Stop Running Them Off!

Recently, I’ve talked to far too many parents whose children have flown the faith coop. They hit the age when they are living in limbo somewhere between a teenager and adulthood and the’ve disappeared into the black hole of the church.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of them aren’t just disappearing, they are being run off from the church that should be ministering to them. We’re wounding the ones we should be wooing and they are leaving by the droves.

So…why are they leaving?

Because they were told they didn’t…
…sing a song right like they did in the ol’ days
…wear the right clothes
…wore too much makeup
…wore their pants too tight
…wore the wrong hair styles
…sing the right songs
…read the right version of the Bible
…bring their Bible to church

Or because they…
…had tatoos
…had piercings in something besides their ears
…texted while in church
…played their music too loud
…weren’t on time for church service
…were goofing off in the parking lot
…wrote something inappropriate on Facebook
…became sexually active
…became pregnant
…smoked cigarettes

That’s right… they didn’t conform to what a good Christian is or what a good Christian does and so they were scolded, berated, badgered and belittled. Made to feel like they don’t belong and so they slammed the church door behind them in search of somewhere where they will belong.

(Uhhemmm…. Maybe they didn’t ACT like a good Christian because most of them aren’t Christians yet!)

Perhaps you’ve seen this phenomenon in your own church experience. Maybe you heard someone shun the ones they were supposed to be ministering to and then wonder why they left the church.

Statistics tells us that over 80% of teenagers leave church after graduating high school and slip into the black hole of the church. Only a small percentage return before they are married and have children of their own and the percentage of those who return after they are married and have children is almost as small.


While today’s post focuses primarily on why the majority of young adults say they leave, there are a host of other reasons why these 18 to mid-20 somethings leave, as well.

Some other reasons they leave are:
…they observe ungodly relationships between Christians
…watered down Gospel
…secular worldview taught in colleges and universities
…normal teen search for identity and significance
…church experience was completely entertainment oriented not discipleship driven
…boring and irrelevant church experience
…Pharisaical demands not based in Scripture
…because they aren’t Christians yet and they are doing what unbelievers do (not going to church)
…because there is nothing age appropriate for them when they step out of the youth department

But why are those precious souls packed with potential and in need of Christ leaving YOUR church?

I think it’s time the church puts itself under the microscope and examines why it seems to be losing the next generation.

Yes. The enemy is real and is trying to devour our children.
Yes. The secular worldview is being ingrained in our children’s brains.
Yes. They are young and need to find their own faith to be as real as their parents.

BUT THE NUMBER ONE REASON THEY LEAVE IS BECAUSE OF THE HYPOCRISY IN THE CHURCH!

Legalism and liberalism are hurting the cause of Christ more than anything else.

Legalism is often to result of Christians creating doctrines out of what is really preferences. Legalism not based on the Bible but on man’s skewed version of it.

Liberalism is often the result of Christians attempting to make the road wide that Jesus said is narrow, embracing sin and making an excuse for behavior that doesn’t honor God and makes people wonder what difference Jesus made in someone’s life if they act just like the world.

When those we are supposed to be loving to Christ and ministering to are wounded by our words and assualted by our attitudes they leave thinking Christianity can’t be real.

When we treat them as less than the masterpiece Christ created them to be we give them a skewed view of Christianity and cause them to wonder where all the LOVE, MERCY, FORGIVENESS and GRACE is.

When we judge them they flee, when we love them they flock. Remember, Jesus is the Judge. We are the earthly hearts, hands and feet that are supposed to be loving them to Christ.

While the world is vying for their attention and beckoning for their souls, we must realize that they are in a very precarious state. What do they believe? Does the way we treat them and the way we behave with each other convey that Christ has made a real difference in our lives?

They want to believe. Our job as Christians is to give them reason to.

May you and I never be someone’s excuse for NOT becoming a Christian!

This has been heavy on my heart for years, sweet friend! I’m tired of seeing our children’s faith damaged at the hands of those who are supposed to be doing everything they can to win them to Christ.

Jesus tells us we are to love the unlovable, to love even our enemies. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Scripture says they will know we are His disciples by our love for one another.

Sweet Christian, may we filter our words, our actions and our reactions toward everyone… (INCLUDING these young adults) throught the lens of 1 Corinthians 13! And if we can’t, may we keep our mouths shut and our attitudes to ourselves.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

It does not demand its own way.

It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

What about you? Have you noticed the same thing? Have you been frustrated or infuriated by those who are running our young people away from church instead of loving them to it?

8 Comments

  1. So good! Thank you, Stephanie! I have been thinking about this very think in the past month or so. Mostly due to my own pharisaical thinking. There is so much talk about things being a heart issue, mostly to do with how much money people give. But that got me to thinking about EVERYTHING being a heart issue! So why do we have all these goofy expectations and rules when the whole Christian life is a heart issue? Where we are in the growth path is not necessarily seen by others, or even meant to be seen, except by the ones who are doing the journey with you (your close, intimate friends) and the one who is discipling you.

    Perhaps the real problem is that we were never made disciples because no one really knows what that means. So we fall back on all the do's and don'ts that we make up as we go along.

    I am hoping that as my local church body goes through a period of repurposing and reforming in this next year or so, that we will address this stuff.

  2. Jean ~ When a church does some rethinking and reforming, it can be a good time to get back to the biblical basics of what the church is called to do and who we are called to be.

    Praying for you now, my friend!

  3. WOW! Preach it my friend! That is truth spoken. The sad thing is that I am sure beyond any doubt that I have been in one of those categories at one time or another and feel ashamed at the times I have judged. I am going to repost this because I think all Christians need to hear these truths and then THINK!

  4. So great! I have reposted this as well. It is a wonderful message. Thank you for sharing! Jen

  5. Sister girl…preach it…I am listening and that would be a big amen! Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  6. A reconfirming post! So many reasons in this post that we church planted! Love your heart.

    We are finding that so many people are returning to church as young, married adults with their own children, just as you stated. They left due to the hypocrisy in the church buildings… it's our responsibility CHRISTIANS to remind them and show them the grace of Jesus!!

    How can we expect to “waller in” (roll around in, relish, soak up) the grace and mercy of God's love, yet not share it and show it to others? That's pure sin.

    Thanks for sharing, friend!

    Love you big!
    Melissa

  7. Anonymous ~ I was definitely in the 'preaching it' mood when I wrote that. My heart breaks for those who have been sent out of the church door instead of doing everything they can to keep them from leaving.

  8. I saw this link on Kristine's blog. I read what you have said. After 15 years of working with students, 4 years as a youth pastor and 11 years reaching out to at risk students in the public middle and high schools, you are right on. I am mentoring an at risk young man now, who is a resident in a youth home near my home. After spending 4-5 hours at our house this past Friday, he said on the way back to his residential home “Mr Hulett, one of the reasons I respect you is that even though you're a Christian and I am not interested in religion & God, you do not treat different than anyone else”. He mentioned earlier in the day, “people, house parents and everyone else is always preaching at me”. He said “but you don't”. The issue is, if our life does not demonstrate Christ, nothing we say will. That is what our youth are rejecting “we do not demonstrate what we believe”. Thank you for your courage to challenge others with this important issue.

    John Hulett, Power Zone Agency, john.pzayar@gmail.com

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