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Young Christians leaving church and why

Young Christians leaving church and why

The Barna Group, an evangelical Christian research group, looks at why young people are leaving church.

USA Today published the Religion News Service report:

Why do young Christians leave the church? New research by the Barna Group finds they view churches as judgmental, overprotective, exclusive and unfriendly towards doubters. They also consider congregations antagonistic to science and say their Christian experience has been shallow.

The findings, the result of a five-year study, are featured in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, a new book by Barna president David Kinnaman. The project included a study of 1,296 young adults who were current or former churchgoers.

Researchers found that almost three out of five young Christians (59 percent) leave church life either permanently or for an extended period of time after age 15.

One in four 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church.” One in three said “Church is boring.”

Clashes between church expectations and youths’ experience of sexuality have driven some away. One in six young Christians said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” And 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Catholics said their church’s doctrine on sexuality and birth control is “out of date.”


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Paul Woodrum

A couple weeks ago, a perceptive high school age young woman whose parents attend church every Sunday volunteered she didn’t come very often because there was so little support from her peers. Those of us who came of age in the 50’s and 60’s had tremendous support from our peers, from churches still coasting on WW II piety and a society that didn’t provide much else on a Sunday still benefiting from blue laws.

Going to church was one of the things one did. There were youth groups, summer camps and Canterbury Clubs. College chaplaincy had its own desk at 815. One felt odd if they weren’t part of this, not odd because they are.

Now little of this survives. It’s difficult for young people especially to buck the trend and in this period the church just isn’t trendy and I doubt all our tinkering will much change things.

Lois Keen

Ditto the Episcopal Campus Ministry at the University of Delaware in the 1960’s.


Well, strangely enough Ann, I never did. I’ve credited it before and I’ll credit it again: a GREAT Episcopal Campus Ministry program at UC Davis (in partnership w/ St Martin’s, Davis CA), 1980-84. Made me an Episcopalian lifer, when I probably would have drifted away…

JC Fisher

Ann Fontaine

So all youth are leaving church – regardless of place on the spectrum. Doesn’t everyone?


I’m interested in the finding that young people find congregations antagonistic to science. Though I don’t imagine that is much of a factor in the Episcopal Church, I think it is going to be a larger and larger factor in Bible-inerrant churches as our species’ necessary reliance on science to understand what we have wrought feels more and more urgent.

Jan Adams

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