Giving up on church

Image used by Barna to illustrate the article being commented on

The Barna group have a new book reporting a five year project on why the young are leaving church.

The study of young adults focused on those who were regular churchgoers Christian church during their teen years and explored their reasons for disconnection from church life after age 15.

From this study theyextract a brief summary of  Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church. The six reasons they give are:1

  • Churches seem overprotective.
  • Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
  • Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
  • Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
  • They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
  • The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

I’d see a clustering in these reasons, especially in the light of the comments they make in the article below each. Together they describe a mindless defensive faith. Several express a sort of mindless, anti-science, be afraid of Harry Potter because the stories have “magic” in them… Christianity. This tendency almost caused me to “lose my faith” back when I was a teenager. Things have changed but not for the better, “Evangelical” churches today are even less healthy places to be young, intelligent and questionning :( But it’s not just the young who have difficulty with that, it’s anyone with a brain who enjoys using it!

Five answers for church leaderships:

  • Churches seem overprotective.

If Christianity is true, and good, if it helps one to be in communion with the maker of everything then loosen up!

  • Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.

OK, it’s true that no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of a TV audience. But churches are not (whatever the latest multi-mega-pastor tells us) in the business of bums on seats, or entertaining… If you offer your congregation milk instead of steak and chips with broccoli don’t expect them to find this pablum spiritually nourishing!

  • Churches come across as antagonistic to science.

The world was made in seven days in 4004BC it says so in the Bible, the sun goes round the earth otherwise Joshua could not have stopped the sun… Duh! Scripture is richer, deeper and not at all limited to being a “how things work” manual. Wake up and see the beauty of the poetry, the meaning in the stories, the God behind the marvelous everything we inhabit!

  • Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.

Let me get this straight… Divorce is OK, serial polygamy is fine, even the odd case of sexual abuse of children can be quietly hushed up, but if hormone crazy kids do more than kiss the sky falls in? Why can’t we start to be consistent, honest and welcoming of sinners, as well as clear on what is sinful?2

  • They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.

Frankly I don’t think this one is expressed well. The post says:

Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.” One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).

This is more of that ghetto mentality, fearful of the big bad world outside the church doors. It is not a confident understanding that Jesus is the answer to the brokenness of the world, that God is the maker of everything and that the Spirit is the Lord the giver of life that the kids dislike, it is seeing their elders hiding together in a cupboard in case the evil monsters get them that turns them off church.

  • The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

Unfriendly? The defensive ghettoised narrow-minded strand that is so vocal in Evangelical Christianity is not just “unfriendly” to those who doubt, it’s so terrified that it will wage total war, with no holds barred… the only answer is to open up, trust the God who made you, who loved the world so much he became flesh and dwelt among us and even died on a cross, who empowers and inspires all who seek him. If you trust such a God perfect love will cast out your fears.

  1. BTW the study was done entirely with a US “national” sample, but I guess you can quickly get a feel for how/if things are different where you live. My take in for NZ the differences are less marked than one might expect. []
  2. BTW homosexuality is not the one sin against the Holy Spirit that will condemn people, without hope of redemption. If narrowminded, back-biting gossips can be held in God’s love, then people who have sex the wrong way probably can too, at least they don’t hurt others as deeply []

2 comments on “Giving up on church

  1. Sophie Mead

    Aha! You’re the one who borrowed it! I thought it was quite good, even though allowances do have to be made for any American/New Zealand contextual differences. I haven’t actually read the last two chapters yet so I’m hoping for some good material in those as well.

  2. Pingback: You lost me at… - Sansblogue