Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Do Our Kids Leave the Church - Part II - A Possible Solution, Step 1

(Pictured at the right- "The Church Board")

The problem, which is well stated in Michael Bell’s article on Imonk, is that about 85% of the youth raised, who leave the church, do so by age 23 . . . never to return. I will add another statistic that one survey showed that 88% of kids raised in Evangelical churches, eventually leave. I want to move on and talk about some of the solutions, in my humble opinion.

As I mentioned under my personal caveats posting, I have tried and failed in the past. I am confident that others, who are far better gifted than me, could (and do) have a far more significant impact that I have had. I keep hearing rumors of these wonderful church situations that seem very healthy. I’ve been involve with seven churches since I’ve been married. I hand selected them as the best ones in each community. Yet, they were all typical of the churches that continue to hemorrhage the youth and in each one I ran up against the wall of traditional evangelical culture.

I will also mention Hope T.’s comments (three posts ago) that she hopes that her kids DO leave the Church. To expound her point, I agree, the 80% figure also captures youth who still consider themselves Christian, but have found that they can not function within the traditional Church. They may become what I call, The Donald-Miller Freelance Christians (DMFC). Most pastors, including my own, are extremely opposed to this concept. Of course they are opposed because they are deeply invested in the traditional church model. I would add that in my perspective, I don’t think the DMFC is the ideal . . . in the perfect world . . . however it may be the lessor of evils in many circumstances.

I know for one, my son Caleb (if he ever settles that he is a Christian) would have to find an extremely unique church before he would be involved in it. However, I do see him as this DMFC. The typical evangelical Church would drive him nuts . . . to the point of leaving the faith again. He can not stand the farce factor that he sees in most churches.

With that said, I want to launch out on how I would approach this problem, within the traditional church. I want the make the point that I think there are some legitimate and more radical approaches to the problem that would mean completely disassembly of the traditional church and starting over fresh. But the approach that I will describe will mean working within the traditional church.

A second point is that even with the best approach for our youth, still a substantial number will leave Christianity and there is nothing we can do about that. But that number could be more like 30-50% rather than 80%.

I will conclude this post with my step 1 and I will keep it brief. I will set the scenario that I am a full time youth pastor and I’ve been hired to help a large evangelical church (Grace Community Church) to reach their own youth because 80% + have left the church in previous years. Since this is fiction, I will make my character far more gifted in these areas that yours-truly really is.

Step 1: I would have a long, 2-3 hour informal meeting with the pastor. Then I would meet with the church board. I would drive home a few main points.

A. A huge issue at stake here. It is time to take radical steps to make a real difference.

B. You HAVE TO TRUST ME!!!!! I am theologically orthodox. I believe virtually the same things that Luther believed. Please don’t assume I am a heretic, a liberal or a new-age Christian with every choice that I make.

C. The American Evangelical Culture is an idol. Most churches worship this idol more than they do the true God of the old and New Testament. The whole church needs a deep repentance from worshiping this idol. I will not hesitate to violate principles of this idol but you must trust me . . . I will try very hard never to violate true teachings of scripture.

D. The boundaries of what we are allow to do can not be set by the most legalistic, anal-retentive, American Evangelical Subcultural worshiping 5% of the parents. They have the freedom to pull their kids out and find a new church that matches their unfortunate positions . . . and those churches would not be hard to find. There is virtually one on each corner.


Anonymous said...

I really really like this.

"LET US THINK" is sort of my cry for those leading the evangelical ghetto.

We will never keep our young people (and many of our no-longer-young-people, too) if we make them choose between belonging to Christ or using their brain.

MJ said...

I agree.

Anonymous said...

The boundaries of what we are allow to do can not be set by the most legalistic, anal-retentive, American Evangelical Subcultural worshiping 5% of the parents. -- MJ

This is called "Tyranny of the Professional Weaker Brethren."

It's the Christian version of the "Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended" that's caused so many problems since The Sixties.

Headless Unicorn Guy

Anonymous said...

A "little" correction for you.

You write: "The problem, which is well stated in Michael Bell’s article on Imonk, is that about 80% of the youth raised in the evangelical Church leave it by age 23 . . . never to return."

In fact it should be: Looking only at those who are raised evangelical and leave (never to return), 85% of these will do so by age 23.

That is not to say that 85% leave, the number is much lower than that. But of those who do leave, almost all will do it when they are young.

There are relatively few mid-life crisis of faith in Evangelical churches.

Mike Bell

MJ said...

Mike, your point is well taken and I will made the correction. I think I may have mixed up your stats with some that I've seen before (and on imonk) that around 80% of kids, raised in the Evangelical church leave. But since I'm referring to you specifically, I will correct my statement. Thanks for the correction.