My Take on Why Teens Leave Church


Young people are leaving the church in droves and despite our many attempts to keep them, they continue to fall away. Growing up, my church had more than a hundred kids and teens running through its corridors, but today few of them remain in the church. For some time, many concerned Christians have sought to understand the reasons why young people leave the church. I believe that the answer is simple. They leave because they find no relevance in Christianity and most importantly, they have not fallen in love with God.


Christianity lacks relevance for many young people.To them, being a Christian involves nothing more than following senseless rules and participating in church services that are disconnected from their reality. Ask any teen in church about how they perceive Christianity and nine out of ten will most likely describe to you three things: the church service, good behavior, and telling others about Jesus. While none of these things are wrong, in and of themselves they have no relevance. Teens today are faced with multiple obstacles such as drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, self-mutilation, rising divorce rates, promiscuity, homosexuality and abortion among many other things. So the question is, How does the church service empower them to deal with this? What exactly is good behavior? Is it what the Pastor says? Or is it what society accepts? And why tell others about Jesus when our post-modern culture embraces the philosophy that there is no such thing as truth? When Christianity fails to answer these questions and fails to provide direction and practicality to everyday life, teens begin to see it as unessential to life. This sets the stage for disregarding God altogether and embracing the godless culture of the day. “What’s wrong with godless?” They might subconsciously ask, “God was never that important anyways.”

A friend of mine recently told me a story that I believe illustrates this point very well. He had just returned from a mission trip to Malaysia. During the trip he and several other students had preached to the local people. Among the sermons where many interesting topics, but for one student, as interesting as they were, something was missing. In her attempt to express how she felt she asked the question, “What does this have to do with the price of rice?” This question, silly as it may be, underscores the foundational flaw in our Christianity – irrelevance. In order to keep our teens in church we must demonstrate to them that Christianity is applicable to everyday life and that is has the solution to the problems of our lives.

While many teens leave church because they think it is not important, the greatest reason for falling away is that many have simply never fallen in love with God. In the Bible, the apostle John writes, “We love Him because He first loved us.” The idea is simple, Gods love for us awakens in us a love for Him. That love motivates us to have a relationship with Him. However, in the church we often seem more concerned in teaching our young people how to be good church members instead of helping them fall in love with God. For many, upholding the standards of the church is more important than leading young people to experience the love of God. The end result of this model is catastrophic because it fosters a spirit of division between the old and young generations. The old generation assumes the role of “good behavior police” while the young are left to feel incapable of ever living up to the standards imposed on them.

I once knew a pastor who would never speak to the youth. He had no relationship with them whatsoever and the only time he would speak to them was when he was correcting them for dressing inappropriately in church, and in my experience, having hair that was too long. This is a perfect example of trying to force teens in church to look and act like good church members while avoiding relationships with them that help them to experience the love of God.

Without the two foundational principles of relevance and love, young people are set up to fail in the Christian life. As Christians, leading the youth into a love experience with God and demonstrating to them the relevance of Christianity in our world must be our top priorities.

Further Reading: The Raw Church

Comments

  1. I love these, i will be having a chat with the youth this Saturday after the service on why the youth leave the church. I have decided to add your article and also more if you give me more hints and also solution. I love these its great!!!

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  2. Hey Joshua,

    Thanks for your comment. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I am currently preaching an evangelistic seminar and have been pretty busy. I am blessed to know that this article has been a blessing to you. I will share with you some points that I think can be of help.

    1. There is no one specific reason why teens leave church. The reasons I mention above are the ones that I have seen to be the most prevalent but there are other reasons as well.
    2. A lack of discipleship is a big problem. Say a teen falls in love with God and his church but there is no one there to disciple him. Its very possible that he will lose steam and eventually backslide his way out of the church.
    3. A lack of purpose is also to blame. Teens need to feel needed. Why is it that churches never seem to have a teen representative in the board meetings etc.? Is it because they are too young and inexperienced and we have to save that work for the adults? When we fail to show them how indispensable they are to the mission of Christ they lack one of the greatest motivations for commitment - purpose.
    4. We don't value their input. For some reason, many older Christians think that all young people are deceived and if we take their input seriously they will derail the church into worldliness and apostasy. Whats funny about that is that historically it has been respected theologians and adults that have led the church into apostasy - not teenagers. When we fail to value their input they feel rejected and inadequate. This along with the reasons mentioned above can be enough to sow a seed of discontent which the devil will water until it produces fruit.

    There are other reasons but I hope these can give you some insight. I am sure you have also seen things I didn't mention here. Write back and let me know how your chat with the youth went and if you would like, write an article about it and I'll guest post it on my blog.

    God bless!
    Marcos

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    Replies
    1. Joshua,

      My apologies. I realize I gave you a list of the issues but no solutions. I don't have the solution. Only God does, but there are some things I think can help.

      1. Prayer. Pretty obvious but so easy to ignore. Prayer is the most powerful tool we have. We need to pray about these issues and ask God to reveal to us the solution. None of these problems surprise God. Hes had a solution for them before they even popped up so we need to connect with him and let him lead.
      2. Honest and open dialogue. Youth and adults need to have honest and open dialogue about the problem with one another in a setting that is both safe and respectful. If we can invite the youth to open up and spill their guts maybe we can learn about the things that are really troubling them. This kind of thing needs to happen regularly not just once.
      3. Leadership needs to be intentional about including the youth in important activities, not just collecting the tithe or greeting people at the door. Is the church planning for evangelism? Get a young person involved in the process (not just sit in on a meeting).
      4. Youth also need to be intentional about showing the church that they have a voice and they want to be heard. One of the greatest revivals I ever saw began when the youth approached the leadership in the church and said, "we want to have a week of prayer." The leadership supported the event and it was such an amazing experience that it spawned a revival among our youth. I am a pastor today as a result of that revival and it all began when we took initiative and got to work.
      5. Parents, teachers, and pastors need to preach the gospel until it is coming out of the youth's noses. We focus more on making youth good church members than we do on preaching the gospel. We would never expect a person on the street to be a good church member until they accepted Christ. Newsflash! Our youth are not Christians. They are as lost as the guy in the street. Just because they are raised in church does not make them Christians. They need to accept Christ and fall in love with him first and all the other things will follow.

      Hope that helps a bit!

      Delete

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