If you’ve been following us here at Tent Making Christianity the past few weeks, you know that we have been discussing the youth exodus from our churches. Depending on which study you read, between 60-80% of youth who are involved in the church walk away after graduation. Just recently released, yet another youth study reveals similar results. When I read the results of the most recent study conducted by the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) I wasn’t surprised.
Millennials Congregation Confirmation Survey Report
While there is often much blame heaped on Millennials for leaving the church, data suggests that their low involvement is not because they left the church, but because they were never in the church to begin with.
The LCMS studylooked at Millennials that were confirmed in the Church between 2004-2006. The results echo what we see in other studies from other denominations. Here are some take away from the study:
- 1 in 3 confirmed Millennials remain with the church they were confirmed in. 2 in 3 no longer attend or are unaccounted for.
- For those that do not attend, attendance dropped from 68% to 16% after graduation from high school, and that number dropped to almost 0 in young adulthood.
- Young adults reported that crisis situations were often places where faith and community are deepened or lost. 15% of young adults noted a crisis event as a pivotal faith moment.
- 9% of non-LCMS respondents mentioned having their doubts or questions ignored or dismissed.
- Object to the LCMS over a social issue” was the top reason mentioned in open-ended responses for Mainline Protestant (64%) and Unaffiliated (59%) and was third highest response for Evangelical Protestant (26%) young people.
Formula for Disaster
The LCMS is not alone. As mentioned above, these results are similar to practically all other studies done on Millennials. What you see is a predictable formula:
- Young people struggle with difficult issues while they are with us.
- There is no one willing or capable of answering their questions.
- Once students are no longer forced to come to church by their parents, they stop coming.
Is there hope?
The study summarydid have some interesting things to say on the students that did stay. We should be paying close attention to this data. I think if you look closely you will quickly see a pattern among those who chose to stay.
- Parents remain the number one person who impacts the faith lives of young people. Nearly 1-in-3 young adults listed a parent as one of the most influential people in their lives. While that influence was usually positive, those who left the LCMS were more than twice as likely to say a parent had a negative influence (13% vs 5%).
- Active LCMS young adults also showed signs that they had been able to ask hard questions and have challenging conversations within their church. We also found 72% of Active LCMS young adults agreed there was a person at church who was “safe” to talk with.
- Congregations that added youth ministry staff experienced much higher rates of retention than the average congregation, and a lower rate of youth leaving prior to graduation. The exact opposite is true for congregations that reduced staffing for youth related ministry.
Are You Prepared to Make A Difference?
What’s the key factor in all these items? That there was someone in the young person’s life that they felt comfortable going to with the hard questions they were facing.
Are you as a parent prepared to help your student through difficult questions about God and Christianity? Do you have a relationship with a young person in your Church that looks to you for guidance? How much of a priority does your church give to its youth programs?
Do you want to reverse the trend of young people leaving our churches? If so, you need to be prepared to put in some hard work. This may require us to make some sacrifices. We may need to move focus away from some cherished ministries in order to provide resources for our youth.
Congregations must be safe places for young people to wrestle with life and faith in order for them to faithfully reach out to today’s culture.
Are you prepared for the questions that we are being asked to answer? If you aren’t, you can rest assured that someone that doesn’t share our world view will.
Links to the study:
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