reason #7: Life is complex and diverse today, but the church demands a rigid lifestyle.
Response: The worldwide church is about as diverse as it gets. Followers of Christ are called to discern how God wants us live. How do we pursue that call positively?
So what do you think? Do perception and reality match up here at all? How can the church reach out effectively to young people who have already decided we have nothing to offer them? We’re going to pursue these questions during “Faith Among None[s],” a Sunday morning Digging Deeper opportunity at 9:15 a.m., Nov. 4 through Dec. 9. Please keep praying for God to use us to lead more and more people to the joy and freedom of faith in Christ.
Grace and peace,