Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Maybe Since LIfeway Has Noticed, Churches Will Too!

In a recent article in USA Today entitled: "Young adults aren't sticking with church", a survey done by the Conservative Southern Baptist Publisher, Lifeway, that, well.... many young adults aren't sticking with church! This is an interesting article that co-ops well with my posts: "The Great Divorce" and "How Can People Think This About Christians?". here are some excerpts:

Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research. And 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.

Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research. And 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church.
"This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry," says Ed Stetzer, director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Among dropouts, nearly all (97%) cited life changes, such as a move. Most (58%) were unhappy with the people or pastor at church. More than half (52%) had religious, ethical or political reasons for quitting.
Dropouts were more than twice as likely than those who continued attending church to describe church members as judgmental (51% for dropouts, 24% for those who stayed), hypocritical (44% vs. 20%) or insincere (41% vs. 19%)

"Too many youth groups are holding tanks with pizza. There's no life transformation taking place," Stetzer says. "People are looking for a faith that can change them and to be a part of changing the world."
These findings fit with findings by other experts.
"Unless religious leaders take younger adults more seriously, the future of American religion is in doubt," says Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow in After the Baby Boomers, due in stores in September.


Also in the fall edition of Leadership Journal (put out by affiliate Christianity Today), There is an article on a similar survey that Leadership has done. The article, entitled "5 Kinds of Christians", outlines 5 categories of those that label themselves as Christians in America. I think that their findings are interesting. Amazingly enough, each category (5) makes up 1/5th of all Christians surveyed. I find the equal distribution in their finding noteworthy.

The labels are as follows:

ACTIVE CHRISTIANS (19%)--believe salvation comes through Christ, committed churchgoers, bible readers, accepted leadership positions [in their churches], feel obligated to share their faith (or at least 79% out of this 19% do so).

PROFESSING CHRISTIANS (20%)-- believe salvation comes through Christ, focus on personal relationship with God/Christ, Similar beliefs to "active Christians" with different actions, less involved with ch.-both attending and serving, less committed to bible reading and sharing of faith.

LITURGICAL CHRISTIANS (16%)-- Predominantly Catholic and Lutheran. Regular churchgoers. high level of spiritual activity , mostly expressed by serving in ch. and/or local community. Recognize authority of ch. (this last statement is a reaction to the growing distrust of young/postmodern people in all institutions and the authority modernity gave them).

PRIVATE CHRISTIANS (24%)-- Largest and youngest segment. Believe in God and doing good things. Own a bible, don't read it. Spiritual interest, but not within ch. context. Only 1/3 attend churches at all. Almost none are church leaders.

CULTURAL CHRISTIANS (21%)-- little outward religious behavior or attitudes. God aware, but little personal involvement with God. Do not view Christ as essential to salvation. Affirm many ways to God. Favor universality theology (the article never distinguishes what they mean by this. This word (even here on my blog by others) has been thrown around in the Christian realm as if it has a singular definition, when in fact the world definition is very diverse. see Universalism (disambiguous), and Universalism (religion and theology). I believe the definition they are using here (which is not a precise definition, but the common Christian usage) is that they don't believe that Christ is the ONLY way to heaven).

"When Leadership Mag. discussed these results with "leading pastors and religious experts" (although who they are and how these people obtain the "leading" and "expert" titles is left unexplored?), 3 critical issues emerged:

1) the local church is no longer considered the only outlet for spiritual growth. 2)Churches must develop relational- and community-oriented outreach.3)lap people have to be better equipped to be God's ambassadors."


May I say "DUH?" Is this not what we "young people" have been telling churches for a while? Again, see past blog post above. I personally find these results a little inaccurate. Perhaps not in their percentages, but in their labels and application of the labels. I'm sure that many of the points in those titles are accurate, but the viewpoint is still from the inside (of the institutional ch.) out, not the other way around. The biasness needs to be taken into account. Obviously you can see in the article that the "Active Christian" category is the preferred goal, and I agree that Christians should be more active, but does being an "Active Christian" mean being ALL of the sub-points presented in that category?

Just some things to point out having been in both the "inside" and the "outside":

1) Overemphasis in church involvement as being a definition of a "good Christian". One of the reasons that many younger people are not involved with the local church is because they cannot find a church in their area that will meet their needs. Why go to church if it isn't feeding you spiritually where you are? See the beginning article and how many people view churches/Christians (as well as my second blog post listed above for another survey), which is not a positive image for the churches. Many times young people depart from churches or just never go because of their perception of Christians and churches. Unfortunately, there are so many churches and Christians that maintain the stated perceptions that it keeps people from even seeking out the churches and communities that will feed them spiritually. I propose that some of these non-churchgoers are looking for "alternative communities" that are spiritual and perhaps labeled Christian/Christ-followers but refuse to label themselves as a "church" because of the negative perception that comes with that label!

2) Underemphasis in missional work as being a marker of a "Committed Christian". The "Active Christian" is said to be a "committed churchgoer", "bible-reader" and "faith-sharer". What's missing? Is showing up in the pews 50/52 Sundays the REAL marker of a "good Christian"? Is a daily devotional an ACCURATE way to measure a "good Christian"? What about the fruit that one bears? No mention of that in the "Active Christian", and, in fact, it seems to be replaced with "leadership positions". So being a Sunday School teacher that shows up every Sunday is a better Christian than the person that misses church one Sunday a month because they volunteer at a soup kitchen? What about those who are actively involved with social justice issues, who spend their whole weekend writing a letter to their congressman on behalf of liberation and poverty issues? What about those that refuse to tithe to their churches because they don't like the 80%/20% ratio (80% of all tithing goes towards church maintenance and 20% goes outside of the church for missions)? Instead they spend their energy and their money helping those with HIV/Aids?

Don't misunderstand me. I believe that being an active part of a healthy and active community (church in the purest understanding of the concept) is vital. Perhaps we've lost some of the aspects and importance of community vitality in modernity's emphasis on the personal! A subject for another time, but I wanted to make that clear.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's time to reexamine how we measure what makes someone a good Christ-follower and what doesn't. Numbers, attendance records, and not missing a personal morning devotional are all terrible markers of measurement for churches. Yet this is still the markers that many churches and Christians use to measure "success" (notice I didn't say "measure spiritual growth) and use this criteria to label individuals! Maybe there-in lies a portion of the problem! Labeling people... seems like I wrote something about that too!

Anyway, Just thought I would share these findings with anyone who reads. I'd love to hear your thoughts on these findings and this post!

No comments:

Post a Comment