The Exodus of the Youth from Church: In Search of Answers to a Dark Dilemma
I recently sat in a lecture “Why Are Youth Leaving the Church?” I listened to the most recent statistics, compared one opinion to the next, looked at the latest church involvement research and even explored some emerging themes of why people in general leave the faith. All the information was very interesting and contained an impressive collaboration of ideas. The research does not lie and opinions are to be valued. However, honestly what good does this enlightenment do us when we sit back and do nothing to correct the problem? We are so used to youth leaving our church that we have become complacent with pews filled with “ancient dinosaurs” in the words of a young lady just last week. We have become so overwhelmed with data that we forget to look at the real picture of why our next generation of leaders are leaving. Or perhaps we do nothing because we simply don’t understand young people’s true motivation for leaving the church. The answers may be uncomfortable for some but they deserve deeper exploration.
Youth are leaving the church but this does not necessarily mean they all are leaving the faith. Many young people of today have much more faith than some of the pew fillers whom have their assigned seats with their pillows and blankets left to save their spots. So if this is the case that they still have a genuine relationship with Christ but simply don’t want to be within the four walls of religion, so to speak, should we not explore the million dollar question differently? We should not excuse away their leaving to agnosticism, postmodernism or neopaganism regardless of how cleverly it takes the focus off of the real concerns and sins of the “church.” It is not a very popular idea to confess the sins of the church which is ironic when we proclaim to be a house of confession. Perhaps confession is only good for the soul as long as the sins are not our own. Behind the irony rests a darker problem, one that is responsible for many young people leaving the church.
For years the church has been a place of hypocrisy and today’s young generation is one that is fed up with the dishonesty and is willing to take a stand. They are so disgusted they can no longer keep silent. They are not willing to “tweak the numbers” of the church financial records or work their way up the hierarchical ladder. They see through the masks and are not willing to compromise. Young people are tired of religious politics, bickering, back stabbing and lying. If we, the church, do not open our eyes to this now, if not yesterday, it will be too late.
This young generation is wandering looking for a place of refuge and they no longer find a safe place in the church house. The church regrettably is no longer safe. You cannot genuinely express your feelings, concerns or doubts without them being the topic of the message on the following Sunday morning. There is no longer trust within the church. The place of worship has turned into a place of gossip. A spiritual encounter has been replaced with a social gathering. The leadership of the Holy Spirit is no longer considered because we are too busy worrying about the opinions of others. So if by now you are still puzzled as to why the today’s youth are leaving the church then my heart is deeply saddened.
Nevertheless, we need to make a self-less effort and remember that the church does not exist for our personal entertainment. Realize it is not a prize to possess but is a treasure to be given away to the next generation. We must do whatever it takes to restore the tabernacle to its original purpose; to call its people back to holiness. We must be willing to give up our seat to the next generation before it is too late and there is no body left willing to fill the void.
Postscript: This article was written based on the following word the Lord gave me June, 2011: “The Church is not a prize to possess, but is a treasure to give away”.