Half of teens attend a church-related service or activity in a typical week. More than three-quarters discuss matters of faith with peers and three out of five teens attend at least one youth group meeting at a church during a typical three month period. One-third of teenagers say they participate in a Christian club on campus at some point during a typical school year....Disengagement
Overall, more than four out of five teens say they have attended a church for a period of at least two months during their teenage years (81%).
But the study found that once the teen years are left behind, so to is church participation:
Twentysomethings continue to be the most spiritually independent and resistant age group in America. Most of them pull away from participation and engagement in Christian churches, particularly during the “college years.” The research shows that, compared to older adults, twentysomethings have significantly lower levels of church attendance, time spent alone studying and reading the Bible, volunteering to help churches, donations to churches, Sunday school and small group involvement, and use of Christian media (including television, radio and magazines).The big pull has traditionally been the move to parenthood, but the study found,
The new research pointed out that just one-third of twentysomethings who are parents regularly take their children to church, compared with two-fifths of parents in their thirties and half of parents who are 40-years-old or more.Adressing the need
The Barna group concludes their report saying,
David Kinnaman, the director of the research, pointed out, “There is considerable debate about whether the disengagement of twentysomethings is a lifestage issue – that is, a predictable element in the progression of people’s development as they go through various family, occupational and chronological stages – or whether it is unique to this generation. While there is some truth to both explanations, this debate misses the point, which is that the current state of ministry to twentysomethings is woefully inadequate to address the spiritual needs of millions of young adults. These individuals are making significant life choices and determining the patterns and preferences of their spiritual reality while churches wait, generally in vain, for them to return after college or when the kids come. When and if young adults do return to churches, it is difficult to convince them that a passionate pursuit of Christ is anything more than a nice add-on to their cluttered lifestyle.”The full report is online here: Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years.
What should be changed?
Given the undeniable fact that 20 year olds are rare as hen's teeth in churches, what can we do to help? How can King of Peace or any church improve its connections to those in their 20s? Or what can we do in teen ministry to prevent the disengagement with faith?
In the meantime, I'm off to Honey Creek this weekend to serve as a spiritual director for Fall Explosion, a Middle School retreat. Then Sunday from 4-6 p.m. we will have Camden County Episcopal Youth at King of Peace.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor King of Peace Episcopal Church