The statistics continue to pour in. Six out of eight teenagers who are active in their church will abandon institutional churches in their twenties.

Thats right. Even good church kids in good church families who show up on Sunday mornings and enthusiastically participate in the whole array of youth stuff: events, trips, classes, sleepovers, small groups, camp outs, etc. are much more likely than not to walk away from it all once they leave home

Whats going on here?

5 Responses to Disengagement

  1. toby says:

    We have noticed after 12 years of huddles that kid’s faith is often not their own. The kids were living their family’s faith or even their community’s faith and never truly developed their own relationship with Jesus. The challenge for us was to help them develop their own personal relationship with the Lord before they left for college.

  2. James says:

    Personally, I don’t think the challenge is helping kids develop a personal relationship, but rather opening their minds the fact that faith is not static and life will not necessarily continue to be a happy-go-lucky journey. They are being shipped off to college with experience in being passive engaged with their spirituality – attending worship, attending organized events with pre-arranged interactions, etc. There is no true mentoring, or preparation for where they should headed in life from a spiritual perspective. Americans love to talk up college preparation, career preparation, job training, etc…. where’s the life preparation? Where’s the practical living like Christ training? Where are the spiritual mentors to help kids transition from passive Christianity, to living their faith and taking on responsibilities in the kingdom? I agree kids learn to live the faith of their parents and community, but often they don’t live it, they experience it… they need to learn how to transfer that experience to their own life and interaction with their new community.

    Though perhaps I am mincing words… personal relationship versus personal faith.

  3. Matt says:

    Toby and James-

    Thx for stopping by. I can see both of these things happening, and that they are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    The more troubling thing to me is: what has changed from – say – 20 years ago when being “churched” as a teen was virtually a guarantee that you would continue in a faith walk within an institutional church.

  4. James says:


    If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the underlying cause for the change over the past 20 years has to do with 2 fundamental things…

    The erosion of the adult as a de facto respected member of a teen’s world.
    The continual erosion of youth, as children transition quicker from concrete thinking and consequence driven responsibility, to abstract thinking and personal decision driven responsibility.

    Those 2 things have a common bond; they are both rooted in a mindset that questions everything, taking nothing at face value. Adults lose their default authoritative role when kids news reports about relatives abusing children more often than strangers, or reading about CEO scandals, and watching political mud-slinging. The educational system rightly teaches kids to use analytical thinking (not rote memorization) in school in order to improve reading skills, math skills, and to understand history. Kids don’t check that tool at the door when they come home…

    Probably more of a comment than I intended… but my $0.02 since you asked.

  5. Matt says:

    Great observation, James. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For the man. Or lack thereof, is very likely at the root of the problem.

    This brings me back to Toby’s remark – are Christian parents encouraging their kids to come into their own, owned relationship with Jesus – or do they just want to force them into their own ideas of faith. Could that be at the heart of the problem? An unwillingness to let (or even encourage) kids’ faith to grow in different directions?

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