Why Do Teens Leave?

I just finished listening to a podcast on Inside Lifeway about The Leaving Generation. Jim Johnston of Lifeway talked about a recent study they did on young adults from ages 18 to 34 and why they are leaving the church. As soon as I finished listening to it, I saw a blog entry on the same topic over at the ChurchRelevance Blog. These are pretty good observations. They spent time on the podcast talking about the importance of countering the secular worldview. I believe that should be on this list as well. When students reach both high school and college they are bombarded with the “so-called” fact that science invalidates faith. If all we have taught and provided at church and youth ministry is an experiential faith, devoid of intellect and devoid of truth, then we are setting them up to be confused. Youth do want to be involved in making a difference, they do want community, they do want relationships, they do want to be in a church that is not just going through the motions, but they need to be challenged and taught truth in such a way that their actions will flow naturally out of their faith.

LifeWay Research conducted a survey among people age 18 to 34 that discovered a major factor causing young adults to leave the church is the church’s inability to minister to them in their transition stage.

Jim Johnston of LifeWay Christian Resources identifies four needs among young adults:

  1. Relationship
    “It just so happens that this generation’s biggest need is relationship. The church ought to be the author and purveyor of the best, deepest, most loving friendships around.”
  2. Biblical Community
    “The lost and the saved in this age group are looking for just what the church can provide in Biblical community. They want absolute truth but they embrace the struggle of finding it themselves. They don’t want it to be spoon-fed to them.”
  3. Social Action
    “Young adults gravitate to churches that are making an impact. This age group is embracing service, social action and missions. They will embrace the church with a cause as well.”
  4. Genuine Church
    “They want to embrace church, but only the genuine, earth-shaking, Christ-powered New Testament church. For some churches, that’s going to mean changing methodology – but not the message of the Bible.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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