Are young people really leaving Christianity?

J Warner Wallace of Please Convince Me summarizes the research by citing a number of sources.

Here’s one:

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press, 2005
Book Findings: The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, religious beliefs and practices, and its place in their lives. The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what they call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.

And another:

Southern Baptist Convention Data
Pinkney, T.C., Remarks to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, Nashville, Tennessee (2001)
Study Findings: Data from the Southern Baptist Convention indicates that they are currently losing 70-88% of their youth after their freshman year in college. 70% of teenagers involved in church youth groups stop attending church within two years of their high school graduation.

And another:

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press (2005)
Book Findings: Students leave faith behind primarily because of intellectual doubt and skepticism (page 89). “Why did they fall away from the faith in which they were raised?” This was an open-ended question there were no multiple-choice answers. 32% said they left faith behind because of intellectual skepticism or doubt. (“It didn’t make any sense anymore.” “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof.” “Too many questions that can’t be answered.”)

And one more:

Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood
Christian Smith with Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson and Patricia Snell Herzog
Oxford University Press (2011)
Book Findings: Young adults are unable to think coherently about moral beliefs and problems. Young adults have an excessive focus on consumption and materialism as the good life. The prevalent lifestyle of young adults includes routine intoxication and drug usage. The sexual encounters of young adults are not practiced in an environment of physical, mental, or emotional health. Young adults appear to have an inability to care about, invest in, and hope for the larger world through civic and political participation.

He concludes:

There you have it; a short summary of some of the research being done on the exodus of young people from the Church and some of the reasons they give for their departure. Can a case be made that young Christians are leaving the Church in record numbers? Yes. Can a case be made that many of these young people are leaving because the culture around them has impacted them deeply and caused them to question the truth claims of Christianity? Yes, again.

He finishes the post with a cliff-hanger ending, in which he promises to give us a plan for dealing with this problem. Stay tuned!

One thought on “Are young people really leaving Christianity?”

  1. I’m inclined to agree. Unless the parents have instilled an understanding of Scriptural principles and a love of the Lord into their children’s lives, essentially enabling them to come to faith, to know what they believe and why they believe, so they “own” their faith and values, it is very easy for a young person to be negatively influenced by the prevailing culture of hedonism and scepticism. Many parents also don’t really know what they believe or why they believe it, which tends to happen in churches that rely on form and tradition, or are legalistic or liberal. Of course, the enemy also “prowls round” looking for those he can devour. On the other hand, I also see young people from unbelieving homes coming to faith in Christ, often through positive peer-group influence at high school.
    It is very difficult also when the father is not a believer, as in our home, so his attitudes influenced our sons, despite all my input into their lives. They prayed for salvation when they were children, and the way it happened, I believe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit with each of them. The oldest, the most intellectual, had spiritual ups and downs, but was walking the most closely with the Lord during his mid-teens, then began to have doubts and during his first year at university, away from home, turned away from the Lord and is now a hard-line anti-theist. The two younger ones (now in their mid-20s) still live at home and attend church with me. The middle one is lukewarm in his faith, is not growing spiritually although we attend a vibrant church, and isn’t really walking with the Lord, being very tempted to serve Mammon. He doesn’t have much of a “kingdom mindset”. If he were not living at home, I suspect he would not be attending church. The youngest has a sincere and quiet faith (he’s an introvert) and is also discerning. Ultimately, all I can do is to continue praying for them and trust that the Lord will work in their lives in his timing.


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