Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The "Real" Reasons Youth Drop Out of Church?

I recently stumbled across this article by Ed Stetzer about why youth drop out of church. It came out about the same time as my own series of blog posts on the subject, but is from a Pentecostal perspective and uses a different set of research data. According to this source, for Pentecostals:
About 70 percent of young adults ages 18 to 22 stopped attending church regularly for at least one year.
And it should be noted that we found almost two-thirds of those who left in our Protestant study were back in church by the end of the study.
So they kept 30% of their youth and 70% went missing but almost two-thirds of those (which would be 46% of the original) come back. This would be something under 76%. The NSYR classifies Pentecostals with Conservative Protestants. According to the NSYR, Conservative Protestants retain about 64% of their youth through college. Perhaps Pentecostals have slightly better retention than Conservative Protestants; perhaps the NSYR caught more of their people before they returned.

The article also reported:
We also asked young adults why they dropped out of church. Of those who dropped out, about 97 percent stated it was because of life changes or situations.
This is partly in line with what the NSYR reported although it is broken down a bit differently.

Stetzer also reported a break-down of the reasons that youth gave for leaving:
  • They simply wanted a break from church (27 percent).
  • They had moved to college (25 percent).
  • Their work made it impossible or difficult to attend (23 percent).
About 58 percent of young adults indicated they dropped out because of their church or pastor. When we probed further, they said:
  • Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical (26 percent).
  • They didn't feel connected to the people at their church (20 percent).
  • Church members were unfriendly and unwelcoming (15 percent).
Fifty-two percent indicated some sort of religious, ethical or political beliefs as the reason they dropped out. In other words, about 52 percent changed their Christian views. Maybe they didn't believe what the church taught, or they didn't believe what they perceived others in the church to believe.

Firsthand faith leads to life change and life-long commitment. More specifically, 18 percent disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues, 17 percent said they were only going to church to please others anyway, and 16 percent said they no longer wanted to identify with church or organized religion.
One of the things to notice is that reasons overlapped. Respondents gave multiple reasons for dropping out. The Pentecostal study has different aims and categories of analysis than the NSYR. I would categorize the responses as falling into one of the following categories:
  • A major change in their life broke their routine (48%)
  • They were offended (58%)
Only a small percentage (18%) left for what might be categorized as intellectual issues, but the survey categorized them as political or social reasons. That strikes me as a more useful assessment. The survey apparently did not question whether sin or the desire to sin played a role in the decision to leave.

What we see again is that there are multiple reasons for leaving and that intellectual issues are not a very big reason for youth leaving.