- 70-75% of Christian young people leave the Church after high school
- One of the major reasons is intellectual skepticism
- Most Christian young people are not equipped to deal with the anti-Christian message from professors, fellow students and friends
- College professors are five times more likely to identify themselves as atheists than other members of the general public
- More than half of all college professors view students with Christian backgrounds unfavorably
I shared those statistics in an article several years ago. There are at least three ways of dealing with statistics – accept as true with concern about the outcome .. accept as true without concern about the outcome .. dismiss as false. I accepted the statistics as true based on three things: accuracy of statistical surveys methodology, decades of observing churches and youth groups in the United States, and personal experience. I accepted the statistics as true with concern about the outcome because I was one of those “church kids” who left the church. I quit attending church during high school and became an atheist during college.
I would like to first share the conflict, followed by the resolution.
Young people have been leaving church during or after high school for decades. Many religious trend studies at the end of the 20th century demonstrated that churches were in decline and losing ground with youth and adults. The numbers are not insignificant with some denominations reporting the loss of millions of members.
When I read news reports about the large number of church youth leaving the church and percentage of atheist college professors impacting those youth (e.g. ABC, USA Today, CNN, The Huffington Post, Lost Angeles Times, New York Times) I knew the Holy Spirit was moving orthodox Christians to respond in meaningful ways.
The problem with young people leaving their churches did not “just” begin. I saw it as a young person in the 1960’s and as a Christian involved in ministry during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. What I also saw was the Holy Spirit raise up apologists during the last third of the 20th century to answer the call to bring hope to young people who were turned off to church and the Christian worldview.
That was a great encouragement to me because God used Christian apologists to challenge my atheism and answer my questions. They were not called apologists at the time, but that’s what they did. They presented a strong defense (apologia) for theism and Christianity. Their passion to reach me for Christ introduced me to the Holy Spirit’s desire to reach people who are often viewed as being unreachable.
I’m not the only person sounding an alarm about the large number of young people leaving their churches. Here are some other voices –
You may also find these articles helpful to learn more about the conflict facing families and churches in the United States.
Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church (Barnes Research)
Twentysomethings Struggle to Find Their Place in Christian Churches (Barnes Research)
America’s Changing Religious Landscape (Pew Research)
We come now to resolving the conflict. What can a Christian do if they accept as true with concern the statistics about youth leaving the church? Is there hope for youth in America?
We will look at that in the next part of our series.