A couple of weeks ago, the Barna Group posted an article on its site that provided me some great insights on what young Christians want from the church. The article stemmed from the findings of a five year project the group had done between 2007 and 2011, to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with teens and young adults striving to grow in their faith while living in a fast-changing culture.
According to the Barna Group, 59% of young Christians leave the church after the age of 15, either for a long period of time or permanently. From the study, six dominant themes emerged. These give us a clue as to what young Christians want from the church and why they leave. I will state them below in my own words:
• Youths want to connect with their world, but to them the church seems overprotective in this regard.
• Teens and young adults view their experience of church as shallow—God seems to be missing.
• In this highly technological age in which teens live and work, Christianity seems to be anti-science.
• In our sexually pervasive culture, the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”
• In a culture that promotes open-mindedness and tolerance, youths view the church as antithetical to that mindset.
• Youths feel that the church is not accommodating to Christians who have doubts about and who struggle with their faith.
Wow! As for what young Christians want from the church, this is a mega-sized challenge. As I read the Barna Group’s post, I thought about my children. As parents, we know that the six reasons stated above do a pretty good job at characterizing the culture that our teens and twentysomethings live in. Thriving in their world while growing in the faith is not an easy task for youths in Christ.
Based on the findings of the study, I believe that what young Christians want from the church is for those of us who are church and spiritual leaders to present Christianity in such a way that it is relevant to the culture in which teens and young adults must live and function. Moreover, I do not believe we have to abandon biblical truths to accomplish this.
In a nutshell, the aforementioned is the objective of the gospel message. Christianity was never meant to be shallow, out of touch, or hypothetical. Rather, God has blessed us with the priceless wisdom found in the Bible so we can provide real answers to real people with real challenges and who live in a real world. And to reverse the tide of them leaving the church, present-day Christianity must find out how to do exactly that.
Copyright © 2011 by Frank King. All rights reserved.