26 June 2020  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

We’ve all heard the question, “Why are young people leaving the church?” It’s always felt like the wrong question. This question assumes that there is some compelling reason to be a member of a church. For many of us, there simply isn’t. The response that always comes to mind is, “Why would young people stay?”

Signed, Bzzt! Wrong Question

Dear Bzzt!,

You make an excellent point, and one that church leaders would do well to ask themselves. In previous generations it was common for young people to leave the church in their late teens or early twenties but then return in their mid to late twenties when they began having children of their own. Millennials and Gen Z seem to be leaving at the same age as previous generations but then not returning. 

Previous generations seemed to place a much higher value on tradition, culture, and generational values than Millennials and Gen Z do. These younger generations appear to be more concerned with making their own values, with less regard for the traditions of the religion they were raised in. 

In addition, young people were raised being told to look out for government overreach, to separate church and state, to protect “the least of these.” The weird blending of nationalism, patriotism, and Christianity that has happened in America is a huge turnoff for many young people. And, in a twist of irony, many who leave do so not because they take their beliefs less seriously, but because they take what they learned about protecting the weak and loving everybody very seriously—more seriously, in fact, than the church itself. 

Consequently, the reasons previous generations had to stay are not compelling for young people. Why should they stay? If the church began asking itself how to give young people genuine and compelling reasons to stay, rather than superficial ones, we might see a change in the hemorrhaging of young people from our doors. 

Thank you for your letter. I pray the wisdom you have shown will spread to our leaders so we can make some serious changes—before it’s too late. 

Aunt Sevvy

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