more teens leave church after high school than we thought

usa today reports a new survey by lifeway that shows the number of young adults leaving protestant churches after high school is even more dramatic than we’d previously heard. i’d always thought the percentage was about 50. but this survey shows it’s more than 2/3, at 70%.

most didn’t plan on leaving, when they were in high school:

In most cases, the decision to leave was not planned far in advance. Only 20 percent of these “church dropouts” agree that while they were attending church regularly in high school they “planned on taking a break from church once [they] finished high school.”

here’s why they say they left:

• Wanted a break from church: 27%

• Found church members judgmental or hypocritical: 26%

• Moved to college: 25%

• Tied up with work: 23%

• Moved too far away from home church: 22%

• Too busy: 22%

• Felt disconnected to people at church: 20%

• Disagreed with church’s stance on political/social issues: 18%

• Spent more time with friends outside church: 17%

• Only went before to please others: 17%

and, just as telling for those of us hoping to rethink youth ministry, are the reasons given by the 30% who didn’t leave, as to why they kept attending church:

• It’s vital to my relationship with God: 65%

• It helps guide my decision in everyday life: 58%

• It helps me become a better person: 50%

• I am following a family member’s example: 43%

• Church activities were a big part of my life: 35%

• It helps in getting through a difficult time: 30%

• I fear living without spiritual guidance: 24%

(ht to bob c)

8 thoughts on “more teens leave church after high school than we thought”

  1. i’d be curious to know if these were the answers given on their own or picking from a list of possible answers.

    fascinating study. i know we are working through that as well. listening to guys like Chap, i wonder if it doesnt have a little to do with how we segregate our youth ministries from the larger body. chap calls it the “one eared mickey mouse”.

    is that a factor you guys think or not?

  2. Interesting. In Denmark Søren and I made kind of the same study and three main reasons for people leaving church was:
    – Couldn’t relate their “church reality” with the rest of their “reality”
    – moved away from home church/town
    – It just happened

    When we did the qualitive research it turned out that people still had a thriving spiritual life even though they weren’t connected to any group or church.

  3. Joe:

    I think us “sererating” from the church as a whole has a lot to do with the drop-out rate. It is a huge gulf to cross in most cases and we don’t even attempt to build a bridge.

    But, I get hammered from yp’s anytime I say that we should not be doing seperate worship.anything bab a

  4. interesting study. found someone else posting these findings on another blog today. it would be interesting to see what the church’s reaction is outside of “let’s create new programs to attract young adults!”

    i also agree with joe… were these fill in the blank surveys or multiple choice???

  5. Being from the UK and working with youth for the past couple of years in the USA and I see one major problem for young people in the USA especially in rich Georgia where we live. Our culture and society breads young people who don’t have any needs and so don’t see a need for Jesus. If you read the Bible when Jesus was on the earth he met peoples physical needs and then told them about their spiritual need and then met that too. Parents seem to think that giving their child everything they need is a good thing and I guess parents see it as their purpose but when that meets every need (sometimes in excess) and leave none to be met at all it seems to turn the young people away from seeing a need for Jesus in their live too.
    I guess it all part of the de-sensitizing of our young people with the world we live in and the games we play, tv we watch etc. BRING BACK MONASTIC LIFE! well at least one where I can be married!

  6. i saw your blog got slammed on the same website that my pastor’s blog got dissed at too (dave @ nakedpastor) and it made me interested to come here and cheer you on. haha i like your blog, and have actually gone to several YS conferences, for i’ve been with ywam for too many years to count. keep up the great blog!

  7. kids seem bored these days. not the same way we were bored. they are bored because they are over-entertained. nothing impresses them and we keep trying to bring the next great thing. very tough.

    we need to continue to offer real relationships and a real faith. that study shows me that maybe we duck the tough questions to quickly. i am sure i am guilty.

    i am not sure i know the answer…

  8. In Canada, I know several studies have been done recently on this, largely led by Marv Penner of YS.

    Many of the reasons are the same, but the percentages are closer to 90% on average. The very best percentage was 60% are leaving, and the worst was 96%.

    God forgive us. Something needs to change.

Leave a Reply