Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church – Barna Report
Barna recently released some of their findings regarding young Christians and their reasons for leaving the church. The more in-depth treatment of this information can be found in David Kinneman’s book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church
In reading the article on their website, one of the snippets that jumped out at me related to teens’ experiences with sexuality:
“One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church’s expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties.”
While I haven’t read The research yet, what is noticeably absent from this excerpt is a connection between the church’s expectations regarding sexuality and Christ’s expectations. Whether accurate or not, the article gives the impression that today’s young Christians experience far more angst over the fact that the church’s stance on sexuality is too conservative compared to popular culture, rather than the realization that their lifestyles aren’t measuring up to Christ’s call to holiness.
My point here is not to beat up young Christians struggling with their sexuality. I feel that churches are partly to blame for this reality due to our lack of openness regarding sensitive topics and our inability to equip parents to be the primary spiritual ‘formers’ of their children. For me, what is more concerning is the placement of the church at the center of the spiritual lives of our young rather than Christ.
I understand that the research is specifically regarding young Christians’ perceptions of the church. I get that. But I also observe through this study, and other studies like it, a strong ‘church-centric’ view of Christianity that seemingly gives young believers opportunity to customize their faith and practices when they find the church stiff and out of touch. The church will always lag behind the wants and wishes of many of our young. Attempts to overly-accommodate their preferences, I fear, promotes consumerism and creates less value for the church in the eyes of the young. The answer to this dilemma won’t be found in the insufficiencies of the church, but in correctly translating the all-sufficiency of Christ.
Do we need to be concerned how the church is perceived by the emerging generations? Sure. Do we need to find ways to engage our youth and remain relevant to the issues they face? Absolutely. But we also need to ensure that we’re forming our children around Christ and his expectations for them rather than setting up the church as something it was never intended to be.