This is my second post concerning the book Essential Church? by Thom and Sam Rainer. You can find the first post here if you would like to read it.
The Rainers tell us in the introduction to the book that 70 percent of students from age 16 to 22 will drop out of church. When we see this statistic, it may lead us to believe that these same students are just waiting until they are old enough to make their own decisions so they can rid themselves of the religion of their parents.
Not true, say the Rainers. In fact, according to their research, most students in high school do not plan to leave the church (even though 70% will). 80 percent of high school students have no plans to leave their church once they graduate. This means that only 20 percent are waiting for the right opportunity to leave. Church dropouts are not angry at the church or walking away from their religion.
What is the problem? According to the authors of Essential Church?, it is because this age group does not see how church is essential to them because we have failed to show them that they are essential to the church.
How can this be? Churches that fail to allow its members (of all ages) to be involved in the ministries of the church, promote a mindset that “you are not needed” here.
How well does your church do at getting people from all age groups involved? Is your church essential to you? Do you think it is essential to those age 16-22?
I know a lot of people around my age (typically slightly younger) seem awkwardly attached to their parents before and after services. We’re at an age where most of us want freedom from our parents, yet so many are not comfortable enough to step out and connect with other people. It seems that that’s the biggest issue. Students aren’t connecting with anyone in the church, so when they leave their parents, they feel alone in a church setting. I think that it’s not something they realize at the time, which explains why high school students typically don’t plan on leaving the church, but they’re out of their comfort zone once they reach the age where they need to be on their own more so than they’re used to.
Getting students involved with definitely help, I think. I am dreading leaving the children’s programs at my churches because I feel connected both to the children and the leaders in the programs. It won’t solve everything because a lot of teens don’t like to commit to those things, but it will help take away some of the shock for those who graduate and suddenly aren’t part of the youth group anymore and need to be active in the church as a whole.
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