I am putting the final touches on my first book (co-authored with my father). The tentative title is Essential Church. The bulk of the work is based upon a three-part research project on why 18-22 year-olds leave the church and how to get them back. The manuscript deadline is fast approaching, and the release date is planned for Fall 2008.
Before the book is released, however, I want to give you guys an opportunity to interact with some of the findings. We’ve found that 70% of those that leave the church do so between the ages of 18 and 22. While more is detailed in the book, let me introduce three myths about these dropouts:
The influence of the secular university has pushed them away. Wrong – State universities and colleges are not to blame. No significant difference exists between the dropout rates of those who attend at least a year of college and those who do not. For those that attend college, 69% of active churchgoing youth stop attending church for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22. Yet 71% of active youth who do not go to college stop attending church during the same period. It’s a statistical tie – the college itself is not prompting students to drop out of church.
High school students are planning to leave the church once they go to college. Wrong – Students are not planning to leave the church. Our research reveals that an overwhelming majority (80%) of high school students do not plan to leave their church once they graduate. Conversely, only 20% of high school students have preconceived notions to leave the fellowship once out of their parents’ nest. Students are not fleeing the church because of deep desires for personal freedom. Nor are they scheming to leave once out of the house.
The scandal-happy media has disenchanted our youth. Wrong – students are not leaving the church because of the attention given to recent scandals surrounding several well-known pastors and churches. While a media melee usually accompanies these large scale evangelical failures of church leadership, students do not leave the church because of them. In fact, only 15% of those who feel displeasure with the church say it’s because of a moral or ethical failure of the leadership.
What’s your take? What do you think about some of these research findings? Do any of you have any myths that you feel are prevalent in our churches surrounding this generation?