Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Survey Says:

Despite innumerable surveys and research on the subject of why young people are leaving the church pastors and leadership boards still sit dumbfounded as to what to do about it. By twisting the avalanche of research data available ministries can reach just about any conclusion they want to support the claim that their particular ministry is the answer to the problem.

Many recent articles are referring to research done by LifeWay.

Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research is quoted as saying this: "There is no easy way to say it, but it must be said. Parents and churches are not passing on a robust Christian faith and an accompanying commitment to the church. We can take some solace in the fact that many do eventually return. But, Christian parents and churches need to ask the hard question, ‘What is it about our faith commitment that does not find root in the lives of our children?’"

6958EB: Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them - eBook Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them - eBook

Lost and Found presents comprehensive research about and in-depth interviews with young men and women ages twenty-five to thirty-four who have never really been churched. The findings, such as how open this generation is to spiritual things, will surprise church-based readers and break some long established assumptions and opinions.

Expert church culture author Ed Stetzer (Breaking the Missional Code) also examines the congregations that are effectively reaching the younger unchurched and how they are doing it. Any church that is concerned about outreach to this generation will discover principles and methodologies to learn from and adapt into their own ministry.
A new book by creationist Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis gives data from a commissioned survey from Britt Beemer of America's Research Group.

515297: Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop ItAlready Gone:
Why Your Kids Will
Quit Church and
What You Can Do
To Stop It

The survey data is important but Ken Ham falls off the deep end, leaving the data far behind, insisting that the root of our problem is that we don't teach creationism. But not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, here is a brief synapses of part of Britt's data (The data that supports my own twisted conclusions naturally. Hey, why should I be any different that anyone else?):
  • 90% of people who've left the church made the decision to do so in in the junior high school years.
  • The reasons given most often: boring church services, legalism, hypocrisy of leaders, too political, self-righteous people, not relevant to personal growth.
  • Both surveys point to data showing that the 20-35-year old's have a deeply felt need for spirituality. They want a relationship with God. They don't think the church, as an establishment, has the answers.
Why has this happened and what to do about it:

I'm sure you've noticed the blank looks on the kids faces as they suffer through another church service aimed completely at adults. Lets face it, adults give the money. We want them satisfied. In this time of tight budgets the first thing that's cut is the youth guy. "Lets get an intern, they're free," I've heard elders reason. The lack of resources aimed at our children's spiritual development is shameful.

On the other hand, parents attending churches that do have youth programs have completely abdicated the responsibility of discipleship of their kids to the 20-something youth-dude or the Sunday school teacher. In fact the data seems to show that Sunday School and youth group is having a detrimental effect.

On this point the researchers and data seem to agree. Ham says, "If you, as a parent, have been putting the responsibility for the religious education of your child on the church's Sunday school, you need to realize that the statistics say the job isn't getting done. As we have seen, in many cases and for many different reasons, it's not helping, it's hurting. This is your job. Do not totally delegate it to someone else -as, sadly many parents seem to do."

OK, digest that. In the next blog entry we'll talk about what to do and what resources are available.