by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 2/18/19.
… Two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Thirty-four percent say they continued to attend twice a month or more.
While the 66 percent may be troubling for many church leaders, the numbers may appear more hopeful when compared to a 2007 study from LifeWay Research. Previously, 70 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds left church for at least one year.
“The good news for Christian leaders is that churches don’t seem to be losing more students than they were 10 years ago. However, the difference in the dropout rate now and then is not large enough statistically to say it has actually improved,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“The reality is that Protestant churches continue to see the new generation walk away as young adults. Regardless of any external factors, the Protestant church is slowly shrinking from within.”
When They Drop Out
The dropout rate for young adults accelerates with age, the study found.
While 69 percent say they were attending at age 17, that fell to 58 percent at age 18 and 40 percent at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, around 1 in 3 say they were attending church regularly.
“Overall Protestant churches see many teenagers attending regularly only for a season. Many families just don’t attend that often,” said McConnell.
“As those teenagers reach their late teen years, even those with a history of regular church attendance are pulled away as they get increased independence, a driver’s license, or a job. The question becomes: will they become like older adults who have all those things and still attend or will students choose to stay away longer than a year.”
Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay, said those numbers speak to the issue at hand. “We are seeing teenagers drop out of the church as they make the transition out of high school and student ministry,” he said. “This moment of transition is often too late to act for churches.”
Why They Drop Out
Virtually all of those who dropped out (96 percent) listed a change in their life situation as a reason for their dropping out. Fewer say it was related to the church or pastor (73 percent); religious, ethical or political beliefs (70 percent); or the student ministry (63 percent).
The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent).
Almost half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year.
“Most of the reasons young adults leave the church reflect shifting personal priorities and changes in their own habits,” said McConnell. “Even when churches have faithfully communicated their beliefs through words and actions, not every teenager who attends embraces or prioritizes those beliefs.”
Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.
“For the most part, people aren’t leaving the church out of bitterness, the influence of college atheists, or a renunciation of their faith,” said Trueblood.
“What the research tells us may be even more concerning for Protestant churches: there was nothing about the church experience or faith foundation of those teenagers that caused them to seek out a connection to a local church once they entered a new phase of life. The time they spent with activity in church was simply replaced by something else.”
Read more at … https://lifewayresearch.com/2019/01/15/most-teenagers-drop-out-of-church-as-young-adults/
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