We have known for a while that teenagers are exiting the church leading up to high school graduation and into college, but little has been written in regards to solving this issue – until now. Ed Stetzer with LifeWay has just completed a research study that identifies the factors that move students away from the church and what draws them back as they near the age of 30. The research report can be read in it’s entirety by clicking here.
Here are some of the excerpts for Stetzer’s research study and report:
“To remain in church, a person must have experienced the value of the teaching and relationships at church and see the relevance for the next phase of life.”
“Relationships are often the glue that keep people in church or serves as the attraction to begin attending again following a period of absenteeism. Many people are deeply influenced by friends and loved ones.”
Although they only represent 30 percent of those who attended a Protestant church for at least a year in high school, young adults who stay in church through ages 18-22 see the relevance, benefits and purpose of the church now and for their future.
The two most frequent reasons young people stay in church relate to the relevance of church: “Church was a vital part of my relationship with God” (65 percent) and “I wanted the church to help guide my decisions in everyday life” (58 percent).
Half of those who stayed in church recognize benefits and say, “I felt that church was helping me become a better person” (50 percent).
Forty-two percent remained in church because they were “committed to the purpose and work of the church. The vitality and everyday relevance these young people experienced in church is a stark contrast to church dropouts who wanted a break from church and felt unconnected.”
About two-thirds of those who leave (the church) do return at some level.
This return to church after being gone for at least a year is primarily the result of encouragement from others.
Combined, 50 percent of those who return were influenced by the encouragement of either family or friends.
“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?’”
As documented in this study, relationships, partnered with participation and passion for Jesus’ mission, are critical to retaining the younger generation.
One of the great communicators on the importance of relationships in ministry is Bill Allison (founder of Cadre International). For years, he has been training church volunteers and leaders how to maximize relationships in ministry for kingdom impact. The training is titled Ministry is Relationships. This training for volunteers and church leaders is coming to the Philadelphia region in October or you can bring this training your region by contacting Cadre International directly.
To review the Stetzer’s entire report click here.