April 29, 2010

New Data on Church Drop-Outs

Written By Cary Schmidt

USAToday featured an article today that stated 72% of 18-29 year olds say they are more “spiritual” than religious.* You can read the original article here, and it’s filled with plenty of discouraging data. But I wanted to draw out two positives that jumped off the page at me. These two things greatly encouraged my heart in youth ministry!

The first starts with a negative—70% of young adults who call themselves Christians actually stop attending church between the ages of 18 and 23. But here’s the positive. Before they turn 30, 66% of these young adults return to church. WOW! There’s a lot of bad news there, but what a huge reason to NEVER give up on someone! 66% of the young adults who stop attending your church will someday return. Have you loved them enough to leave the door open so they could return?

The second positive is this—15% who call themselves Christians are actively passionate and committed to their faith. Why do I love this statistic? Because I would gladly give a lifetime of effort to see 15% of those to whom I minister actually be passionately engaged in living their faith on a regular basis—walking with God, sharing Christ, and serving the Lord. I wish the number was higher—and in our ministry it has been. But what a great reason to keep pressing on in ministry—if only for the 15% who will truly be impacted!

Incidentally, the survey was taken among a broad cross-section of “Christians.” In our local church, over the past 20 years, we’ve actually seen the statistic dramatically differ. About 75-80% of the young people who grew up at Lancaster Baptist Church have stayed faithful to the Lord into their 20’s and 30’s. And yes, many of those who fall away for a time eventually return to their faith.

Honestly, I don’t know that the Apostle Paul’s ministry statistics would have been any better. People have been faking their faith and falling away from Christ for a long time! Don’t stop fighting the fight for higher statistics, but don’t forget, we don’t serve statistics. We serve God, and the fruit is the product of His Holy Spirit. Many who fall away will someday come back! And there’s always at least a remnant of those who are truly “unfeigned” in their faith.

*Cathy Lynn Grossman, “72% of Millennials ‘more spiritual than religious,'” USA Today, April 27, 2010, https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-04-27-1Amillfaith27_ST_N.htm.