The Church Attendance Tug of War
The folks over at the Pew Research Center got my attention today. They reported that people who attend religious services weekly tend to be happier than those who do not attend or attend less often. This correlational pattern crosses denominational lines.
The finding seems to make sense. I hope that what people discover in their churches would push them to the only true joy and contentment found this side of eternity – a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The problem is that many spiritual teens and young adults who are searching for this true joy are not finding it in our churches. As addressed in one of my previous blogs, 70% of those that drop out of the church do so between the ages of 18 and 22. These students aren’t lacking in spirituality. In fact, the older they get, the more interested in all things spiritual they become. A recent UCLA study found that college juniors are more likely to be engaged in a spiritual quest compared to when they first entered college as freshmen.
But this rise in spirituality does not equate to more church attendance among students. Attendance among students actually drops from 43.7 percent in high school to 25.4 percent in college.
We’ve got a major religious tug of war on our hands: some aspects of church do make people happier, perhaps because they think (and rightly so) that their questions will be answered by attending a church. But the church leaves our students wanting. They don’t get the answers they need. So they drop out. The happiness they thought might be found through the church is a surprising dead end on their spiritual journey.
Tonight many people will go to a Christmas Eve service. It might be the only church service that they attend all year long. I am praying that the many churches holding these services tonight will connect with all ages, but particularly the younger generation. It’s time to stop fighting against ourselves and embrace a huge opportunity to bring in a generation that is searching for Truth.