In a 2007, USA Today published an article entitled, “Young adults aren’t sticking with church“. The article says,
“Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research. And 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.”
Though the numbers are not as astounding as they first look–66% of young adults who left the church by age 23 had returned, even if only sporadically, by age 30–they should still cause youth and campus ministers pause and ask what we are doing wrong. If most of the kids who come through our ministries leave the church by their age 23, even if for a little less that a decade, something needs to be done.
In 2011, over at TGC, Jon Nielson wrote “Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up“. Go over and read the article. It is interesting. In sum, Jon (who is a senior high school pastor) identifies three characteristics of youth who stay in church after they grow up. The characteristics are:
- They are converted.
- They have been equipped, not entertained.
- Their parents preached the gospel to them.
I think I would add one more:
- They are used to multigenerational fellowship.
I was involved in a campus ministry in college. Over the years, I have noticed that many of the people who were deeply involved in the ministry had trouble transitioning out of the ministry and into a congregation after they graduated. One reason this happens, I believe, is that the students get accustomed to a ministry focused on their age group.
A youth involved in a youth ministry or a campus ministry does not have to make the sacrifices necessary to worship and serve alongside of someone five decades older than him. For young adults leaving youth and campus ministries, it can be difficult to transition into a congregation that has people of all ages and the varied interests and beliefs that come with that.
Gone are the dozens of friends your age that share similar experiences. Gone are the lessons designed just for your stage of life. Gone is the woship styled closely after your preferences. Gone are the weekly events designed for your enjoyment.
For this reason, I’ve noticed that young adults who are accustomed to multi-generational worship and events are more likely to stay with church.
Beyond that, though, I think that Nielson is correct in his observations.
What do you think?