Church Drop-outs: Why They Leave, Part 1

Rick Mattson Church 2 Comments

David Kinnaman

Recently a concerned mother approached me at a church where I’d spoken and told me a story, versions of which I hear often:

“My son announced that ‘he can no longer believe in the Christian God.’ He’s walked away from the faith. He used to be involved in youth group, a worship band, family devotions, Christian conferences, evangelism . . . Now he wants nothing to do with it.”

According to various reports and studies, young people are leaving the church at higher rates than ever before.

Just Google Christian leavers or Ex-Christians and you’ll find plenty of troubling material.

Or read books and studies by Kinneman, Dyck, Campbell/Putnam, Clydesdale, Smith, Wright and others who document the “leavers” with extensive personal interviews.

So why is it happening? Why are so many young people dropping out, walking away, de-converting?

Conventional wisdom would say “moral compromise”:

Sarah went off to college and started partying. Feeling guilty and hypocritical, she “changed her creeds to match her deeds.” She no longer believes because faith in Christ doesn’t fit her lifestyle.

And maybe that’s part of the answer.

But according to a Christianity Today article* by Drew Dyck, many folks in their 20s and 30s leave the faith due to factors inside the church. 

He summarizes: “Most leavers had been exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith.”

I agree with this assessment, and next week I’ll offer my own theory on the matter.

* Subscription required to see the whole article

Comments 2

  1. This rings true. We raise kids in a cocoon faith, keeping them safe. When they are young adults, they don't want safe. They want adventure, even danger, in their faith as much as in anything else. If the church does not have it for them, they go to find it somewhere else. Instead of protecting them, the cocoon destroys them.

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