What's the big deal about Young Living

Why Young People Leave the Church

I've been hearing for years that we have a problem with young people leaving the church in record numbers. People who care, and I am among them, wring our hands and look around at each other wondering, "What can we do?".

One attempt to address this problem and make church more appealing to young people is to make it FUN, and sparkly, and engaging, and interactive, and F-U-N, FUN, FUN, FUN.

I've often thought this was about as misguided as handing out dollar bills at the door. I mean, sure, it would keep people coming back. But for what?

And let's face it, if what young people really want is fun and interactive, why wouldn't they just go to a karaoke bar? Karaoke bars specialize in fun. And when the church tries to mimic that, it's just sad.

The church should not be about fun. Have you heard of Jesus? He bled and suffered a cruel death for you and me. The church should be about loving and serving and honoring a risen savior.

This article on the trend of teens being "fake Christians" hits the nail on the head:

"We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake," Corrie says.

Teens want to know what they are participating in is meaningful and important. They aren't fooled with "mission trips" to Orlando, Florida. That's karaoke.

This week our family had the opportunity to serve a community that had been hit hard by a tornado. We explained to our kids that we were going to serve because we want to be like Jesus, and He "came, not to be served, but to serve," and Christians "love our neighbors as ourselves."

From the article:

"If you don't say you're doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people," Dean says. "It doesn't register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots."

We all served together, along side young and old, unloading an 18 wheeler full of disaster relief supplies for tornado victims who found their cars upside down in a neighbor's yard, who crawled out from under mattresses in their bathtubs to find their roof and walls and all their possessions were gone.

80 year old men waited patiently while 7 and 9 year old girls worked together to carry heavy boxes that grown men could have easily handled alone. They know how critical it is to for the future of the church to do important things.

Why are young people leaving the church? Because karaoke bars are better at fun. Wake up, church. Stop competing with fun. We must be about the important business of loving God and the sometimes difficult and dirty business of loving and serving others.

We must give young people something worthwhile and important to dedicate themselves to.

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  1. Mother Lydia says:

    “We must give young people something worthwhile and important to dedicate themselves to. ”

    I believe this is true of more than just the church. When it comes to life, in general. We need to give young people something worthwhile and important to do and not just games to occupy their time.

    IT used to be, with farms and even factories, families NEEDED their kids. And the kids did important stuff that the family NEEDED them for as they got older. Now–a lot of that is gone.

  2. Amen! Fun is in itself only motivating in the short-term. It is at best a bi-product of other good stuff we need to do. We can’t sell kids on fun; they see right through us. The only thing we have worthwhile to give them is the grace, forgiveness and mercy we received. And that’s way better than fun!

  3. I agree 1000% !

  4. Very well said, thank you for reminder.

  5. All you say is true, and all these things are important. Our young people also need some really deep, sound, Christian apologetics before they are juniors in high school and even deeper apologetics before they leave home. And even if we do everything right, even if their mission trips are in the slums of Mexico, even if they feed the hungry at rescue missions, even if they are staff at Christian camps, even if they go to a Christian university, even if they have really deep faith as young people, they still have free will. The culture of our nation is not supportive of Christianity. Let’s pray will all our heart and with deep faith that God will deliver them through the furnace. But in the end, they have a choice. There is no “right” formula we can follow that will assure that our kids remain faithful.
    A mother of an intellectual prodigal who is still praying.

  6. What an awful sentence for an English teacher to write! Edit: A praying mother of an intellectual prodigal.

  7. Amen! This week I was driving my 4 year old grandson to public school. We pray every morning on the drive. I said, “Thank you Jesus for letting P be your hands and feet yesterday when we went to visit the sick” When I got done, he said, “I’m Jesus’s feet?!!!”. I explained what that meant, and he went to school puffed up and excited.

    Everything you said is true, and sometimes as Young mothers, we don’t always see that. Now with my youngest 23, it is clearer. Thanks.

  8. Great points!

    I would add that young people need to learn Christianity is more than benevolent work as well. The truth that we don’t like to face is that we can feed all the hungry, visit all the sick, care for all the helpless and those individuals still be as lost as can be. All kingdom work should be geared in such a way to draw people to Christ and to do that, ultimately, sin must be addressed and the Gospel must be taught clearly and unapologetically.

    In a pluralistic, easily offended culture that many times doesn’t like or accept being told any behavior they may be engaged in is wrong or a belief they hold is false, this becomes more difficult. However, if the current adults in the church are not teaching the lost, then the next generation is definitely not learning how to do so–in which case biblical Christianity is not being modeled or taught.

    Thanks for this much needed post!

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      Yes! I have often pontificated about this as well. The Lion’s Club or Kiwanas are service organizations. The church is so much more.

      So little time. So much to say!

  9. Jennifer says:

    As someone who never has been able to “have faith” and take in and believe the Bible, I’ve never been a Christian. I think most of it has to do with so many Christians, Catholics, etc. out there that live it on Sunday but leave it as they walk out the door. I have knows many in my life who hold the world around them to the high standards of the Bible, but then cannot manage to live it themselves.
    Another reason is all of the abuse in the Church, especially the Catholic Church. I cannot ever get past all of that. If it were the head of a school doing that, I think we’d never send kids to school again. How can their be a God when some of his highest members are abusing kids, and even higher ones are thinking it’s ok?
    I’m very respectful of people’s religions, because I think everyone needs to be respected, myself included. I never speak badly of it to them or try to change people in the way they always try to “save” me. I’ve found that when Christians find out that we’re Atheists, many no longer want to be friends or have their kids play with my kids. Some good Christians there! Be like me or you don’t exist to me. That’s hard on my kids.
    I think young people find it hard to put all of their faith into religion. Most kids in general seen to have little respect for others and themselves these days. Most of that has to do with parenting and being around other kids. You can parent as well as you want, but then they are SO influenced by other kids. All of the stuff I listed above also makes it hard for them to respect authority. I get that way myself. I’m a good person. I try to help everyone out and am respectful of everyone. I know plenty of Christians, etc. that never live by that. Going to Church doesn’t make them good people, you have to be good to start with.
    Another thing that’s hard for me is all of the horrible things that happen to kids. We did foster care for 6 years and have 2 adopted kids. The hell those kids have all going through is more than a person can handle to think about.
    How is it that one friend on Facebook will ask everyone to pray that she’ll somehow get her van fixed, while another asks people to pray that her child’s seizures will stop. The van gets fixed and the child dies of the seizures. I have a 9 year old handicapped daughter that can just barely walk, will never talk, and is just like a 15 month old, because she has Angelman Syndrome. She’s the most awesome person I know, but if there was a God, what’s the point of her suffering so? I have lots of online friends that have kids with Angelman Syndrome. Kids die all the time of seizures, and parents have to decide how much torture they’re going to put their child through to try to stop it, or to just let them go. It’s HORRIBLE!
    Anyways, not to start a debate, just to explain the point of view of someone who is not a Christian and why. I cannot believe there is anyone up there running the show. Someone who allows and decides. People give all the credit to God for all the good that happens, and if bad happens it was someone else’s fault, or you’re being tested. I can’t tell you how many people told me I was doing God’s work for taking in the kind of foster kids that I did. I just smiled and thanked them. I wanted to say, ” no, I’m not doing God’s work, I’m doing my work, and it’s hard.” I did it because there was a need and I felt that I could make a difference. I did make a difference is many kids’ lives. I did it because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to or because someone (God) was working through me. If God was involved, then he should’ve stepped in sooner. Before these kids’ mother’s drank and did drugs their whole pregnancy, before a mother sexually abused her child with her boyfriend, before he watched his Dad beat his grandfather to death, before he then sexually abused my 6 year old son(thanks to a social worker who lied to us)! Before kids were starved, eaten by bugs, sent to school in the winter in wet clothes, forced to watch their parents try to kill themselves and throw each other down flights of stairs, and then abused again by the system who kept sending them back.
    I can never make sense of all of this, so religion will never find a place in my head that allows me to agree that these things happened for a reason. There is no reason…..

    • To Jennifer:
      Thank you for being a loving person and serving in the way that you do. I also appreciate that, as a non-Christian, you have not given in to the Christian-bashing that seems to be current fashion. There are many of us as Christians who are not extremists, who do not beat people with our beliefs, who do love other people, and who attempt to live according to Christian principles.
      You are right in that many awful things happen in our world: violence, wars, child abuse, spouse abuse, etc. There are many who claim Christianity and act otherwise. Like you, I do not know why these things happen. However, I still believe that God exists and provides purpose to our lives.
      If you wish, contact me at my e-mail address. I would be happy to engage in meaningful dialogue.

    • Jennifer, as an aethiest you probably wouldn’t be comfortable living in a world without sin. God is holy. Horrible horrible things happen not just to the innocent but to people who have devoted their lives to living for God. All but one of Jesus’ disciples was killed for their faith. Yet Christianity grew. Many of us believe the bad things that result from sin are refining tools that bring us closer to God’s character, and as a result those people who suffer, like the apostle Paul, long more for that perfect home with the Holy God than does the marginal Christian who used salvation as a get out of hell free card and is rather loathe to give up the comforts of his sinful life.

      CS Lewis wrote “”Evil can only be known and measured against a standard of good. Apart from God and the morality that flows from Him there is no standard – and therefore no evil either,” he explained. “But we know in our hearts – it’s inescapable – that evil is real.”
      The Golden Rule, which many like to quote as the standard of good apart from God, is in fact a standard of tolerence; not right or wrong.
      When most people say they don’t understand why God allows sin/bad things, they are really saying they just want God to stop those things that make them sad. Those things they enjoy, they’re ok with leaving. Many people who would say there is no reason to abuse a child, are quite comfortable accepting the fact the mom is a teenager as a good reason to kill a child before it is even born.

      Whenever you see people talking about what should be allowed and what should be stopped, you see them talking about themselves, what they like and what they don’t.

      Clay Jones described the impact God’s divine intervention would have on our ability to choose to love Him thusly “First, when we say that God can do all things we don’t mean things that are logically contradictory. Even God cannot make square-circles or colorless-red cars. Likewise, it wouldn’t be possible for God to let a man use his free will, say, to start a forest fire and at the same time to protect all the inhabitants of the forest unless he were to intervene miraculously for millions or billions of creatures (I say “billions” because, after all, the case could be made that He shouldn’t let beetles or butterflies burn to death). If God were to intervene like this and in countless other situations, rebellious humans would have undeniable empirical evidence of His existence which would then interfere with these rebels’ free will (they would be compelled to feign loyalty).”

      Instead God gives us plenty of evidence, in his Word and in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that there is hope that old, evil things will pass away and all things will become new.

  10. Well said!

  11. You go girl! That F-U-N mentality has kept us out of the traditional churches. It is not going to help our children! When people ask me what to do with their good-for-nothing-angry-teens I tell them, “Make him work and serve others!”

    I like Torrey’s comment above too. Benevolence is just the outpouring of the foundation that we should be building in truth. Love ya! Lisa~

  12. I’m 18, and have started to leave behind the ways of my very atheist family to try and find something more. There is hope for everyone! Just because they aren’t attending church right now, they may need that time to find what is right for them :)

  13. Jennifer et all, I was just discussing this problem with my 11 year old. She is finding her faith, I provide a sounding board, but it has to be her faith not mine or it won’t hold up outside of my house. What I told her is that Jesus came for sinners not for the perfect. Guess what we are all sinners. Some people lose sight of that fact and become and modern day Pharisees(if you don’t know the bible, that would be people who shout how perfect they are, how they cross all their “t” and dot all the “i”s so to speak, but are missing a very critical part of Jesus teaching. That critical part is to do what is right because it is right. That includes helping those who don’t “deserve” it, understanding that we don’t deserve it. Trying hard to be kind and respectful to all, even those making sinful decisions in their lives, and forgiving ourselves when we fall short.
    Why do bad things happen. Free will.
    Blessings all

  14. Amen, amen, amen! I believe exactly what you just wrote. So beautiful to see your family helping out together! Keep up the awesome work at encouraging other families, as well.

  15. I agree with everything you said here. But what would you say to someone who was worried about making church exciting for young people on just a typical Sunday? Not a big service time, but just regular old church?

  16. Speaking as a Millennial, I gotta say you’re pretty spot-on. Many of my peers leave the church because they think the world is just better. But many others leave because they don’t see Jesus IN the church. That’s the saddest thing that’s happening—and the very reason I wrote my book, Called To Stay. We need to teach young people to be like Jesus not only outside of their churches, but inside them as well. #Staying

    God bless you, Connie.

  17. FUN is about a risen savior. FUN is reverence to God. FUN is good old fashioned worship . Got saved at 44 years old and never had FUN til JESUS bought JOY to my HEART. All of the young people I spent time with had FUN doing service work. Amen to this post.

  18. I really love your posts and this one is one of the best! I totally agree with this post. The best way to ease your own burdens is to help relieve others. Keep up the good work!

  19. Connie, If I could run up and hug your neck right now, I would. Instead, I’m sitting here crying. No, church should not be about fun. The world is NOT fun – and serving that gives so much more to a heart than a short-lived fun time. Ya know – so many people miss the fact that God created Adam and placed him in the garden to work – even before he created Eve! Your post – this post – is a must read for everyone!

  20. Not to be disrespectful of anyone, but I believe there should be a caveat that you seem to be discussing church for solid believers who have committed to church for their spiritual development. That’s not every churches role, however. There is a valid and meaningful niche of churches that serve those who have not been impacted by churches in the past.
    As a former pagan, I attended several churches that clung to the mindset that church should not be fun. Wonderful aged Christians though they were, I didn’t see any way that those people could meet me where I was. Spiritually broken people are often intimidated by people who seem to have their spiritual “ducks in a row.” For these types of people, struggling to believe in Christ against the odds and their personal background, I believe there is a place for “fun” churches that teach solid Biblical truth. Not fun for fun’s sake, but fun that inspires and welcomes. Small groups in such a church can tackle the more serious sides to life and faith with those who are ready. When it comes to reaching out to souls, as the church should – I believe there is a time and place for well-led, spirit-filled “fun” church.

  21. Courtney says:

    I agree with most of this post. When you asked what do I think of when I think of Jesus, the first thing that came to my mind was a loving Savior who is laughing and smiling and looking at me with love and joy! It says that children loved going to Jesus when he was alive. Children would not go to someone who didn’t like to have fun! I understand where you’re coming from though. Just wanted to put my two cents in :)

  22. Jennifer B. says:

    I couldn’t agree more. We are facing this very same issue with our youngest and oldest leaving youth because its either just a hang out joint or it’s not at their level anymore. Both kids left and not one single person has talked to them about why they left. Not the youth pastors. Not the kids they were in youth with. My youngest will go to church but my oldest left. To be honest at this point I can’t blame him. You can’t feed into a kids life and not be there when they walk away from it all. It’s all been disappointing.
    I would even say it goes for adults too. I don’t want to flash and fluff. Just give me Jesus. Show me who he is. I’m sure this goes for teens but when life gets rough people just disappear. I’ve reached out and was just give advice and nothing more. I don’t need advice. I need you to walk with me. Kids need you to step up and walk with them. But busy is the new sin. We’ve filled our lives up so much we are too busy to walk with someone. My kid walked out of church and the church walked away. That’s heartbreaking.