rebelling against low expectations

Why do 60% of teens leave the church when they become adults?


GRANT WRITES: Sadness grips my heart when faced with this question. It’s so hard to imagine 60% of the young people at my church being gone. And yet it happens on a regular basis all around us every day. What reason do these teens have for leaving church?

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are submitted by real rebelutionaries who are looking for godly answers to tough questions and lively conversation with other young adults. You can join the conversation by commenting below. If you'd like to submit your own discussion question, email us at [email protected].


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  • Christianity isn’t a popular belief in the secular world. If you aren’t truly committed to what you believe, it’s hard to keep believing it what all your friends tell you that you’re narrow-minded and basically stupid to believe it. I don’t know what it’s like at your church, but I don’t see much excitement in a good portion of the other teens when they come to church. We need to become serious about our faith. If we do, we will be excited to go to church, and nobody will be able to change our minds. Why don’t most teens get serious about this stuff? Well, for one, it’s hard. The Myth of Adolescence is pretty strong. Even in high school you’re being told that following Christ isn’t worth it. Another reason *might* be that their church is boring them with the Bible. I bet a lot of churches do that. Please keep in mind, though, that it is the perspective they have that makes the speaker seem boring. Teens want something exciting, something they can be passionate about. If the Christians they know don’t have a lot of passion and excitement for God, I think it would turn them away. Jesus is all they need, and it’s really what they are looking for, but we sometimes disguise Him in our churches as some fun-hating holy roller. What kind of kid would choose to give his life for one of those?
    These are just my thoughts. I’m sorry for making all churches look the same–they’re not.
    So what can we do to change this statistic? Let’s get serious about what we believe. Let’s do hard things. Let’s go against the cultural norm. Let’s be passionate about Jesus. Let’s take a stand for what we believe. Our churches will follow, and and when the other teens see what God can do in someone’s life, it seems to me that they will have to make a choice. Either they follow Jesus or they give up right then and there. I don’t know about you, but I have decided to follow Jesus, and I encourage you to do the same.

    That’s all for now.

    • what I’ve found is that the youth group can be a hostile environment. Its our jobs to make it a place to unwind from the cares of this world and the other youth groupers would see Jesus and want to be there. my youth group went from like 8 to 25 in one year and we are struggling with a bad environment. I came back from a missions trip to the Dominican Republic, saw the difference and was shocked. from that day on I have been praying on what to do and god has really put it on my heart to step up and be a leader in my group. maybe we the rebelutionaries need to take a stand for god in our church, for our youth groups! I try to lead by example and am actually starting to see results! I hope this helps!

    • hey you had some good thoughts (if that’s the right way to say it) and i agree our churches youth groupes need to be fun i know mine is and i know they try really hard to make it fun for all.

      God job

  • Here is my theory.

    Most kids growing up in a Christian home are sent to public school. At the schools they are taught that evolution is a fact. (which is against the Bible) That along with the other influences at school at to it and eventually they lose their faith. Only the one’s whose parents are actively teaching them to love God make it; but really, this is more serious than we think.

    I heard it is much worse than that, in fact I heard it was 88% leave church by the time they are out of high school.

    God Bless,


    • I don’t really know what it’s like at public schools. Is it suggested that Christian parents are not to be trusted in matters of faith?

      • Oh no I am not suggesting that at all. It’s just that the public school and influences the child in a way greater (some of the times) than the parent (since they are there 7 hours a day for 12 years)
        I am not saying parents cannot be trusted, it’s just that if they send their child to public school, there is a great chance that they will turn away after high school. I am not an expert on this subject. Although I do know more than 8/10 going to PS fall away. It’s only the scary reality.

        I hope I didn’t…freak anyone out. 😛

        • That’s a great answer, but I think you might have misread my question. I WASN’T saying that YOU thought parents shouldn’t be trusted. I was wondering if the schools were hinting at it, but your answer pretty much covers that.

          • Not just the schools. The government leans toward that, too. I regret that at the moment I don’t have much to back that up with, but I hear my parents and other homeschooling parents talking about these things frequently. I mean, if you think about it, all the public schools are state, right? The state is part of the government. The government decides the curriculum, or at least what the schools need to teach. So we can follow this line of reasoning, and discover where the indoctrination of distrust of Christians, especially parents, originates.
            Hope that made sense, sorry I didn’t have anything to back it up. I did try to do some research, but all it listed was stuff about the founding fathers.

          • I go to public school in Illinois. It feels like the teachers and even the students think Christianity is only for “chuch-days and not for the outside world. When my science book dealt with religion and science, even though it maintained an attitude that religion is just mysticism and assumptions, my teacher blew passed it saying it had no effect on science. Really the only times a teacher will outright speak of Christians and Christianity in a more positive light is in the areas of social sciences, like history, languages, and psych, or English, and it is implied that it is just a series of beliefs and cultures.

            With students, they think that what happens at church stays at church. When I refuse to watch a movie or the like based on what I feel the Bible says, my friends believe my parents are too strict or too “religious,” because other “Christians” like them will watch it. Also, if I say I’m thinking about a Christian college or am going to a youth convention, others will look as if I’m just overly concerned or religious; they don’t see it as a way of life and a heart change but as a social distinction.

          • Yep. There’s a lot of people with the philosophy of keeping religion in church; that make Christianity an on the side kind of thing–it doesn’t affect your life except for when you’re at church. I even remember hanging out with young people from church and it would be the same way–their life revolves around the world and it’s culture, and God is put in the back of their minds, saved for Sunday mornings(or whenever you go to church).
            And I’ve been in their shoes, looking at someone weird and saying their parents are too strict. Never too religious, but this also happens frequently. I’ve since tried to stop, but this kind of thing just goes to show how so many Christian people don’t take Christianity seriously as a lifestyle.

      • I was originally public schooled – my parents fostered seven kids including me, so there were too many to homeschool at that point – and I was taught, subtly, that my parents didn’t know anything, and that the teachers at school were the ones to be believed. When my mom pulled me out after sixth grade, it took over a year at least to get that mentality out of my system, and I still see it popping up in my day to day life. Not all schools are like this, but I think the secular influence on schools has taken a toll on what is taught – I know this is a gross understatement, but still…

      • If you go to, and look in the archives you’ll find posts from early 2013 and 2012 where Reagan talks about his experiences being a part time public-schooler. He had to attend a few classes for sports, and his posts are very interesting.

        • I didn’t look back that far. But I did find what I wasn’t looking for. I stumbled across a sad story that could easily become mine. But it’s OK because it is possible for me to avoid, if only I am willing to do extremely hard things. Thank you for being willing to be used of God today! If I do anything about what I just read, it will change my forever. God never ceases to amaze me with the things He brings into my path at just the right time. God is good!
          Am I willing to do what it takes to follow Jesus? It looks like I’m about to find out. Please pray that I will be willing!

          • God bless you Sam, of course I’ll pray for you! I’m glad that God used me as a tool to reach out to you today. Thanks for sharing this with me. I don’t know what you’re about to do, but if God wills it, then I pray that you will be willing, and that He will give you courage. This verse has always popped into my mind whenever I needed it. (One of the first I ever memorized:)

            Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

            (Maybe you could pray for me too, that I’ll be willing to do extremely hard things also:)

          • Thanks Mallory. I will pray for you too. That’s always a great verse to remember.

          • Thanks for sharing this with me Sam. I have made my share of mistakes, where I had “good intentions” but no real commitment. It’s so easy for me to say, “I’ll work on that!” (it sounds good too) and promptly forget all about it. I’m sorry you caused hurt to someone else and yourself…but I am glad that you’ve learned from it, and I will take your warning to heart. I’ve been long in need of a self examination in the area of commitments. (To see if I’ve been taking my own advice;) I don’t want to be caught unprepared. It helps to make yourself accountable to someone you know and trust. God bless you, Sam!

          • Thanks, Sam! (I’ve been praying for you too:) I just knew someone was, because I have done so many scary, uncomfortable, extremely hard things since then…well, hard for me that is, and I’m preparing for more. The weird thing is, I’m starting to like it! I feel like Bilbo Baggins. Something “Tookish” woke up inside me and now I’m an adventurer…who still gets scared, and longs occasionally for the relative safety of my fireside, but when it comes right down to it, enjoys the challenges in spite of myself.

    • I had not heard 88% before, that’s interesting. I got my number from Answers in Genesis, but it is possible that it’s outdated by a few years.

      You made a good point for why teens that are public schooled might leave. But the 60% that I proposed included public, private and home schooled. Do you have any thoughts for other groups aside from public schooled? Or maybe a generic reason that includes all these groups?

        • Wow, did you star this discussion or something that was fast! Anyways, I would assume it’s more public schooled than home and private schooled, but I’ve seen many public schooled teens that were way deeper in the Lord than some homeschooled teens.

          • Disqus replaced star with favorite.
            I did favorite it but that doesn’t do much of anything.
            I hit the subscribe button, and I set my phone to sync email every 5 minutes. I like seeing new comments 🙂

          • Ok, it looks like 20% went to church as a teen and still attend. 61% went to church as a teen and quit church when they became adults. 19% didn’t attend church as a teen and still don’t attend church.

            Sadly it doesn’t have a distinguishing line between public, private and home schooled teens.

      • I think I got my stats from HSLDA.

        No, I do not. I would guess for Christian homeschoolers they would start to question their faith in college. Private school might be the same as public (unless it’s Christian)

        I really only know about the public schools though…

        God Bless,


    • Luke 6:40
      “Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like their teacher.”

      According to God’s Word you’re absolutely correct! Who we listen to matters. Who we take counsel from matters. (Proverbs 20:18, Isaiah 1:26) You take on beliefs of those who instruct and lead.

      As Christians, we send our children off to public school and they are indoctrinated with the humanism world view and countless other cultural beliefs that defy God’s Word. And then we expect them not to be influenced by these things? That’s ridiculous! That’s like sending our own soldiers to the Enemy to be trained!

      By and large, parents that send their kids to public school expecting them to be the “salt/light” without properly preparing them are not being realistic. Even Jesus took three solid years, day in and day out to prepare grown men to be His disciples. And they walked with God himself!

      Christian parents are instructed by God’s Word to continually write His precepts upon the heart of their child(ren). (Deut 11:18-19) The very word discipline means to disciple or “teach”. Parents are trading the “things” of this world for valuable teaching time — especially between the ages of 8-13 when children are forming their value system. By the time they begin to put into play the values they have formed. The brain actually has a surge of growth around the age of 10 in girls and 12 in boys where the area of the brain that manages values! The science and research is there that shows us this! Parents are missing key moments where the soil is good to receive God’s Word and to establish a firm foundation of theology in the lives of their children — to truly disciple them as we are all called to do thru the great commission. Christian parents need to do the HARD THINGS. It takes dying to self and choosing the more difficult path to obey this command to disciple a child.

      We cannot continue to send our children to the Enemies camp to be trained. We must take ownership of discipling our own children and the church comes alongside to support the parent in what they are instilling – not be the primary provider of teaching faith.

  • As a kid that will one day face this same decision, I don’t have the full facts, but I may be able to provide some insight.

    When I was littler, it seemed like religion was forced down my throat. I felt like that if my parents believed it, i had to as well. As this feeling diminishes in kids as they grow up, they realize that they have a choice. When this happens, all that “forcing” of religion before draws us away because of the feeling of bring forced. Therefore, we pull away from our roots, and once we come of age, we pull away alltogether.

  • I think most teens leave the church because first of all they see it as boring I know a girl who, based on what people have told me probably doesn’t go to church anymore and her dad is the pastor. (please keep in mind that I haven’t been to her church in about 5 years so I’m not sure about this). Also when parents drag their teens to church every Sunday as soon as they can decide to not go they don’t. Futhermore (wow that looks weird but makes me sound smart) I don’t think most of the teens that leave church are truly saved. If my family didn’t go to a church that has solid Bible preaching and teaching I probably would be doing my best to not go to church every Sunday too. (I feel like I have some experience with this because if I had allowed my life to go the way it was going before I got saved I probably would have been in that percentage.) Also I think that the public schools make it not “cool” to go to church (I really don’t know I’m homsechooled but I have acquaintances that go to public schools) We need to get teens reenergized with things on the Bible and church. The thing with this is that it’s one of those hard things that doesn’t pay off right away. Anyways I’m really rambling now
    God Bless

    • Great comment!

      Apparently rambling is OK on this blog. I do it all the time and everone seems to like me. I think you did great.

        • Sydnie, Rambling is actually encouraged! I learned at my homeschool co-op today, that some of the best poems are written when you ramble!!! (which might be good because.. I’m a black belt at rambling!)

          • Cool! what do they do at homeschool co-ops (I’ve never been to one because we don’t have any near where we live

          • I don’t really know, to be quite honest. I have a friend who goes to one, but I don’t.

          • Hey @rachelschaus:disqus – tell me if I am wrong, but aren’t co-ops basically a day of classes etc and then you work on the assignments during the week? There are classes on science, lit., math?, art, theology sometimes, writing, music…. And it is a day to see a bunch of other homeschoolers and work together. Or am I totally wrong? 😉

          • Yes! Sometimes there are more things thought the week. (Like the science class gets together more often then the English class) and drama and oh… just tons of stuff.

            Co-ops are usually thought by moms who have gifts in certain areas (Which can get awkward if there child is in that class.) and.. it’s a lot of fun but they are also very stressful. (Once a week can take a lot out of you.)

            Over all, I love mine, but mainly it’s the people and getting to learn about Jesus thought everything that we do!

          • Score! 😉 Haha – yeah that could get awkward. And I totally understand the stress. I took ONE CLASS two years ago and I could not fathom how other kids were doing more like 5 (I wasn’t sure if it was truly a co-op, so I that is why I wasn’t sure…apparently it was). And yep for me the best part was the relationships…I miss it!

  • My family could very well be part of that 60%, because we “left the church” two years ago and haven’t looked back since. After serious prayer and decades of attending different church buildings, my parents decided that rushing to a building every Sunday morning was not what God wanted our family to be doing. He had something much better in mind for our family, and my family has loved where it’s led us ever since.

    It is extremely sad when people put God aside or try to forget him. We have access to so much love, wisdom and peace, and when someone walks away and wants nothing of those blessings, you hurt for them. Maybe they are looking for more than music and sermons, and when they don’t find it at a church building like people say they are supposed to, where else are they going to look? The possibilities are endless, and usually the consequences are, too.

    I think that we need to stop brainstorming ways to get people to come to a building every Sunday. And please understand that I am not saying that going to church is a bad thing. I am simply saying that instead of expecting people to come to us, we need to start praying about how to reach out to those people who are confused or don’t want anything to do with God. We need to figure out how we can give, and not just in a closed-building setting. Instead of being told they need to come to a building with a mass of people to listen to someone talk about God, maybe they just need a friend.

    • I get where you’re coming from. Maybe instead of trying to get people to come to church, we should train and disciple the people who are already IN the church. Then we’ll be even stronger when we go to reach out to those who won’t come to us. The early church in the Bible was like that. The BELIEVERS gathered together to worship and have fellowship, not the unbelievers, and then the believers evangelized instead of just inviting people to their church group.

    • I think this could be an interesting and potentially very promising idea. It could definitely be more effective having a more decentralized structure so more people are could be doing more and reaching more people personally. It could also stagnate as basically a Sunday morning, or whenever you choose to meet, social. It all depends on the people’s dedication to following the lead of the Holy Spirit and seeking what He wants them to do. It just has to be centered on the Gospel. There are definitely examples of both good and bad house churches in the New Testament, as all the churches were kind of house churches then, and they still seem to be effective now given the enormous growth in China and other countries around the world. Overall though, it still depends on people following God, so either could work. I think it would be interesting though what could be accomplished if all the churches sold their buildings and focused on reaching out.
      Just out of curiosity, what has your family been doing Carolyn?

      • You are exactly right, Joseph! There are so many times that tradition and structure, while sometimes good, can actually stunt growth instead of nurturing it. The last church my family attended, a 200 year old southern Baptist church that had a population of
        about 100 people, was always trying to figure out how to attract people to their slowly dying church. They hosted Eater Egg Hunts, Fall Festivals, potlucks and Vacation Bible Schools. One outreach they did was to make 50 Thanksgiving baskets for families around the area financially struggling. The baskets were put together, and then the families were told that if they wanted the baskets and the free meal, they had to come to a church and sit through a short sermon before they could receive either. Then we’d load their cars up for them, and we would never see them again. Yes, I like to think that we blessed those families, but at the same time, we could have done so much more with them on a personal level.

        I have also often wondered the same thing about churches, and what we could do with that money besides erecting a building. One of my friends attends a church in Virginia that is held in a high
        school building until they can raise the few million dollars they need to build their “own” building. It honestly made me sick, and start to
        wonder how many purchases I’ve made that could have been spent on something better.

        You asked what my family does, and I am glad to tell you! I know it is not for everyone, but it is what God is calling my family to do right now. When my family stopped attending church on Sundays, we were still going to the Wednesday night potluck and bible study they held each week. That we loved. Everyone was interacting and challenging one another on a more personal level and it is amazing how a lack of pews and a pulpit, and the ability to ask questions and discuss things, can make everything seem so much more casual. We started to host bible studies in our home, have my dad’s co-workers and their families over for dinner, babysit the children of young military families in our area, and continued to get together
        as a family every day for devotions and reading God’s word. There never was a lack of fellowship for my family, to be sure. 🙂 However, my family moved yet again last year and we had to start off from scratch. We didn’t even look for a church, but decided that we were just going to grow closer together as a family, which I personally think we have. Right now, we are still watching sermons and
        reading together as a family, but we just discovered a bible study group that branched off of a church and is being held in someone’s house a few minutes away from us, which we have attended once and already love. They also have a teen-led bible study that my sister and I were invited to attend, and I am very excited about that when it starts. Basically that is it. For a family of 10 with little ones, it has definitely been nice! That’s another thing, we started moving down this different path because of how it worked for my family. However, we know people with only a few children that seem to thrive while going to church. It totally all just depends on what God is calling you to do.

        • I really like this out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to church! You’re certainly right that we often get caught up in the tradition. However, I do want to throw in a warning, lest we “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” so to speak. Be very careful when you separate harmful tradition from advantageous changes. I don’t know if you really feel this way, but I got impression from your comment that you feel that churches shouldn’t have buildings, but should use the money for “better” things. The point is, there are a many benefits to having buildings, for there are a plethora of opportunities for outreach that they provide, which couldn’t be nearly as effectively done without. Now please don’t think that I am just trying to defend tradition, and definitely don’t think that I am stating that all churches should have buildings! As long as a group of Christians is in line with the Word of God and seeking to please Him, they’re more than welcome to have a building or any other form of “tradition.” It all comes down to an issue of growing the universal Church. I’m not trying to bash home-churching, because I know that it can sometimes be very good for growing in the wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures! Evangelism is one of the areas, however, in which I see it come up short (sometimes. I hope you’re an exception! 🙂 ). Just don’t abandon every concept of the modern church, just because some are not acting in line with the will of God.

          • It definitely is out-of-the-box and odd, I know! 🙂 I suppose I should have been more specific in my comment too, because reading over it again I can totally understand how it came out that way! I have a problem with rambling, and even when I try to condense my comments I’m a bit embarrassed that they still come out as long as an article! 😛 I do not ever want to discourage people from going to church. Going to church on Sunday can be an encouraging and growing experience, and my parents have had to remind me a lot not to come across like I am bashing the modern church over the head (obviously I need to work on that still!). To be sure, there are still a bunch of things done in the modern church that do not line up with scripture or the New Testament Ecclesia, but I will not deny that they still do some good, as well. I know my family was starting to get caught up in the pretty common “If I go to church once a week then I am a good Christian” mindset trap. A bit random, but Andy Stanley, one of my family’s favorite preachers, has an amazing sermon series based on that and how there are SO many definitions for “Christian”. I think my family has watched the whole sermon series three times by now. 🙂

            I also don’t expect people to get what I’m saying, really. I heard stuff like this before my family stopped attending church, and would dismiss it as loony, over-the-top and critical. I wondered why people couldn’t just stick with the system and be happy, and when my family stopped attending I left kicking and screaming, I’m embarrassed to say. So I can only imagine how I now appear to everyone, spouting out all this uncommon information! 🙂 That’s okay, though. I can honestly say that this is one of those things that you don’t start to notice all the things wrong with it until you step out and look at it from a different perspective. That is pretty much the case with just about everything in this world now that I think of it. I have gotten to see the modern church from both angles now, the extremely-involved-member and the person-looking-in-from-the-outside, and it has definitely been an eye opening and yes, growing experience for me! 🙂 Even things like “dressing up for God” once a week now seems silly, and that is coming from a girl who two years ago would spend an hour getting ready and still be curling her hair in the car en route to the church! 😛

            All that to say, I hope I’m not coming across as the critical and negative person. Maybe a person who talks too much, perhaps! 🙂 And while I don’t want to abandon all the concepts of the modern church, I think we’d all benefit to take concepts straight from the Bible, not a human-run system.

          • Thank you for clarifying some of those things! And that sermon series sounds really neat, I’ll have to listen to it sometime. 🙂 I just have one additional thing to throw in. Perhaps you were just rambling again (I certainly know the feeling!), but you still seem to be bracketing all churches that are not family-churches into the whole “modern church” bracket, saying, “there are still a bunch of things done in the modern church that do not line up with scripture or the New Testament Ecclesia.” Just realize that the “modern church” and the “family- (or home-)church” are not separate. A family-church fits into the bracket of the modern church just as an “organized church” (I’ll use that term) does. They’re simply different ways of doing the same thing. A better way of stating your point would be “there are still a bunch of things done in some modern churches…” Notice that that includes family-churches as well. Many “organized churches” have things wrong with them, but not all. Many family-churches have things wrong with them, but not all.

            Lastly, even “organized churches” had their start not from human-run system, but from scripture. Just because churches have similarities doesn’t mean they’re copying each other. Many churches have deviated from scripture, but that does not mean that the entire system is wrong. And even the family-church is not identical to the early church. To compare family-church with “organized church” is preposterous because there just as many (even more) diversities within the “organized church” bracket as there are between that and the family-church. I would be interested to know exactly what you think is non-scriptural about some churches. I am certain that they would not apply across-the-board.

            I like that, in discussing this, we are strengthening and defining each other’s beliefs. It further grounds the beliefs on which we stand. 🙂

          • I completely agree that neither are going to be perfect;
            they are both made up of us sinful humans learning from our mistakes. I seriously did not mean for this to sound like a petty my-church-is-better-than-yours debate, so if I somehow conveyed that message in what I said, it was unintentional. I love talking (if you haven’t guessed that already) and my parents, siblings and enduring friends would tell you that I love debating and discussing things almost to a fault. Online, however, it is a totally different environment than talking to someone face-to-face. That is one of the many reasons I usually refrain from commenting, because you can say one thing online and it could be taken a totally different way. Writing online is impersonal and it hard to express emotions in writing, unless you are a talented and poetic author. I sadly have not been blessed with that gift! 😛

            Also, I just wanted to clear something up and make sure we are both on the same page with this. When I refer to the “church” I am referring to the hundreds of thousands of buildings across the United States. When I refer to “The Church” I am referencing us, the Body of Believers, Disciples of Jesus, and Followers of the Way. I believe you said something like this earlier, so I’m just making sure that we both agree on this so that we are not confusing each other with our terminology! 🙂

            After what I said at the beginning of this post, I am not going to sit here and list all the reasons my family have been personally convicted in that led us to seek out a different form of worship and living (although those two are actually synonymous) other that the expected and commonly accepted practice. I honestly don’t have the time or energy to write them out, as I have been the only person in my family not to get sick yet this last week, making for one very frazzled and both emotionally and physically tired gal. Plus, there is a 20-pound kid laying asleep on my arm right now, which makes for a very difficult time typing! And in case you were curious, I’ve lost feeling in that arm! 😛

            I will point out one thing, though, and that is the way the majority of churches are run. I know I am not an expert, but from the 4 times my family has moved and the 2-3 times we would change churches each time, I have been to some pretty different churches. But they all are set up like a business. We have all these maintenance costs, we are paying for secretaries and treasurers, and we even have business meetings to figure out the budget and to decide which pastor to vote in! No, I do not have a Bible verse that comes to mind that says, “Thou shalt not hold business meetings in thy church”, but my point is how much exactly is setting us apart from other corporations and businesses? Yes, I know that you can hardly avoid these things when you own a building, but my point is that I have a feeling this is a far-cry from what God wants us to be doing with our time, energy and money. So many things, from the pulpit to the special building, even to a designated person speaking to the public, stem from secular ancient Greek practices, not the Bible. Again, I am not calling these practices evil, I am just saying that pretty much everything we see today in the “organized church” did not stem from the Bible, except of course for the gathering of believers to learn more about God and how to live for Him.

            If you really are interested in what else I think is non-scriptural about the majority of churches, I would point you towards the book that helped me realize and understand a lot of things, called “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola. I have been meaning to get it again, as it has been a couple years since I have read it, and if you happen to read it, I’d love to hear what your opinions (good or bad!) are. Like virtually any other book, I do not completely agree with everything in it. I have yet to find a book of any genre like that, sadly. 😛
            I am upset that it seems I have come across as “anti-church”. It was never my intention, and I have learned from this that some things can just be thought about in the privacy of my own brain and home instead of going and sharing them on the internet! 🙂 I really did enjoy discussing this with you, Nathan! Here is to the both of us continuing to grow and solidify our beliefs, and to diversity, which helps us all sharpen each other! 🙂 Blessings!

          • Yes, thank you for a very profitable discussion! I too am not usually a fan of “debating” online, yet one of the reasons why I love this group of people on the Rebelution blog is that we can discuss without arguing. It’s great!

            Don’t worry, at no point did I think you were anti-church or anything like that. And it was not my intention at all to start a home-church versus public-church debate. If there was one point I wanted to make in the entire discussion, it was that not all standard churches are a result of pagan practices. Some are, but some aren’t.

            I’ll just say one note about the business-nature of a church, not to continue debate but just to emphasize my previous point. The Bible does in fact advocate a certain amount of church leadership (1 Timothy 3, 5, Titus 1, etc.). And in our country, even this amount of structure would require some business status at some level. In fact, any gathering of believers would require some talk of practicality. Even family-churches must have homes, budgets, etc. I certainly agree that some churches talk way too much about finances and other things. I won’t say anything about all churches, but I know that at my church, we don’t have any paid staff, nor do we have a hierarchy other than that instituted by scripture. I just use this as an example to emphasize my previous point, that not all churches act according to the standard.

            Again, it has certainly been a pleasure talking with you! I pray Christ’s blessings for you as he expands your family’s ministry! 🙂


    I full-heartedly agree with Liam on this. Evolution is anti-christian and easy to believe in, but not because of scientic facts. Here is why it is so appealing:

    1. Evolution teaches that God is not neccessary. Thus, if there is no God, you can do whatever sinful thing you want without fear of judgement. To many, that is very appealing.

    2. Evolution teaches that it is backed up by science and you have to be blind to believe in God. Well, guess what, Richard Dawkins, I can prove to you that evolution is scientifically impossible by using only scientific fact.

    3. Evolution is a slick lier. – The best lies have a little bit of truth at the surface. You see, what we generally refer to as “Evolution” is actually called “Microevolution”, which is the change from one organism (an ape for an example) to a completely different organism (a man for example). This is actually an unconfirmed hypothesis based on using a different theory, called Microevolution, and taking it further.

    Microevolution is the process of “Natural Selection” where the properties of an organism change to better fit its environment. At first, it doesn’t sound far fetched to say that this can be taken to the next level and become Macroevolution.

    But, if you look closely, you see that in Microevolution, the property change only occurs within the genetic code. You see, the genetic code acts like a “blueprint” for the organism, using the genes as “building blocks” or “materials” for the “house” (the body).

    But something important to know is that differant organisms have differant types of genes. So, while an organism can change to adapt to its environment, it cannot change to an entirely different organism, because it would require the organism to ADD GENES to its own genetic code.

    Um… last I checked, that’s not possible. That would be like a solar panel just appearing out of thin air because a builder needs it.

    But, sadly, many people believe this lie because it is hidden behind a truth.

    And to think that this is one of the MANY holes in the hypothosis of evolution that so many people blindly believe. It saddens me that people like “The Rejected” (whom Liam, Rachel and I descussed evolution over a few mouths ago) can so blindly believe a lie straight from Satan.

    In conclusion to all of this, I would like to propose that churches and parents teach the young people in our society to not accept God blindly, but instead to research for themselves why we believe what we believe. I know that my faith is grounded on fact, not blind belief, and that is why I study:
    1. So I can have assurence of why I believe what I believe for myself, to kill doubts.

    2. To tell others of this free gift of God without making Christianity look foolish because of my lack of knowledge of the truth.

    To sum everything up, it’s important to Do Hard Things and research instead of taking the easy way out and accepting everything you hear as fact. That’s what it all comes down to: Do Hard Things.

    God bless,
    Trent Blake

    • You are so right, Trent. We teens really need to search out the truth and think for ourselves. We have to know what we believe. We have to make the faith our own. I have just been realizing this more and more over the past year. I realized I just really didn’t know what I believed and I started getting panicky thoughts of, “what if someone asks me? will I be able to answer them?” I still am trying to figure it out, and my head feels like a bucket of gruel a lot of the time.

      So I echo your challenge. We need to Do Hard Things.

  • Our old pastor used to give us these statistics. In his sermons and in conversations, he mentioned it a few times. I think he wanted to motivate people to find ways to encourage the youth in the church to stay, but nothing got resolved, really. The youth in that church didn’t leave, though.
    I haven’t had much interaction with youth in church. The churches my family attends never had a lot of kids–teens–at the church. I was never involved in youth group much, either. But from what limited experience I have had, and assumptions resting around what other teens might be looking for in a church if they’re looking for the same things as me, I will try to share here. Bear with me, it’s hard putting these thoughts together.
    Growing up, my family church hopped a lot. We’ve attended 4 churches, and all except one we attended for 4-6, almost 7, years. At the one church where I was much more involved with the youth than I usually am, I noticed one thing: these teens did not take “church”(which included Sunday school, youth group meetings, and sermons) seriously. Especially during youth group, the object was fun. Play games. Laugh, goof around. And we’ll read the Bible for a few minutes, have a short chat, and goof off again.
    Looking back, the conduct of the other teens should have been concerning.
    So, here’s what I was leading up to with this. Would you agree that a lot of teens are Be personalities?
    Not like, type a, type b personalities. Be personalities, as in being. Do we focus on what we feel? Is it that we want to enjoy what we’re doing, and life in general?
    If this is true, and there’s a lot more I could go into to support this and show where we’re being encouraged in this by our elders, than is that what we’re looking for in church? Enjoyment?
    It sounds off, doesn’t it? Go to church to enjoy ourselves? But should church be an obligation? A duty? Tradition? Or should it be something we want to do?
    I’ll tell you something honestly. I love God, but I can do that outside the church. What’s the church there for, then? Why do I so enjoy attending church?
    Because of the people.
    I enjoy being around most people. When it comes to church, when it comes to the people, often it was enjoyable being around them. But more than that, at church, I love the people.
    That’s how it should be, isn’t it? (1 John 4:12; John 13:35)
    Church is about people. It’s about the body of Christ; it’s fellowship of the believers(Hebrews 10:24-25).
    So, think of this. Many, many churches take away from that. It’s no longer about people, or fellowship, or encouraging each other, or coming together to serve God or do His work here. It’s about legalism, for a lot of churches. Laws are their all-important. Rules, more accurately. Then, there’s the other extreme. There’s no laws. There’s you’re free and I’m free and we can do what we want and follow God at the same time.
    There has to be a happy medium somewhere.
    Church should not be cold and joyless and all about theology and conservatism and legalism. Neither should it be take Jesus as my savior and ignore what the Bible tells me I shouldn’t do. We can’t have it either way.
    Listen to this for some great thoughts about nominal Christians and why there aren’t any:
    For whatever reason teens leave the church, there’s two things to be supposed:
    They’re not really saved if they’re “shrinking back”(Hebrews 10:38). If the popular culture says to them, “Jesus is uncool” and they leave because of that, they’re not really saved. If their peers say to them, “Being Christian’s uncool” and they stop being Christian or want to not be Christian because of that, we can assume that they are not saved.
    It’s something we have or have not done.
    I know a young man who, after the Baptist church we attended split, stopped attending church, period.
    Things like that happen.
    Splits, and disagreements, arguments, bitterness, rips apart God’s family. It can rip apart the human unit of family, too. I’ve seen it.
    Our job in the church as Christians is to reflect Christ. It’s a hard thing–especially in the context of relationships with other imperfect people. And there’s a lot to it–there’s always room for us to grow.
    Jesus wasn’t cold–Jesus was joyful. Jesus didn’t sin–Jesus was holy. We’re sinners, yeah, but as much as God enables us to we can resist Satan, sin, and temptation, and be joyful in our imitation of Him as well.

    • That’s what I was coming up with: church is about the people. You said it better than I could have. Thanks!

    • Edit: Whoops! This was meant to be an individual comment. I didn’t mean to post it as a reply to Sadie’s comment. Sorry!

      Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read through all these comments, so if I’m just repeating what someone else has already said, my apologies. However, I really wanted to give my opinion on this topic.

      I believe there are two main reasons why the majority of teens are leaving the church. Two very simple reasons. Before I give those reasons, let me emphasize that when I refer to the church in this regard, I am speaking about the “visible church,” as opposed to the “true church.” The difference between the two is that the visible church is merely the offspring of the humanistic liberalism that has penetrated American evangelicalism for the past half-century or so. These churches may be made up of true believers and may indeed be part of the fellowship of the faith, but nevertheless, the fungus of apostasy is ripe in their sanctuaries. The true church is the true universal church that has not grown apostate. Although it errs from time to time, because it is the true Bride of Christ, she eventually returns to the truth in repentance and faith.

      Below are the two reasons I believe teens are leaving the church.

      1. The church has followed the secular principle of leadership which says, “if you want people to follow you, tell them what they want to hear, show them what they want to see, let them do what they want to do.” Because we are sinful creatures, we want to be like the world. And because the church has drowned itself in various programs, Sunday School, short-term missions trips, youth groups, children’s church, VBS, senior pastors, junior pastors, associate pastors, assistant pastors, worship pastors, outreach pastors and youth pastors, all for the sake of trying to be “relative,” they have degraded themselves to the extent that they no longer look any different than a secular book club, meeting every Sunday to study some ancient poetry. Hence, when teens look at the “church” and compare it with the world, there’s no difference, other than the basic principles established by the church on how to be a nice person. When a sinful person is given the option of spending their weekend listening to sermons and awkwardly making conversation with people they may not know or hanging out with friends and doing whatever makes them feel good, they will obviously choose the latter.

      2. I think this is really the root issue. The church no longer preaches the gospel. Sure, the pastor gives a “gospel message” on the first Wednesday of every month, but the true gospel of Jesus Christ is entirely absent in the church. As if the gospel is too complicated, we’ve dumbed it down to the point that if you just “Repeat this prayer after me…” you’re saved. No longer do we preach on justification, propitiation, the atonement, the holiness of God, the wickedness of man, etc. Instead of hearing, “You have sinned against God and deserve His eternal punishment, but He poured out His wrath upon His Son, Jesus Christ, so that you could be forgiven,” we hear, “God has a wonderful plan for your life! All He asks is that you believe and put your faith in Him.” How can they be saved if they never hear the truth? So the essential problem is that we are not preaching the true gospel; therefore, our teens are not being saved; therefore, they are leaving the church.

      “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

      The solution: Preach the gospel. Conform every part of the church to the teaching of Scripture and the testimony of the historic church. Stop telling teens what they want to hear. Tell them what they need to hear. Above all, preach the gospel.

  • I love what people are posting. If you don’t mind, I would like to add my input as well.

    We are living in an age where we are experiencing Christless Christianity (to borrow an expression from Michael Horton). In every church that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not being preached, there are the most drop-outs. The messages are all about morals. “Do this, don’t do that. Don’t lie. Always tell the truth. Don’t steal. Earn your own money. Etc.” Memorizing a list of do’s and don’ts is easy compared to what it takes to take up the cross of Christ. Also, some pastors say that if something is going wrong with you, then you don’t have enough faith, you didn’t “name it and claim it,” and you need to try harder. I’m not kidding! I would cringe if I heard a pastor boldly say that to someone who suffered from Hurricane Katrina or from other natural disaster.

    The kind of religion that teens are experiencing is, as Christian Smith put it, “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” Basically that statement says this: “There is a god who created the universe. He has a list of do’s and don’ts. As long as we are happy and feeling good, then we’re okay.” This mentality pervades our society, and unfortunately our churches. Instead of the saving news of Jesus Christ being the central message, it’s all about growing the church and how to keep the members.

    Some churches concern is, “What is the program that our church needs in order to grasp a teenagers attention?” I heard one parent of a teenager say this: “Teenagers have the attention span of three minutes. They can’t focus on a subject very long, so you need to interject the sermon message with video clips every three minutes just to keep them engaged.” I was absolutely shocked when I heard this. My brother (who is 17) can hold a 30 to 60 minute discussion on theology with me. Teenagers are way more capable than what I just quoted above.

    It is what Alex and Brett Harris have said in their book. Expectations have been lowered of teenagers, and adults are stooping down to their level, which is the wrong thing to do. Teens need to be challenged, and they are not today.

  • Many teens leave because they weren’t actually converted when they were “in” the church. They may have grown up being told what to say and how to act, but they were, at best, nothing more than spiritual chameleons, who, once out of the church environment, revealed what their real colors were all along.

    Sure, stuff like secular education, evolutionary theory, disillusion with religion (or religious figures), etc. factors in as well, but the fundamental reason is because they grew up going to church “dead in their sins” (Eph.2), and they graduated and left the church, still “dead in their sins.”

    So how do we keep teens in our churches? We pray, teach the gospel, pray, preach the gospel, pray, and live the gospel.

  • Your points are all correct, there can be many reasons why one many leave the church. Although actually more than 50% believe in evolution. I think it was 56% evolution and 44% Creationism/other.

  • As a children’s pastor of a large and growing, fun and lively church (at least imo), I have a question–for anyone really…

    What does this statement mean? “I had religion forced down my throat.”

    Were they made to go to boring classes?

    Did they not enjoy being at church EVER….or were they made to go to church too much, as in every time the doors were open?

    I hear that phrasing somewhat frequently, but I can’t imagine what it really means, and I’m sure it’s a little different for each individual. I was made to go to church as a kid because that’s just what my family did, and we went every Sunday and 1-2 evenings per week. It wasn’t terribly exciting to me as a kid and I didn’t even have a ton of friends at church…but I never felt like anything was forced on me and I never hated going. However, I did grow up in a denomination that teaches nothing but believer’s baptism, meaning nobody makes you feel bad for not being baptized. In fact, they really wait for you to make the first move toward baptism (and the Holy Spirit to work in your heart) …then they encourage you and answer your questions as best they can.

  • I remember at my old Church, growing up HS grads ‘d leave church not come back when they entered college, its a frightening & sad, fate, my homeschool grad, left the church, three half years ago, even she was at a Christian college for a while, she didn’t attend chapel that much, Answers from Gen, say that Sunday Schools ‘ve picture books for Sunday School, & some Sunday School Curriculms ‘ve kids/teens not ‘ve their Bibles opened, Church’s don’t ‘ve the word of God opened anymore, some church’s believe in evolution not creation, not re being taught how to defend their faith that’s what I believe what to happened to my college senior homeschool grad, Kaite, she was raised in a Christian home she was also homeschooled, yes homeschoolers re walking away from the faith, I heard it at homeschooling meetings, that children ‘ve left church never came back’., two Thrids of young people never return’., they Already gone, they doubt the Bible in Middle/High School small % in grade School’.,

  • Many youth don’t go to church to find God. They are either dragged or find they have a good time with friends in youth group. The relationship with God doesn’t seem to take root. Half the time the youth group never discusses how to become a Christian or how to read the Bible, pray, or make disciples. We often assume those attending know what we’re talking about and if they don’t, well their pride wont let them speak up about it. They’re not challenged and they are not discipled by Gods men and women of the faith. Many times we even become more concerned about how quiet the classroom is rather than their questions or understanding. The friends in youth group are seldom the friends they keep in school, so who’s training them up? Once or twice a week isn’t enough for growth and its an age where you are easily impacted by the world around you. There can be several reasons why someone might stop coming, but often its because the church isn’t looking like the church in unity and practice. Imagine what could be accomplished if we invested in this new generation…

    • Great points to think about!
      I agree that one or two hours a week isn’t nearly enough…isn’t that where mentors (we call them sponsors at our church) and/or parents should step up (if the parents are Christian)?

      • I find it extremely helpful to talk to good Christian adults/leaders in my church. I just had a meeting with my pastor today, and it is probably going to have a big impact on the way I live.

      • Definitely. 🙂 I believe that it is first a parent’s duty and privilege to disciple their children, then the church’s (presuming that the parents are Christian). Having a Christian mentor (or sponsor – I like the name – the idea of investing 🙂 ) invest in your life is so good, too, especially in the life of a kid who doesn’t have anybody else or has a difficult family life, or non-Christian parents. My older brother attended an academy several hours away from us. Though all the staff had it as there goal to invest in the students’ lives, one man in particular came alongside my brother, helped him, listened to him, advised him…. And it really helped my brother a lot. Another young man not too many years older than my brother befriended him as well. He had a cabin in the woods nearby and he and my brother and some of his friends would do stuff together. Having sensible, godly people investing in his life that way helped my brother make good decisions. They were there to encourage him, and help him when he fell.

  • There aren’t really that many good examples of devout teens (not counting you guys here) in the public school, homes, or even church. We all know that teens communicate better with other teens. The kids that grew up in church, are saved when they’re little, and go to church more than just Sundays can become lukewarm. (I’m not hating on church kids; I just observe my peers and think, “Shouldn’t they know better than that?” or “Aren’t they suppose to love each other and not be rude and tear each other down?” Just my thoughts.)

  • I just wanted to mention that public schools do not always influence christian kids negatively. I don’t think that kids stop going to church because of public schools; they stop going because they choose to. At the public school I attend, evolution is taught as a theory. They teach theories can change at anytime, meaning that no theory of how the world began can be scientifically proven. As for other influences, it all depends on what friends you pick. I think hypocrisy is a big reason why people stop attending church. That was a significant influence when my sister turned away from God.

  • Alex and Brett, I love these new discussion posts! I’ve been following The Rebelution blog for several years, have read both books, and was privileged to attend your last conference (what a life-changer!). However, today was my first time being active on the blog. This open discussion has inspired me. Thank you!!!

    • That’s great, Ruthie! We’re really excited about the discussion section too and your comment just confirmed that this is a great direction for the website. May God richly bless you!

      • Thanks Brett! I’ve actually been wanting to write an article for the blog, I just don’t know what to write about. Eventually, though….

        • That’s because he’s tearing it up at Harvard Law School! 😉

          He’s doing well — continuing to live the Do Hard Things message and proving how rebelling against low expectations as a teenager can really launch you into a lifetime of effective service to God. I’m proud of him and excited to see where God takes Him next.

          All that to say, I’m holding down the fort for now.

          • That’s awesome! Good for him!
            And thanks for asking, Sam, I had been wondering the same thing.
            I know God will work through Him there just as much as He worked through Alex here on therebelution and through Do Hard Things and Start Here.

          • Oh, that’s fantastic! After Alex finishes tearing it up (how many more years at Harvard does he have?), could he write an article about the Hard Things he did in Harvard law school?

            I’d especially love to know what he’s doing in Harvard because I’m very interested about what’s happening in our universities…. Universities are the prime battlegrounds for the nation’s hearts and minds! And Ivy League universities like Harvard used to be great Christian powerhouses, but now they’re not quite Christian (<– understatement). I’m praying for a Christian awakening in our universities! I guess it’s a pretty big prayer – but God is a big God and can work in us to do big Hard Things, right? 🙂

  • I listened to Ken Ham speak a bit about this about a week ago, this is on my memory, so it’s not perfect, but gets the moral 😉
    He said that 2/3 of the kids leave church when they enter college. Why? Because at church they learn Bible stories. And at school they learn evaluation, or facts.
    Now when you hear the word “story”, what does it mean to you? Most people will say fable or fiction.
    So kids feel like they are learning fiction in church, and fact in school.
    He mentioned that churches need to rise up and start speaking and teaching straight from the Bible. Don’t decipher it to where the kids get the goodie good stuff, they have to learn the whole story for it to make sense.
    Hope this makes sense.
    TW Wright

  • Here’s an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from Birmingham Jail — perhaps it might shed some light on the topic….

    “There was a time when the church
    was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being
    deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was
    not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular
    opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
    Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became
    disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being
    “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the
    Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of
    heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were
    big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically
    intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such
    ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are
    different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice
    with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far
    from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the
    average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even
    vocal–sanction of things as they are.

    But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no
    meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose
    disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

  • So I realize that after about 50 comments, there’s not much that I can say that someone hasn’t already said. I think that the points made by Sam, Trent, Liam, and others sum things up pretty well.

    However, as a Sr. High teacher at my own church, I’ve been seeing firsthand why youth eventually leave the church, walk away from their faith, etc. As I’ve said elsewhere, these things mostly come down to a worldview. Frankly, after being taught Evolution and entrenched in Darwinian religion and philosophy (yes, it is both), Christianity doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

    To youth in this generation, Christianity is nothing more than a moral add-on to life, and only affects aspects of life by offering a high moral standard. Think about it. If asked, “How does your faith impact your schooling?” most would reply something to the effect that they don’t cheat, lie, etc. because they are Christians.

    Basically, Christianity is optional. It may help you to be a better person, but it’s still optional, because you can have a fully successful life without it. That’s why I see so many flippant expressions among our youth. It does’t really matter. It’s just what you “believe.”

    Greg B. made a fantastic point, too. Many teens of the church aren’t really saved. They may seem like it, they may even think it (that was me). We can’t just assume that those who have grown up in the church are saved. There is so much more to this topic, but my comment is already longer than it really should be….

    • No, Nathan! I love what you were saying. (Not that it’s what we want the hear, as Christians.) You’re right so many “Christian” people seem to think that living like a Christian is optional. If we love God we will keep His commandments.

      • I would expand it to say that not only is living like a Christian seen as optional, but even the entire idea of Christianity itself. I’m sure that many teens “believe” in God and Jesus Christ merely as a moral example, not a historical and scientific certainty. That’s what is seen as optional. Not merely the commandments, but the entire belief system itself.

        • I should really add that Christ isn’t merely a “historical and scientific certainty” either. That’s a view that limits Him to simply a concept or force. In reality, He is a historical and scientific certainty and a personal and active God, caring deeply for His children and working in their lives each day. A view of either, but not both, is detrimental. Sorry for stating the former but not the latter; that was a mistake.

  • I think another reason why teens leave the church is because they see Christianity as a set of rules instead of as a relationship. Teens love to rebel against rules. Unless they develop a relationship with God which makes them want to follow the rules he set for their benefit, they will leave their faith.

    • Completely agree with your point, Casey! Though not all teenagers love rebeling (stereotype that is pounded into our heads), the temptation is still there. It will always be there, so long as Satan is at work. And so, we must always be on our guard and show others how God’s word isn’t simply a list of rules, but how it makes our lives better rather than more restricted.

  • I think that teenagers may leave the church for a variety of reasons, especially when they move out on their own. Some of my theories, and possibilities:
    They honestly don’t have time, whether they do daily devotions or not, because of college/internships/work/social commitments/family commitments, and they don’t feel capable of adding another commitment to that list.
    They don’t feel like the church they’re in is helping them grow, or they don’t feel welcome in the churches they attend or try
    They have had a bad experience with a leader or friend at church
    They were pressured to go to church all the time as kids, and want to figure out their talents and god-given skills beyond the church
    They feel as though what is being taught is not true to what they study in God’s word
    They don’t feel as though they have a strong support system from family or leadership in the church
    And yes, they are surrounded on all sides by a secular world that disapproves (understatement) of Christianity. They must fit in at some fundamental level to function in society, but the degree of such compliance being demanded is more than they feel they can handle.
    In short, teens are feeling pressure from all sides as they come to the edge of youth and adulthood, and give up what seems to take less precedence in their lives in that moment, ie. youth group, bible study, small groups, etc.
    As sad as this is, it is true.
    I would rather see teens and young adults turning to the church for support rather than away, in such a time of change. If we as a church are more welcoming and supportive, and offer words of wisdom with LOVE, rather than simply contradiction of sin and wrongdoing, then we may bring more people back to the Church as a support system in their walk with Christ.

  • I’ve considered leaving Church this past week myself. Not because I’m not a Christian, (I am) but for two reasons:

    1. I felt like the Church had actually hindered rather than helped me on my path to find salvation. I once confused religion to be an essential part of salvation, but I realize it wasn’t entirely the fault of my church, but from other influences as well. Influences that stressed praying so much, and memorizing so much scripture, and the more religious aspects of Christianity that made me feel like I wasn’t a Christian because I wasn’t as steady in my religious practices as some. (I still don’t know the first thing about fasting) I had several misconceptions about salvation, and Christianity. I’ve sometimes wondered if I would have been so confused if it hadn’t been for church. I don’t know.

    2. Lately I’d been studying the New Testament, and the more I read about the early church, the more I saw how changed is the church of today, and it’s role in the lives of Christians. For the first time, I started wondering if going to church “because respectable Christians did” was a good enough reason.

    I knew that God wants us to be part of a family of believers, but I didn’t know if we were going about it the right way. Maybe that’s why even believers leave church these days, because they have a problem with the way church operates. (Speaking generally, it’s often more like a club than a community.)

    There are some good things I’ve learned from the sermons, and hanging around the people of our congregation, especially the elderly, which make up the majority.

    There aren’t many people in our church. The funny things is, there are many Christians in America, but there are many divisions among the body of Christ, and we weaken ourselves through them. If a few tiny churches got together, casting aside their differences, and resolved to follow scripture instead of doctrine, they could do so much more.

    The reality of the church today troubled me (still does) a great deal.

    Then last Sunday I talked to twelve year old Emily after a church gathering. She’s closer to my age than anyone else at church, (besides my siblings, and her brother who is 14) and I’m 19.

    I talked with her about Creation, heaven, and (get this) what the angel’s (the one who guards the way of the Tree of Life) flaming sword looks like. I wondered what it looks like because when Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, man had not yet made swords. Does it look anything like the swords we think of today?

    I digress…my point was that I realized hat even though modern church is not quite like the church described in scripture, and is corrupt, divided, and sometimes even hypocritical, until we make it better, (or Jesus returns:) I will most likely attend one anyway. Church is not perfect, (far from it) but then neither am I, and as long as it is not teaching false doctrine, and as long as we understand that all religious instruction is not to be left in the hands of the church, I think I shall attend, because the fellowship, though small, is worth it. Without fellowship we are fighting alone.

    • You’re right, Mallory. The church today isn’t exactly set up and based on the foundation that it was in the New Testament. Ecclesia, the name originally called the body of believers who would gather in each other’s homes, thrived because of that fellowship and most importantly, because it was all based on scripture. Today, so many (at least the many I have attended) are run more like businesses than friendly gatherings. I really am not bashing church or trying to make it sound bad when I say these things. You’re right, we can learn much from the sermon, talking with the elderly (I enjoyed doing that a lot!) and I know that when I left church I always felt ready to take on the world. I also feel that way when I finish my own little 5-minute bible study every morning when I wake up, so it just goes to show that whenever and wherever we spend time with God, it is strengthening us! 🙂

      “Fellowship” was one of the words that people in our extended family frequently used when expressing their worries about us quit the Sunday scene. “How are your kids going to learn about Jesus?” “Where are they going to make new friends and socialize (you homeschoolers will read this and laugh!)?” “Don’t you know it’s good to gather with believers and worship?”

      When we first stopped going, I threw a fit for weeks. Tried to make my parents feel guilty. Argued consistently, always picking fights with my parents. I wish I could say that I just trusted their judgment and accepted
      that they were doing what God was telling them to do for my family, but I didn’t at first. To be honest, I was more upset about not getting to dress up once a week. I was upset that we’d miss the fun mini breakfast before services when the few kids there would all run around playing. Can I be completely, embarrassingly honest? I even thought that not going to church on Sunday would make me miss out on meeting my future husband one day! I was distraught. Now I feel oh-so-silly about it.

      Fellowship isn’t a science, as so many people make it out to be. There is not a minimum or maximum amount of people you need, or a designated
      spot to participate in it each time. Being in fellowship with one another means encouraging and sharpening each other, and sometimes that can be more easily accomplished out on a coffee date with your friends than in the 15 minutes you have before the sermon starts. Whenever you invest time and energy to encourage fellow believers, that is true fellowship. Just something to throw out there for you. 🙂 I actually got shivers when I read your last line, “Without fellowship we are fighting alone”. This is at least how my family views fellowship, and that is why when people question how much we “fellowship” I giggle, just trying to name the large amount of friends and family going in and out our home all the time. 🙂

      I loved how you noticed something you weren’t sure of, and decided to go to God’s word and seek answers. I wish I was that mature all the time
      and it made me look up to you. 🙂 A book that really helped me is Pagan Christianity, by Frank Viola. He basically deconstructs the entire church system we have going right now, in an attempt to realize that “tradition” and “doctrine” aren’t always “biblical”. He has another book that I am really excited about getting, called “Reimagining Church” that constructs and talks about how we can get back to the organic Church of the New Testament. I would definitely check them out, and if you end up reading them, get back to me about what you think! 🙂

      • I really enjoyed your comment! In my opinion, a lot of people think they are having “fellowship” just because they go to church. I think real Biblical fellowship is what is missing in a lot of churches, or at least many people aren’t participating in it.

      • Thanks Carolyn! You’re so sweet! (I wish I was that mature all the time too;) I’m not ready to give up on church yet. I think change can happen, and the books you recommended sound good! I’ll look into them, and I’ll definitely get back to you if I read them! Thanks a lot!

        By the way, you are blessed to have so many friends who live nearby and can come and visit you! There aren’t many like-minded believers where we live, so church for us is one of the ONLY places we get fellowship. (I try not to complain;)

    • I was reading this conversation earlier today as it was happening, but I’m only now getting the chance to chip in. I’d like to try to make a few points:

      Think about the formation of the church of the New Testament, as Carolyn pointed out well. While I’m not going to say that you have to stay in the local church, I’ll look at things in a different light. The local church was created (established scripturally) as a group of Christians meeting, fellowshipping, hearing the Word, giving, and oftentimes singing together. What difference would cause the local church today to be something to be abandoned? Well, nothing really. Unless it was doing these things wrong. This leads me to the next point.

      So if a church has allowed tradition, divide, or the twisting of scripture to corrupt what it does, what’s the right move? Well, if it doesn’t look like change is gonna happen, leave. Seriously. But that doesn’t mean leave all churches. Just find a different one that teaches scripture! I’m not saying that it’s necessarily bad to “church” at home; it just usually results, among other things, in families fellowshipping with very like-minded Christians, lessening the diversity of fellowship.

      Also, if you “go to” a church, it’s not truly a church. Like the universal Church is the body of Christ, the local church is a body of believers. It’s not a place to “get.” In fact, it’s not a place at all. It’s a group of givers, working to expand the Kingdom of Christ. If you start with a New Testament definition of the church and expand it to accommodate the vast number of Christians in the world today, the modern church is not a far fetch. Lastly, there are churches that operate scripturally. Find one, if yours is not. No Christian’s perfect. The early church wasn’t perfect.

      If anyone disagrees or have points to share, please tell me. I’d rather have to clarify something or be introduced to a scripture that I hadn’t thought of than for someone to misunderstand what I meant. (I keep feeling like I have to write a book every time I write a comment… 😉 )

  • As I understand it, there are two major problems:

    1) We are not being taught that the Bible is true. From the earliest class in Sunday School, the Bible is taught as a collection of “stories.” The Bible is really full of facts! The Bible is true. It is historical. But it is not being taught this way. On the other hand, non-Biblical ideas are taught this way – evolutionary theories, for example, are given as facts. What teen wants to believe in “stories” instead of facts? While stories may ring with truths, facts are true. Facts are the stuff you can build on. We need to know that what we are being told to believe is truth.

    2) We are not being given the why. We are not being told why we should believe, just what. We are not being given the reasons, the foundation. If we know why, and what it is built on, we have a foundation. Foundation provides security. When you are secure, you are not blown about by every philosophy and wind of doctrine, so to speak.

    3) We need to know the whole gospel. The gospel is being dumbed down, and that is dangerous. Salvation is a serious issue – life or death! It isn’t about God having a wonderful plan for your life – though He does! It isn’t about Him being a loving teddy bear – though He is Love! The gospel is about us sinning, us deserving death, and Him sending His Son to bear undeservedly the unbelievable weight of all our sin. We need to know the truth.

    Okay, so that was three. 🙂 Though I haven’t had time to read everybody’s comments yet, a bunch of other people on here have already said things similar to this, or made really important points. The points Trent Blake made at the end of his comment were very good, and I really agree with points made by TW Wright, Christopher Kingsley, Jacob Nicholson, and Greg B. to name a few.

  • There are so many possible reasons for teens leaving the church as they reach adulthood that it’s hard to wrap my mind around it all. I think a major reason is a lack of a close relationship with Jesus. When you aren’t grounded in Him daily, it’s so easy to be swept along by the things of this world.
    I think it’s important to challenge yourself in your teen years in the church. When we head into the world on our own, our beliefs will be challenged and questioned; it’s best to ask those difficult questions when you’re surrounded by people who will help you with them and encourage you to get into the Word to seek God for the answers. But if we never challenge ourselves, we’ll find that our faith is seemingly easily torn apart by the world.
    For those that don’t enter adulthood with a sincere love–a passion–for God and a prepared mind, it’s a bit easier to understand why they ultimately leave the church. Easier to understand, but just as sad.
    Just the few thoughts that come to mind at the moment. God bless. 🙂

    • My ministry goals are about working with those that feel Christianity is Anti-Science. I started to help build Biblical foundations for young people so that they’d understand that Christianity is a combination of Faith and Facts, and that we don’t ahve to throw out the science that shows clearly there is a God. Actually, on December 5th and 6th this year, we’re holding our first Faith and Facts conference in Gresham, OR (Sound familiar?). There is more information about it on my website, but it you’re in town you and Alex should come if you’d like.

  • Isn’t it absolutely horrible how many ways satan gets people out of the flock! He causes division, the teens to disconnect and many more things. 60% of teens leaving the church is just one example.

    My dad just did the devotion for our, ummm… well it’s not a youth group, it’s just guys grades 6-11 that come for a devotion and to learn a skill, there is like 9 guys that come. Anyways, he talked about 1 Peter 5:8 which states:

    Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (‭I Peter‬ ‭5‬:‭8‬ NKJV)

    Reading ahead actually states that this is directly for the younger people:

    Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (‭I Peter‬ ‭5‬:‭5-11‬ NKJV)

    I’d say that this solves the problem, of course, here it is right in front of me, in the bible. If everyone were to do this it would be right, just right.
    The point of this was to say that the devil is seeking whom he can devour, which indirectly states that he can’t devour just anyone. If that is true, the virtues mentioned in this passage probably define a person that he can’t devour. He’s looking for the weak and sickly in the pack, it must often be us, the teens which have those qualities spiritually all-to often.

    Still seems kinda hopeless for some, but maybe for others it can be used to rise up and do the hard thing, the right thing. ~Grant

  • I think the main reason why young people leave the church today is because they have never been given an opportunity to truly meet Christ. They are raised being taught everything, but it is all just theory and religion. And they hear different theories and religious ideas from all different angles. How can they know what is true if they have never experienced it. We have to taste and see that the Lord is good. They have never tasted.
    They need the opportunity to make their faith their own, to meet Christ for themselves.
    I know for myself, traveling to foreign countries really did this for me. I was alone in another land where I did not speak the language, away from all that was familiar. I learned to know Christ in a way that I never had. He was all that I had to turn too. He became my best friend in a very real way. I lived in an entirely secular society where it never seemed to occur to people to pray or attend church. This drove me to love Christ more, as I saw how patient He is with this world and with me. I saw a godless society and what it looks like, sickenly hopeless without Him and so very violent.
    I hated coming back to North America because as I said to a friend, I don’t really need Christ here. I have everything. It is horrible to say that, because in this land of affluence we truly do need Him more than anything. But most young people have never really felt their need of Him. They can only find this by being in a place where they really do need Him and meeting Him there. This is why they leave the church, they never knew God to begin with.
    Thankfully, and yes I say this honestly, thankfully, I have enough heartache in this part of the world to keep me close to Christ. And no, I don’t want to wish suffering on people, but I think young people today have had too easy lives and have too grown selfish.
    If a person has not truly experienced Christ they either will be a great Pharisee or else walk away. This is the very real truth.

  • I think the most popular answer woud be unanswered questions. My family left our church and began a home based ministry when I was eight. After only a couple of months of this, I began seeing the startling and pleasant differnce between the intimate, open-air sermons at our house and the lectures at our old church. I was allowed and encouraged to ask as many questions as I wanted (which was a lot), and I learned so much more that way. My family still visits other churches regularly, and every time I attend a service I feel the same sort of stifling because I usually have something to say or a question to ask, but rarely do I actually get an opportunity to act upon my curiosity. I think churches could keep many more members if they structured services simliarly to a panel discussion rather than a lecture.

    • That is one of the exact same things my family struggled with! When we stopped going to services on Sunday, we still continued to go to the bible study they held once a week, and the environment was so different! It was casual, laid-back and like you said, you could ask as many questions as you wanted. It is the same way when just my family worships together. We have the opportunity to be flexible, and that usually means we listen to a sermon, read devotions or just listen to worship music and dance like crazy around the room together. 🙂 My family left the church 2 years ago, and the only time I have been back since then was when I went with my grandparent’s to their church. I almost went crazy from how many times we’d have to stand up, sing a song, sit down, listen to announcements, stand up, pray together, sit down, listen to a sermon without asking questions for 30 minutes, and then close again with prayer. I’m not critiquing this church or any other church’s structure, but I had never realized the structured patterns churches had until I experienced something as flexible and casual as home church.

  • I’ve had the same question myself! I’ll have to spend some time reading all those comments. 🙂
    I have heard that if a young person has 5 Christian adults influencing their lives as they grow up, they are a whole lot more likely to stay in the church when they get older. Maybe we should start doing “hard things” that will make that possible for more people…not sure how that would work, though. But it would be good–I think less people would separate themselves from the church as adults if they were discipled and mentored as young people.
    Also, we can influence our peers to stay involved in the church by setting a good example and encouraging them.

    • Yes! When people in the church actively take youth under their wing and mentor them to do what they do, and invite them to be part a a ministry and that community, that keeps people

  • Just was twiddling around by a bookshelf and ran across a book on the topic. 😉 “The Last Christian Generation” by Josh McDowell. I scanned through it. It looks pretty solid, covers the issues and gives solutions. Just throwing it out there. 🙂

    • That book and “Already Gone” by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, which came out more recently (and I have already seen mentioned).

  • One big thing that has kept me in my church is community. If I did not have friends in church, there would have been many periods in my life where I would have stopped going. I think it is important for church leaders to see young people as potential leaders, and to have them involved. For example, my worship pastor noticed that I had a sharp ear and trained me to use the sound system at church, and soon after I was serving on Tuesdays for practices and on Sunday mornings. This built a lot of friendships in the church. I think when churches are clicky or condescending towards young people it really turns them off.
    I also wanted to talk about acceptance. My church is located on Long Island, and we are literally a block away from where people regularly hang out and smoke tobacco, weed, and drink. At first, we saw these people as a nuisance, people who were very loud and annoying outside during out youth meetings, but then we saw that these were people who were just like us but tried to fill their hurts with drugs instead of looking to God. Sometimes, I think the church is too judgmental. Jesus came to earth to love people. We began having bbqs for them and now we have almost 30 new people coming to our youth group. It isnt our job to judge

    I may have rambled for a bit, but I think that inviting people to participate, and being open and accepting are the two key things here,

          • A bit off topic, but something cool we are doing in our church is that our worship pastor owns a studio, so we have been recording songs that we, the worship team have written and have seen a very positive reaction from the congregation. I have been working with him and two of my friends to work on mixing the songs after he taught us protools. Its very cool

  • Rather than being focused on the ‘loss’ of the kids when they reach a certain age, it might be helpful to view the ‘gain’ of people when they have small children and those small children getting exposure to the gospel when they are very young. Like Sam says, “We need to become serious about our faith.” For most people this happens outside of church, in the pig pen, as in the prodigal son. God is extremely capable of getting our attention when we are not safe in church. So many people go to church and go through the motions but don’t actually know Jesus. This frightens me more than the number of people who aren’t going.

    Just a different perspective…

      • Two more thoughts I’ve had since I wrote the above post:

        1) I think teens leave because until they were old enough to freely transport themselves, going to church wasn’t their own personal decision.

        2) Equating ‘going to church’ with ‘being right with God’ is presumptuous, particularly in a society that doesn’t persecute Christians. It’s very safe to go to church in the U.S.

  • I think most teens try to skate by on their parents faith and they never really make it theirs.

    it’s easy to go to church just because your parents do. it’s easy to become a christian just because your parents are. But you have to make it your own faith. You have to have your own walk with Christ. You can’t use your parents walk or your siblings or friends walks with Christ.

    And also along those lines they might not have had a good firm foundation for their faith. and when they got to collage they were shaken and the door was opened just a crack but Satan still managed to get in and distort their faith.

    And like Sam said Christianity isn’t a vary popular belief in the secular world. Unless you go to a christian collage their professors aren’t christian and some are perverted. i heard stories of professors like that.

    So yeah i hope that helps a little 🙂 that’s a really good Question thanks for posting it Alex and Brett 🙂

  • If people leave they can’t be that attached they might love GOD but not enough to stay but sometimes it’s likely they might have gotten married or just moved at that moment now if they leave and don’t go to church it’s incredibly tear-jerking that no matter what they learned they quit

  • I believe teens when they become adults leave the church in such large amounts is because of what they live by, what they’re concerned with, and what they want. Everyone should desire God and want to live a Holy life but kids and teens alike decide what they want. It’s as simple as choosing what they want for breakfast. Even though their parents might take them to church and make them do all of this Holy stuff it’s not like they’re doing it because they want to. I don’t like going to church even though I know it is wrong to think that. I was baptized a Catholic and therefore should practice my Faith. There is a sheet that came with my Confirmation folder and it says, “Confirmation completes the grace of Baptism by a special outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which seal or “confirm” the baptized in union with Christ and equip them for active participation in the worship and apostolic life of the church.” But I don’t want to be sealed with Christ. Some of the things that the Faith teaches I find hard to believe and accept. Some people take these things more seriously and that causes them to stray from God’s side. Teens can also have a grudge against God for some loss of theirs. After everything that is going on in this world it is hard to believe that there is God and that he did all of the stuff he did. Even though there is proof and the Bible we find it hard to accept anyway. Teens may put stuff in front of God and then think, “Well this is more important than going to church for an hour. I HAVE to do this first!” It seems to grow more common every day that people stray from God and His church. And those are the reasons.

    • Yes, the answer would have been yes. LOL.

      I am not taught these things that I say or rather type.

      Hmm…I believe Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the Holy Being who saved His people. He is the Son of God and one with the Holy Spirit.

      May I ask why you would question?

      • Oh, okay!
        I understand why you asked that question now. It makes total sense. One of my relatives is very interested in knowing about my Faith so I understand perfectly.
        You are correct that some Catholics don’t believe some stuff which is sad but I believe most practice and believe. Everyone will have doubts on it like I do but I’m young.

        • I believe it’s because of my life. More my problem. I was given up when I was a baby and they say God can do anything. I blamed Him because he could’ve changed it all. Now I still struggle with my adoption and my relationship with others but it’s not as bad as 3 yrs. ago. That is the main reason but I also have personal stuff I don’t wish to share but I can say that I have doubts just because. I mean what if something hadn’t been as it was. Does that make sense?

          • I’m not a Catholic Clare, but I have my doubts too. At this stage in my life I question and analyze everything, including what I believe. This used to upset me, because if I was truly saved, why would I have doubts? Now I understand that it’s okay to have doubts, as long as they drive you to look for answers, and look in the right places. I search my Bible for most of the answers I need, and knowing what I believe makes my faith so much stronger. If you have doubts, I would encourage you to investigate the scriptures, pray, examine yourself, and search for answers. If you allow them to go unchallenged they will continue to haunt you and weaken your faith. John 8:32 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

          • I am adopted too. If I hadn’t been, I would have died where I was because my birth family couldn’t take care of a serious birth defect I had. In addition, I wouldn’t have learned of the free gift of eternal life and salvation through Christ Jesus. I don’t always believe that God knows what He’s doing which is foolish since He is omniscient, omnipotent, and Omni-benevolent. Also you can trust that God has the best plan for you if you are truly His child, because He dearly loves them and sacrificed the most important thing He had, His only, beloved son, Jesus Christ to prove it. Checkout Jeremiah 29: 11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

  • Because they do not OWN their faith. They borrow it. From their parents, their friends, their youth pastor… If you have a teen take hold of their faith, pursue Christ ON THEIR OWN, study ON THIER OWN, share with others ON THEIR OWN, lead in some way… this is a teen who will not leave the church, even if they move away for college or military service.. The first thing they will do is look for a way to get “plugged in”>

  • The answer is plain and simple. Teens are usually forced to go to church. When they get older they want to be free from it. They may do it to escape the judgement of the people at the church. But who knows their reasons? We can only guess.

  • the reason is simple… christianity is just a superstition, it is fake, and in this era of information young people aren’t kept inside a bubble, they encounter different people, different cultures… and ask themselves… why should christianity be the true religion… and not this other one that parents of my classmate worship ? also they know that millenia ago, way before christianity existed, their ancestors worshipped another religion now long dead but not forgotten… why the religion of the ancestors should be considered wrong, after all christians always talk about old times, old values… and there isn’t anything older than the religion worshiped even before christianity existed…

    i have a suggestion for you dear christians… considering muslims kill people that leave their fate (their sons are introduced into religion when they can’t understand like it happens for christianity too)

    why don’t you just do like them ? did you know that christians used to kill apostate too ? in middle age… during that time christianity proved to be popular… almost noone dared to leave it… and if you inform yourself about catholic religion you will see that they would persecute and kill even people who were christians but not catholics…

    do you want people to stay christians ? you may as well take the dust off… and put into action the old traditional christian customs of persecuting and killing whoever tried to leave the faith or even just putting it into discussion….

rebelling against low expectations

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