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Leaving the Church

by Shane Raynor

Perhaps millennials leave the church for the same reasons many others leave:

  • They don’t feel like they’re encountering God. Seriously, who wants to leave a place where they’re genuinely experiencing God’s manifest presence?
  • They want to be equipped to improve their lives, not wallow around in brokenness with perpetually broken people. A Christianity that isn’t changing individuals won’t change the world either. “Misery loves company” works for bars, but it’s not a good long term growth strategy for churches. Maybe people figure that if Christians are as messed up as everyone else anyway, they can just stay messed up while sleeping in on Sunday mornings. 
  • They’ve found other ways to connect with people outside of church, including social media. So if the church isn’t offering relationships with substance, why would they want to stick around? There are a million places on TV and the Internet to hear good preaching and teaching, without feeling the awkwardness or pressure that can come with attending church. Now more than ever, the “people factor” and genuine community are important for churches to get right, because people don’t need church to connect anymore.
  • Sometimes people leave because they’re backsliding. Churches can be doing everything right and still lose some people because of this. And although I don’t have a poll to prove it (Has Barna surveyed any backsliders lately?), I’d guess that young adults are more likely to go through seasons of rebellion than older Christians. The question is, how much do some of the other factors listed above encourage a culture of backsliding in a congregation?
  • They don’t feel challenged. Some of us have tried so hard to meet people where they are that we’ve made church too accessible. Most people want to grow spiritually, and it’s hard to do that in churches that spend an inordinate amount of time catering to the spiritual lowest common denominator. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to offer plenty of on-ramps for new believers, the lost, and the unchurched, but salvation doesn’t stop after justification. People who don’t feel they have opportunities to move forward spiritually may leave church simply because they’re bored.

Building Faith note: This list is part of an article recently posted on Ministry Matters, entitled Millennial Myths and the Real Reasons People Leave the Church. His article is a response to the multitude of articles regarding millennials and why they are leaving the church.

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