The New York Times revealed in 2006 that only an estimated four percent of churched teens transitioned into the adult fellowship.


The rest of the children who grew up in the church will leave it by the time they graduate from high school. Although statistics vary, the fact that kids are leaving the churches of their childhood years is a fact — and an alarming one at that. Blaming God, the parents, children or youth ministry workers is easy; but could it be that the church itself — a sum total of all individual parts — is failing your child?


Parental Hypocrisy

The church is made up of its believers. Parents are a part of this group. It is noteworthy that at the forefront of the teen exodus is hypocrisy in the parental home. If mom and dad are treating their faith like a Sunday morning hobby, the fact that it is really about a relationship with God through Christ gets lost in translation. Before long, sleeping in is a lot more attractive than getting up and driving to the church building.

In addition, there is overall busyness that leaves parents too preoccupied with work, acts of service, social obligations or personal relaxation to make time for the children. Remember that Deuteronomy 6:4-9 presupposes a dawn to dusk type of interaction between parent and child; subtract the time spent in school, and it is clear that there is not a lot left.

Ministry Failure

To be clear: raising a faithful child is the job of the parent, not of the youth ministry leader. Yet ministering to the parent is the job of the church leadership team. Parents are exhausted and busy; hence, church leadership teams institute youth ministries that partner with parents to help bring up godly offspring. It is here that the church has the potential to fail the families in general and children in particular.

For example, does your faith community schedule workshops and meeting, but fails to provide a fun and exciting children’s ministry experience? Are children asked to be left with sitters? Are they or warehoused in large rooms to watch a video while the adults worship? Do the children’s (or youth) ministries exist separately from the rest of the faith community, and youngsters only rarely get to see parents and other adults worshiping?

Now what? Of Money, Judgment, and Desertion ,

Parents, bottom line, it is still your job to rear your children and teach them to have faith in God. Elders, it is your job to shepherd our souls. Please stop sending money to Africa, Brazil, Honduras and other foreign countries to save souls when our own children are walking out on God, Dudley Chancey told the Christian Chronicle. There is some wisdom in the suggestion to focus on making disciples at home before branching out to other areas.

On the flipside, consider carefully that faith is not a birthright. Instead, it is a God-given gift. Preparing the recipient for this gift sometimes takes hardship, even if it means leaving the church. Faith communities that — overtly or covertly — blame parents for their children’s decision to leave God and the fellowship frequently fail the entire family. Leaders of these churches neglect to understand that the Great Commission came with the command to make disciples, but did not specify a time limit. If it takes a youngster until middle- or old age to get ready for the gift of faith, then so be it.

It is tempting to consider leaving a congregation in search of another one, if we believe that the youth ministry leaves something to be desired. Then again, is this not the very hypocrisy that turns children off initially? Rather than stepping up and volunteering to turn things around, leaving is the easy way out that negates the personal relationship with Christ and the fellowship of believers. Not surprisingly, this attitude belies the fact that faith is something to fight for.

So, is the church failing our young people? The answer is yes — but we must remember that each of us, in our various roles or lack thereof within it, is actively contributing to our youth’s exodus.



Sylvia Cochran

Sylvia is a writer, born and raised in Germany. Having been exposed to a variety of religions and traditions due to travel and study, Sylvia has been a student of the Bible for more than ten years and has for the last four years taught in small groups about Biblical principles, practical Christianity, Christian parenting, as well as the spiritual use of money.

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