New research has found that nearly three out of every five young Christians disconnect from the church after age 15.
The five-year study was published last month by the Barna Group, a research organization that focuses on interactions between faith and culture. It was conducted with young adults who were active churchgoers at some point in their teenage years. The study identified reasons for the trend.
Shaped by a culture that values open-mindedness and tolerance, young adults want to find areas of common ground. Three out of 10 young Christians said that “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths.”
“The church doesn’t make room for those who are different. This is in contrast to the sub-culture represented by this generation, where being different is sometimes seen as a badge of distinction,” said Professor Hubers of the religion department.
The study also found that many young Christians find church to be antagonistic towards science. Thirty-five percent said Christians are too confident they know all the answers.
“The church is reaping the seeds of anti-intellectualism it has planted,” said professor Mitchell Kinsinger of the religion department.
Twenty-three percent said they are not comfortable expressing significant intellectual doubts about my faith in church.
“Even Jesus doubted,” Kinsinger said. “In the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked God, ‘Is there some other way to do this?’ If Jesus can doubt, then let’s be honest about our doubts.”
The new statistic on young adults abandoning church isn’t surprising for senior religion and music ministry major Simon Campbell.
“I think the model that we’re operating under at this point in time is lacking participation and involvement that brings us into a long-term relationship,” he said.
Both Hubers and Kinsinger believe that by weathering this challenge, the church will continue to grow and evolve.
“The church has gone through these kinds of situations before, including when I was in college,” Hubers said. “It always finds a way to survive and thrive because ultimately God is in charge—not us.”