The Barna Group and David Kinnaman continue to share findings from their five-year project surveying young people and young adults on their reasons for disconnecting from the Church. In particular, the study looked at those youth who had been active in church but are no longer. The focus is on American participants but there are many correlations to the situation in the UK.
The respondents shared many reasons but six major themes emerged for what seems to be keeping youth away from organized Christian faith:
- Churches seems overprotective (e.g. resist, demonize, and ignore real-world issues and problems).
- Youth experience Christianity in the Church as shallow (e.g. not relevant or connected to an experience of God.)
- Churches appear antagonistic to science.
- Churches take an overly-simplistic or judgemental view of sexuality.
- Youth struggle with exclusive claims of some Christian churches.
- Youth sees the Church as unfriendly to those who doubt.
Their findings suggest that churches ignore these issues at our own peril. Twenty years ago we could rely on youth leaving the church for a few years, then marrying, starting a family and coming back. This just isn’t the case any more for most young people. With an ever extending adolescence going into at least the mid-twenties if not longer, young people are putting off careers, marriage and family much longer.
Social media has both changed the way that young people learn, but also the sheer amount of information that they have access to. Even in comparison with my teenage years in the late nineties young people today are much more aware of a vastly diverse world including ideas, political theories, religious beliefs, and culture. In other words, it’s a very different world that they live in, and that we do youth ministry in.