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Jan 8, 2010

A Generation Leaving Church

I touched on this briefly in my last entry, and I thought that it really deserved a more in-depth look: I refer to the so-called trend that is my generation leaving the church, and more particularly the Christian reaction to it.

I have spoken about the leavers from the home schooled portion of my generation in the past: here. Then I had only discovered the Botkin sisters: and they had covered the subject at length.

You only need to google "generation leaving church" or any other number of terms to realise that the phenomenon of "generational loss" is a very real fear that all of the denominations, from Catholic to small fundamentalist home churches, have. The strange thing is none of them can fully agree as to why it is happening. Mind you, they haven't been able to agree for 1500+ years. So really, nothing new there.

Ken Ham of AiG fame (or infamy) has written a book on this so-called phenomenon which claims (read blame) it relates directly to the poor quality of the sunday school lessons, and other influences from friends to music. I post the first chapter stressing that well, for starters it compares the numbers leaving to the black death or some other epidemic :-O!!!. However, even he admits the numbers are skewed. He writes:

We selected those between 20 and 30 who once attended conservative and “evangelical” churches. We wanted to look at the churches that claim to be Bible believing congregations with Bible-preaching pastors. According to Barna, about 6 percent of people in their 20s and 30s can be considered “evangelical.” This is about same as the number of teenagers (5 percent).4 The results from Britt’s research would undoubtedly have been more drastic if we had considered more liberal congregations.
We deliberately skewed the research toward conservatives so that we could all understand that whatever problems showed up would be much worse for the church population in general.

In my experience, those from a more fundamentalist background will and are, leaving in greater numbers. Many of them leave due to legitimate problems in the church: abuse, restrictive lifestyle etc: the basic problems that affect all of the fundamentalist spectrum from aeons past to present. I would disagree with Ken with his point about liberal congregations: I think liberal congregations are holding onto young people and, if anything, are garnering more members. Whilst conservatives deny on the one hand that it is a popularity contest between them and the "liberals", on the other they seek to downplay, or completely refuse to see that which is blatantly obvious: the liberals do hold the majority of the youth market. It is all a numbers game: and I am coming to think the conservatives are beginning to show their game face and true intentions.

Ken wishes to make the curriculum used in Sunday Schools more creationist/conservatism based...which he believes would lead to more people staying true to the faith's principles. I don 't think so. I grew up in a mostly Sunday School free environment, instead we attended the adult church, and that did not stop me, nor my brother from questioning and ultimately, leaving our faith.

To be frank, if you need to keep people in the church by restricting their choices/experiences even further, it is clear something isn't right. It's been proven time and time again that restriction and more fundamentalist teachings don't make people stay: and those that do stay out of fear or a sense of obligation.

The more I read online, the more I feel for those in children's/youth ministry. They are bearing the brunt of blame: with people criticizing everything from their curriculum to personalities. And even the parents are judged and found wanting. The blog, World From My Window (Part 1 and 2) is particularly judgemental on the poor parents. With judgement like this, whom would want to stay? I for one, wouldn't: and I know many others have made the same decision as I because of the same reasons/issues as I.


Jo

3 comments:

Debbie Reynolds said...

I think every generation has a 'leaving' of the church. I know I did. Eventually I came back but not to the strict teachings I came from.

shadowspring said...

"To be frank, if you need to keep people in the church by restricting their choices/experiences even further, it is clear something isn't right. It's been proven time and time again that restriction and more fundamentalist teachings don't make people stay: and those that do stay out of fear or a sense of obligation."


So well put. Kudos again. =)

Laura said...

People really are leaving the church in higher numbers than previous generations. Looking at the projections for the next 100 years is dismal for congregations everywhere.

I read a book once that blamed people leaving the church on parents not playing enough worship music around the house for their kids. ?? wtf?! lol. One thing nobody suggests is that the system doesn't work. It's always something external with the church or internal with those who leave. Nobody seems to think it may be something internal with the church. The closest I ever saw was a book on hospitality that talked about how cold church people were to visitors and new members. It's still about church and not the religion, but it was pretty close, and in it's own context, pretty accurate I think.

Nicely put in any case.

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