Christian Piatt at Red Letter Christians has a list of “Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church.” He goes into more depth for each point, but here are his theories as to why young adults (“we”) turn away from the faith:
- We’ve Been Hurt
- Adult Life/College and Church Don’t Seem to Mix
- There’s No Natural Bridge to Church
- We’re Distracted
- We’re Skeptical
- We’re Exhausted
- I Don’t Get It
Even though he’s speaking to a mostly Christian audience, he makes some really good points. #2, especially, is worth at least a few seconds of your time.
My guess is that most of you are thinking Piatt forgot the most obvious reason people leave church: They figured out God doesn’t exist. Ok, so maybe that was just my first reaction… They realized Christianity bases its entire foundation on a lie. The story the pastors are preaching just isn’t true. You can do all the community building and hand-holding and schedule changing you want — it’ll amount to jack once people realize there’s no god out there.
But from the perspective of real, believing Christians who get disillusioned with their faith, that’s not the reason they walk away.
As fun as it would be to pat ourselves on the back and give ourselves credit for Christians leaving the church, we don’t deserve it. Turns out the Church just keeps shooting itself in the foot.
David Kinnaman explored this in his book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith.
After conducting extensive research, he found out that 59% of young adults left the faith for any of six different reasons:
- The Church is too insular — They tell you everything outside the church is bad and wrong… even though young people know that’s not the case.
- Church isn’t important, relevant, or interesting to the younger generation.
- Christians are too anti-science.
- Christians are sex-negative, wrongly pushing abstinence-only education and avoiding frank discussions about sex.
- Christianity is too “exclusive” — you’re either one of them or you’re the enemy.
- Christians are hostile to those who doubt any part of the faith.
While some of those reasons lean in the direction of “Christianity avoids reality,” none of them outright say people stopped believing in a god or an atheist convinced them to walk away from faith.
There’s also an upside to finding out we’re not as effective as we can be. It means we have a new goal to achieve: Let’s become the #1 reason people leave the church.