Myths about church dropouts – research from Barna Group

Barna Group has released new research about young people who drop out of church. Their book is called, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith.

They have posted an executive summary of the research on their blog: Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts.

The myths:

Myth 1: Most people lose their faith when they leave high school.

Myth 2: Dropping out of church is just a natural part of young adults’ maturation.

Myth 3: College experiences are the key factor that cause people to drop out.

Myth 4: This generation of young Christians is increasingly “biblically illiterate.

Myth 5: Young people will come back to church like they always do.

A few ideas from the on-line summary:

There are several types of young people who leave the church:

  • prodigals actually lose their faith – Barna estimates this as one out of nine young people growing up in a Christian environment
  • nomads drift away from the church even though they still believe– they just aren’t participating in the institutional structure.  Barna estimates this group at 4 out of 10 young believers.
  • exiles are trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between the church world they grew up in and the culture where they are now.  Barna estimates this at 2 out of 10 young people.

That leaves about 3 of 10 young people who we can see staying in the church environment where they grew up.

On myth number three, Barna suggests that a large number of people have emotionally disconnected from the church before college.

Barna finds lots of young believers don’t score well on biblical literacy scales, but there isn’t that much difference between them and their parents.  Sounds to me like the church has lots of work still to do in discipling young believers and mature believers.

If you’re working with young people, probably would be worth your time to read the book.

If you’re involved in church leadership at all, it would be well worth your time to read the summary article.

By the way, the book is $0.23 more expensive at Amazon than the Barna web site.  How ‘bout that?

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