Since I joined this program, I have read numerous blog postings, newspaper articles and engaged in discussions about why young people are leaving the church. The fact is that thousands of young adults leave the church every year. Among my immediate friends who I grew up with in youth group, maybe one or two of us consistently attend church. I know that most young adults eventually come back, but why are we leaving in the first place?
I haven’t left the church, and I know dozens of fellow young adults who haven’t left either. The young adults I know still attending church are truly amazing people who are passionate about God, passionate about church and Church and passionate about sharing God’s love with the world. We want to change the priorities of the global church, stop bickering about theological technicalities and challenge Christians to live out God’s kingdom on earth.
This conversation must start with a critical examination about why young adults are leaving the church and then turn to how the church can “get” us back. As I see it, young adults leave because:
- Hypocrisy. The church says one thing, generally along the lines of “love thy neighbor,” but then does another, “except you and you and you” for reasons it decides and people it decides who do not “deserve” God’s love. Whereas, none of “deserve” God’s love but we all have it. The ultimate beauty of grace.
- Inactiveness and inattention to the suffering surrounding it. Young adults, including myself, want to DO something when we see suffering, not just talk about it. God calls to help the poor, care for the sick, feed the hungry and fight for the impoverished. The church loves to talk about these things, but does NOT like to DO stuff about them. The church needs spend some money and respond.
- Not being real. Christianity discusses serious concepts and asks hard questions of its followers that we do not need to have all the answers to, but rather than acknowledging this difficulty, the church ignores it and uses “glossy” worship services and gimmicks to avoid the hard topics.
Those reasons are the challenges facing the church today according to me, but I also think that the church can and is in some cases change directions and “win us back.” Through:
- Creating real community. For me, church should be about community and young adults need and want that community. A lot of us move to new cities without any friends and struggle to make connections, but again we do not need or want fake community, a community that secretly or not secretly judges us for our drinking habits, sexuality, clothing or our professions or lack thereof. We need a community that is inclusive, loving, and supportive. The church creates this community and then welcomes young adults into it.
- Putting us into positions of leadership in a real, not token way. Don’t assume that because we are “young,” we lack life experiences. We might not have children, or a house, or a career, or be married, but many of us have dealt with serious loss and/or accomplished great things. We bring a new and truly needed perspective to discussions.
- Engaging with the community. Local churches need to find a way to respond to some need and just go for it. Find a project, support it, and make it happen. God wants the church to respond to human need and suffering, so God will guide the church in these projects.
Young adults are not the future of the church. We are the church, and we want to be a part of it right now. So let’s stop talking about it and change it!