Church Dropouts in 2019

By admin on September 23, 2019 in Abandonment, Leaving

When research company’s Barna president David Kinnaman published his 2011 book You Lost Me, we heard from many people (especially church leaders) who were shocked to learn that 59 percent of young adults with a Christian background had dropped out of church at some point during their 20s—many for just a time, but some for good.

Eight years later, research for Kinnaman’s new book Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon reveals that the church dropout problem is still a problem. In fact, the percentage of young-adult dropouts has increased from 59 to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. 18–29-year-olds who grew up in church tell Barna they have withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen.

dropouts

It is not all bad news, however. Through more than a decade of interviewing teens and young adults, Barna researchers kept encountering a small but significant number of young Christians who run counter to the overall trend. So, using the same research parameters as in You Lost Me (18–29-year-olds with a Christian background), Kinnaman and the Barna team fielded new research to study the countertrend. Yes, most Christian twentysomethings spend at least some time disconnected from a faith community. But what about those who stay? What, if anything, do they have in common?

In Faith for Exiles, Kinnaman and his coauthor, Mark Matlock, get to know the one in 10 young Christians for whom they’ve coined the term “resilient disciples.” “From a numbers point of view,” Kinnaman says, “10 percent of young Christians amounts to just under four million 18–29-year-olds in the U.S. who follow Jesus and are resiliently faithful. In spite of the tensions they feel between church and everyday life, they keep showing up.”

So what does it mean to be a resilient disciple? As defined in Faith for Exiles, individuals in this group: have made a commitment to Jesus, who they believe was crucified and raised to conquer sin and death; are involved in a faith community beyond attendance at worship services; and strongly affirm that the Bible is inspired by God and contains truth about the world. In addition, they agree with one or more of the following statements that speak to the exilic conditions in which their faith still thrives:

  • I want to find a way to follow Jesus that connects with the world I live in.
  • God is more at work outside the Church than inside, and I want to be a part of that.
  • I want to be a Christian without separating myself from the world around me.

These highly engaged young Christians are the exemplars of Faith for Exiles, who are concerned for and thoughtful about how their faith in Christ intersects meaningfully and missionally with the world around them. “We kept probing the data to discern the story behind their resilience,” Kinnaman adds. “What can we learn from them? What makes them tick? What practices distinguish them from the norm?”

dropouts

As the infographic above shows, resilient disciples highly prioritize their life of faith inside and outside their place of worship. “These sisters and brothers are young adults who model the outcomes hoped for by the broader community of faith,” Kinnaman notes. “By getting to know the resilient disciples, we can find out what formation experiences and relationships are most effective for growing resilient faith in exile.”

The article from Barna.

7 facts about American Catholics

By admin on August 15, 2019 in Leaving

Parishioners worship during Mass at St. Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, on Aug. 15. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The Catholic Church is larger than any other single religious institution in the United States, with over 17,000 parishes that serve a large and diverse population. In spite of its size and influence, the church in recent decades has faced a number of significant challenges, from a decline in membership to a shortage of priests to continuing revelations that some Catholic clergy sexually abused minors and (in many cases) that their superiors covered up these actions.

Here are seven facts about American Catholics and their church:

1 There are roughly 51 million Catholic adults in the U.S., accounting for about one-fifth of the total U.S. adult population, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. That study found that the share of Americans who are Catholic declined from 24% in 2007 to 21% in 2014.

2 Catholicism has experienced a greater net loss due to religious switching than has any other religious tradition in the U.S. Overall, 13% of all U.S. adults are former Catholics – people who say they were raised in the faith, but now identify as religious “nones,” as Protestants, or with another religion. By contrast, 2% of U.S. adults are converts to Catholicism – people who now identify as Catholic after having been raised in another religion (or no religion). This means that there are 6.5 former Catholics in the U.S. for every convert to the faith.  No other religious group analyzed in the 2014 Religious Landscape Study has experienced anything close to this ratio of losses to gains via religious switching.

Hispanics growing as share of adult Catholic population in U.S.

3 Catholics in the U.S. are racially and ethnically diverse. Roughly six-in-ten Catholic adults are white, one-third are Latino, and smaller shares identify as black, Asian American, or with other racial and ethnic groups. The data also show that the share of U.S. Catholics who are Latino has been growing, and suggest that this share is likely to continue to grow. Indeed, among Catholic Millennials, there are about as many Hispanics as whites. (For information on the demographic characteristics of U.S. Catholics, including age, education, income and more, see “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”)

Geographic center of U.S. Catholicism shifting southward, westward

4 Compared with some other religious groups, Catholics are fairly evenly dispersed throughout the country: 27% live in the South, 26% in the Northeast, 26% in the West, and 21% of U.S. Catholics live in the Midwest. Since many American Hispanics are Catholic, the continuing growth of this community as a share of the U.S. population is gradually shifting the geographic center of U.S. Catholicism from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and the West. Indeed, three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics reside in the South or West, while six-in-ten non-Hispanic Catholics live in the Northeast or Midwest. Overall, the share of U.S. Catholic adults who reside in the Northeast and the Midwest declined by 5 percentage points between 2007 and 2014 (from 53% to 48%), while the share of Catholics who live in the South and West grew by an equal amount (from 47% to 52%).

Many Catholics support changes in key church teachings and policies

5 Many U.S. Catholics say they want to see the church make significant changes. For example, six-in-ten say they think the church should allow priests to marry and allow women to become priests. And nearly half of U.S. Catholics say the church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Support for these kinds of changes is lower – though still substantial – among Catholics who attend Mass regularly than it is among those who attend Mass less often.

6 Politically, Catholic registered voters are evenly split between those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (47%) and those who favor the GOP (46%). In their partisanship, U.S. Catholics are deeply divided along racial and ethnic lines. Most Hispanic Catholics identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 54% of white Catholics today identify with or lean toward the GOP.


7Large majorities of U.S. Catholics have admired Pope Francis throughout his tenure, but there are growing signs of discontent. In 2014, 54% of American Catholics gave Francis “excellent” or “good” marks for his handling of the church’s sex abuse scandal. But in a Pew Research Center poll conducted in September 2018 – shortly after recent reports about sex scandals in the U.S. Catholic Church – the share of Catholics saying this had fallen 23 points, to 31%. The recent survey also found that the pontiff’s overall approval rating among U.S. Catholics had dropped to 72%, down from 84% in January of this year.

By David Masci of the Pew Research Center

10 Reasons Why

By admin on August 15, 2019 in Leaving

1. Greater Affluence

Money gives people options.

If your church is at all engaging the middle class, the upper middle class, or a suburban demographic, an interesting trend is developing. The middle class is shrinking, but as this New York Times report shows,  it’s shrinking (in part) because more of the middle class is becoming upper class. Both US and Canadian personal disposable incomes are at all time highs.

There are simply more affluent people than there were decades ago, which may in part explain why so many “average’ people indulge their obsessions with granite counter tops, designer homes and decent cars, even without being mega-wealthy.

Naturally, this leaves a huge theological void about ministry to and with the poor, but it helps explain what’s actually happening in the suburbs and increasingly with the re-urbanization of many cities as the affluent move back downtown. Please…I’m not arguing things should be this way. I’m simply showing that this seems to be what’s happening.

And again…people with money have options. Technology options. Travel options. Options for their kids. And, arguably, that affluence may be one of the factors moving them further away from a committed engagement to the mission of the local church. It’s perhaps fuelling some of the reasons outlined below.

2. Higher focus on Kids’ Activities

A growing number of kids are playing sports. And a growing number of kids are playing on teams that require travel.

Many of those sports happen on weekends. And affluent parents are choosing sports over church.

It’s as simple as that. A growing number of kids play sports and a growing number of parents choose sports over church.

3. More Travel

Despite a wobbly economy, travel is on the rise, both for business and pleasure.

More and more families of various ages travel for leisure, even if it’s just out of town to go camping or to a friend’s place for the weekend or a weekend at the lake.

And when people are out of town, they tend to not be in church.

4. Blended and Single Parent Families

Fortunately, more and more blended families and single parent families are finding a home in church.

So how does this translate into attendance patterns?

Church leaders need to remember that when custody is shared in a family situation, ‘perfect’ attendance for a kid or teen might be 26 Sundays a year.

Similarly, while the affluent might not be in church because of access to reliable transportation, single parents (who, not always, but often, struggle more financially) might not be in church because they lack access to reliable transportation.

So here’s the strange twist. People who have a car are often not in church because they have a car. People who want to be in church are often not in church because they don’t have a car or because it’s not their ‘weekend’ for church.

Sadly, people who want to get to church simply can’t.

By the way, I lead a church that virtually requires a vehicle to get there. I love how we often see people with reliable transportation helping out those who don’t have a vehicle. That’s at least a partial remedy to this problem. In a shared custody family, perfect attendance for a child or teen might be 26 Sundays a year.

5. Online Options

Many churches have created a social media presence and many podcast their messages like we do at Connexus. Churches are also launching online campuses that bring the entire service to you on your phone, tablet or TV.

There are pros and cons to online church (I outline 7 here) and there’s no doubt that churches with a strong online presence have seen it impact physical attendance.

But whether or not your church has online options doesn’t make the issue go away. Anyone who attends your church has free access to any online ministry of any church.

Online church is here to stay, whether you participate or not. Online church is here to stay whether you participate or not.

6. The Cultural Disappearance of Guilt

When I grew up, I felt guilty about not being in church on a Sunday.

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

I regularly meet people all the time who haven’t been in months but LOVE our church.

If you’re relying on guilt as a motivator, you need a new strategy. (Well, honestly, you’ve always needed a new strategy…) If you’re relying on guilt as a motivator to get people to church, you need a new strategy.

7. Self-directed Spirituality

People are looking less to churches and leaders to help them grow spiritually, and more to other options.

We live in a era in which no parent makes a visit to a doctor’s office without having first googled the symptoms of a child’s illness and a recommended course  of treatment. Just ask any family physician. It drives them nuts. (Google, doctors will tell you, is not a complete replacement for medical school.)

Similarly, when was the last time you bought a car without completely researching it online?

In an age where we have access to everything, more and more people are self-directing their spirituality…for better or for worse.

Similarly, another characteristics of the post-modern mind is a declining trust of and reliance on institutions.

The church in many people’s minds is seen as an institution.

I don’t actually believe that’s what a church is. I think it’s a movement…not an institution. But many churches behave like an institution, and the post-modern mind instinctively moves away from it as a result.

8. Failure to see a Direct Benefit

People always make time for the things they value most.  If they’re not making time for church, that tells you something.

Even among people who say their love the church and who say they love your church, if declining attendance is an issue, chances are it’s because they don’t see a direct benefit. They don’t see the value in being there week after week.

That could be because there isn’t much value (gut check). Or it could be because there is value that they simply don’t see.

Either way, failure to see a direct benefit always results in declining engagement.

So what are you doing or not doing that leaves people feeling like there’s not that much value? People make time for what they value most. If people don’t make time for church…take note.

9. Valuing Attendance over Engagement

I’ll talk about this more in the podcast interviews and in the next posts, but when someone merely attends church, the likelihood of showing up regularly or even engaging their faith decreases over time.

At our church, I find our most engaged people—people who serve, give, invite and who are in a community group—are our most frequent attenders.

More and more as a leader, I value engagement over attendance.

Ironically, if you value attendance over engagement, you will see declining attendance.Ironically, if you value attendance over engagement, you will see declining attendance.

10. A massive Culture Shift

All of these trends witness to something deeper. Our culture is shifting. Seismically.

Church leaders who fail to recognize this will not be able to change rapidly enough to respond to the shifts that are happening.

Change is unkind to the unprepared, so prepare.

by Carey Neuhoff

Five Reasons People Leave the Church

By on September 23, 2018 in Leaving

I’ve talked to, listened to, and read interviews, blogs, and books by dozens of folks who’ve left the Christian faith. I’ve yet to hear a story from anyone who abandoned Christianity based on anything directly related to Christianity – at least the original version, anyway.

The decline of Christianity in America, the popularity of The New Atheists, and the meteoric rise of the “nones” underscore something that’s been true for generations but didn’t matter much until now.

Many expressions of Christianity are fatally flawed.

Many people see Christianity as anti-intellectual, overly simplistic, and easily discredited. For decades, college professors with biases against religion have found Christian freshmen easy targets.

Much of what makes American Christianity so resistible to those outside the faith are things we should have been resisting all along. While many of us have been working hard to make church more interesting, it turns out that fewer people are actually interested.

Here are five reasons people are really leaving the church.

1. We tell people that the Bible is the basis of Christianity

“Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.”

It’s a line that many who grow up in the church know by heart, and it reflects a problem in modern American Christianity: many of us believe that the Bible is the foundation of our religion.

I recently read a blog post by a former worship leader who left the faith after she read a book “proving” contradictions in the Bible. Apparently, she grew up believing the foundation of our faith is a non-contradicting book.

It’s not. Jesus is.

When our faith stands on anything other than Christ, we put ourselves (and others) in position to fall.

2. They believe suffering disproves the existence of God

Renowned New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman says he lost his faith and embraced atheism because of suffering in the world. And he’s not the only one.

But the foundation of our faith is not a world without suffering. Pain and suffering don’t disprove the existence of God. It only disproves the existence of a god who doesn’t allow pain and suffering.

Whose god is that?

Not ours. Our God promised there would be suffering until he makes all things new.

3. They had a bad church experience

Most bad church experiences are the result of somebody prioritizing a view over a you – something Jesus never did and instructed us not to do either. Self-righteousness and legalism are leftovers of the Old Testament laws, which Jesus replaced through his death on the cross.

Relationships are messy and complicated. But if our actions are rooted in Jesus’ command to love one another (John 13:34), we can prevent many of the experiences that lead people away from his body.

4. We’re bad at making people feel welcome

It wasn’t just his message that made Jesus irresistible. It was Jesus himself. People who were nothing like him, liked him. And Jesus liked people who were nothing like him. Jesus invited unbelieving, misbehaving, troublemaking men and women to follow him and to embrace something new, and they accepted his invitation.

As followers of Jesus, we should be known as people who like people who are nothing like us. When we invite unbelieving, misbehaving troublemakers to join us, they should be intrigued – if  not inclined – to accept our invitation.

5. We made ekklesia (the church) a building

The word “church” should’ve never appeared in our Bibles. It shouldn’t have become part of Christian culture, either. It’s more than a mis-translation. It represents a misdirection.

While the majority of your English Bible is a word-for-word translation from Greek, the term “church” is an exception. The term “church” is not a translation. It’s a substitution. And a misleading one at that.

The term “church” is a derivative of the German term kirche meaning: house of the Lord or temple. This term of German origin was used to interpret, rather than translate, the Greek term ekklesia throughout most of the New Testament.

The Greek term ekklesia is translated as “church” over one hundred times in your English New Testament, but in Acts 19:32 – a passage describing a city in uproar – it’s translated differently.

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.”

Ekklesia was not, and is not, a religious term. It does not mean church or house of the Lord. It certainly shouldn’t be associated with a temple. The term was used widely to describe a gathering, assembly, civic gatherings, or an assembly of soldiers. Or as was the case in Acts 19, an assembly of rioting idol manufacturers.

An ekklesia was a gathering of people for a specific purpose. Any specific purpose. It’s not a building. It’s not a physical location. It’s a group of people.

It’s a lot easier to stop showing up at a place than it is to disconnect from a group of people who intimately know, love, and support each other.

If we want people to stop leaving the church – if we want Christianity to be irresistible again to the world – then maybe it’s time to take another look at the movement Jesus started 2,000 years ago.

From Andy Stanley September 23, 2018

Young Christians are leaving the church

By on June 5, 2017 in Faith, Leaving, Religion

A  new 2018 Pew Research Center Report polled a growing group in America: religious nones. This group describes themselves as “nothing in particular” when asked if they identify with a specific religious group. The vast majority are ex-Christians, and most are under the age of 35. Pew asked a representative sample of these “religious nones” why they now reject any religious affiliation and provided respondents with six possible responses.