Why Youth Leave the Church
Introduction “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world! ” (Education, p.271).Wow, what a statement.
This is probably the most well known statement by Sister Ellen White concerning the youth. These words are so powerful and motivating, that they inspire the imagination to look forward to it’s fulfillment, to the day when this army of dedicated Christian young people will be spread out around the world to bring the message of Jesus’ soon return to everyone.
I must confess that simply the thought of this sends shivers down my spine. I am, however, forced to question whether this dream will ever become a reality. The church, it seems, is facing a dilemma, in that we are losing the youth. Many of our young people are leaving the church, and in seeking to answer the question of why this is happening, I would like to share with you the resource that I believe to most accurately describe the reason for the youth leaving the church, as well as what to do to stem the flow of this widespread desertion. Recommended Resource(s)
The main resource that I believe to be the best and that I would like to recommend, is the book, Why our Teenagers Leave the Church, written by author Roger L. Dudley. I will also be referring to two other resources that I used, both of which is based on the above mentioned book. The first and most important is an article with the same title, and by the same author. It is basically a condensed version of the book, and it covers the basics of the research done, as well as the results and what can be done to prevent the youth from leaving the church. The second is a sermon by Pastor Dwight K.
Nelson, titled, Primer for the next generation: XNY 101. In the sermon Pastor Nelson briefly explains how the study was done, the results attained, and the remedy to the problem. I will now proceed to discuss the two secondary resources (Article: Why our teenagers leave the church; Sermon: Primer for the next generation: XNY 101), based on the premise of the primary resource (Book: Why our teenagers leave the church). Primary Resource Roger Dudley’s book is the culmination of an expansive 10 year longitudinal study, where the author traced the lives of about 1500 teenagers as they grew up and, often, grew disillusioned.
According to his book, Dudley asserts that 40 to 50 percent of Adventist youth leave the church before their mid twenties. Secondary Resources Why our Teenagers leave the Church (Article) As was mentioned previously, the article is a very condensed version of the book, and it goes straight to the point. The purpose of the study was to attempt to discover the extent of the church’s loss of it’s young adults. According to the article, 40 to 50 percent of baptized Seventh Day Adventist teenagers either dropped their membership, or became inactive in the church, in their mid twenties.
According to Dudley, there are five influences that determines the continuation or discontinuation of young people in the church, and they are as follows: Home Influences Parochial vs. Public Education Congregational Involvemnet Lifestyle Standards Devotional Practices I am in favor of, and recommend this resource, because it is straight forward and to the point. It provides the needed facts right from the start, allowing the reader to look at the all the determinants and then make a plan on how to proceed to negate or minimize the loss of young people.
Primer for the next generation: XNY 101 (Sermon: Audio) Pastor Dwight K. Nelson starts of by explaining the details of the study that was done. He quotes the following from the book: “Many teenagers and young adults are leaving the church because they perceive it to be behavior centered when they are looking for relationships. ” (Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church, P58) “We have seen that though our youth have heard the words of the gospel of righteousness by grace through faith, . . . [our] emphasis on behavioral standards has led the majority to believe that they must somehow merit salvation. . . Through precept and example, we must do everything possible to clarify grace and to break the hold of legalism. We must communicate a gospel of hope. Without this effort we will never retain our youth. They will not continue to struggle in a contest that they cannot possibly win. ” (58, 59 emphasis supplied) I would also gladly recommend this resource, because Paster Nelson identifies the problem from the data, and he then goes on to provide a remedy to the problem. Conclusion “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. ” Franklin D. Roosevelt
When looking at the data covered in these resources, it is clear that the future is uncertain. It is also clear that the youth are the leaders of tomorrows church, and in order for them to lead, they need to be there. We need to realize that we cannot necessarily set everything in place for our youth, but, what we can however do, is to prepare our youth for the future, for the decision’s that they will have to make. We can prepare them for this uncertain future by laying a good foundation in our educational institutions, at church, and most importantly at home. The greatest determinant, by far, is the family.
If the family is built on the rock, nothing can shake it. “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world! ” (Education, p. 271). — Reference List Ellen G. White, Education ( Washington, D. C. : Review and Herald, 1903). Roger L. Dudley, Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church: Personal Stories from a 10-Year Study (Hagerstown, Md. : Review and Herald, 2000) Roger L. Dudley, Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church (Spectrum, Volume 28, Issue 4, Autumn 2000)