I have the arduous privilege of working in the arena of higher education where young people regularly come and go from the church. Mostly go, actually (they leave).
Of a plethora of studies and literature out there about the millennial “exodus” from the church, here are three articles that may be of interest:
Overall, the picture isn’t pretty:
- The segment of “nones” (religiously unaffiliated who still believe in God) is increasing dramatically in America.
- Catholic and mainline young people are leaving the church at high rates.
- Evangelicals aren’t far behind.
On a contrary note, Ed Stetzer at CT notes that many millennials eventually come back to church. That is, they go on hiatus, not permanent leave.
The solutions? How to stem the tide? Stop the exodus?
To summarize the research and suggestions from church leaders, kids are more likely to stay in the church if the following five elements are present:
- Adult Relationships in the church. Kids need more than just their parents.
- Mission trips and service projects. They need tangible experiences of serving others in the name of Christ.
- Integrative discipleship: where faith is brought into relevant areas of life such as school, work and sexuality.
- Parents who model an active faith at home. We can’t just drop kids off at church.
- Bridge to a campus ministry: For those that go off to college, they must get involved in Cru, Navigators, InterVarsity, etc.
Regarding #5, a new resource called Campus Ministry Link helps students entering college find a ministry at their school of choice.
My thought is that a whole series of factors must come together to keep young people active in the faith. Even then, however . . . no guarantees.