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Millennials in the church. What a hot topic. Children are leaving the church in droves. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention reports that four out of five children no longer attend church. It’s not just the Southern Baptists that report this phenomenon. It’s every denomination and even non-denominational churches. 70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church. It’s such a big topic that even CNN reported on it.
Numerous studies have been done to examine the cause and the results are startling.
RatioChristi gives more stark reality: “75% of Christian teens leave their faith when they attend college. College students are bombarded with competing worldviews. Professors are challenging their faith.”
The good news is that a study by Lifeway found that historically about two-thirds of dropouts return to services once they get older. Millennials in the church is what we need to get back to. Not just having them return, but not having them leave, at all.
Millennials in the Church in the Church: Why They are Leaving
The children leaving the church are children of Christians who are involved in ministry, attend Bible studies and teach Sunday school but these same families do not maintain a Christian home. These are what the studies call “nominal Christians”.
In essence, they are Sunday Christians only (and sometimes Wednesday night). They appear to do all the right things, but they do not, forgive the cliché, “practice what they preach”.
These children are raised in homes where they wouldn’t dream of missing football camp, but regularly miss Bible camp or youth group. They are children of parents who remind their kids to do their homework and brush their teeth, but don’t remind their kids to read their Bibles OR the parents, themselves, are not reading their Bibles.
These children are leaving the church because mom sings in the choir at church but regularly curses and comes home drunk after a night with the girls. They are leaving the church because dad is choosing poker night over men’s Bible study.
The Barna Group study also claimed that teenagers find church boring. Here’s the results of the study:
While we don’t want to become the church with the stereotypical television evangelist to keep millennials in the church, they need to be engaged through small groups and relevant teaching to them.
The students polled for this study also cited that the church is “antagonistic toward science”
They also feel judged regarding sexuality (Christian teens polled are just as sexually active as non-teens) and they feel that Christianity touts its exclusivity, yet:
The Lifeway Study revealed similar results:
I’m going to include a direct quote from the Lifeway study, as reported by Christianity Today as I think it is quite revealing:
Wow! These statistics not just show us stark reality but give us ideas on how to keep millennials in the church!
As Dennis Rainey said “Christianity cannot be a spectator sport. You’ve got to be on the field. If you want to impact your children and have a hope, a realistic hope of your children getting their own faith, then they need to see you on the playing field engaged in the game. And we’re not talking about just church attendance here. It’s an infectious love for Jesus Christ, representing Him, living out the Scriptures, being obedient to the Scriptures, making decisions in light of how this furthers God’s kingdom”
An image of a soccer field with players on it in the background with the quote, “”Christianity cannot be a spectator sport. You’ve got to be on the field.”
We cannot simply attend services on Sunday, without living a life above reproach, and expect our children to see the importance or have the passion, to stay in church upon leaving home.
Think about your own actions for a moment. Are you attending church as something to cross off your to-do list? Or, are you demonstrating your faith in your home?
Demonstrating your faith can encompass many things, but may include:
Consuming God-honoring entertainment (television, music, etc.)
Choosing God over worldly activities (shopping, sports, etc.)
I’m not saying that by not doing all the above your child won’t leave the church. What I am saying is that your children are watching what you are doing, and they will learn life’s priorities from you. Where you focus your time and energy, there goes your heart. Is your time and energy going toward our Heavenly Father? Or are you simply a filled seat on Sunday and live your life elsewhere (spiritually) during the rest of the week?
Take some time to pray about this during the upcoming week. Ask God to shine a light on where you can improve in this area and how you can best model a Christian life for your children. The church (and your child) is depending on you. Millennials in the Church don’t have to leave but they are counting on mom and dad to help them stay.
For more on this topic, check out these highly recommended books: