I was reading through the Rainer/Geiger book called Essential Church. He writes about a study of 18 to 30 year-old adults in America where these young adults attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year while they were in high school. Here is the incredible but sad finding of this study:
Why Did They Leave?
While he explores this topic in the first section of this book, he briefly let’s us hear from the dropouts. Look at the 10 most common reasons the dechurched said they left the church between the ages of 18 and 22.
Top 10 Reasons Church Dropouts Stopped Attending Church
- Simply wanted a break from church.
- Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.
- Moved to college and stopped attending church.
- Work responsibilities prevented me from attending.
- Moved too far away from the church to continue attending.
- Became too busy though still wanted to attend.
- Didn’t feel connected to the people in my church.
- Disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues.
- Chose to spend more time with friends outside the church.
- Was only going to church to please others.
This list helps us see a common theme among most of the dropouts: to put it simply, they just did not see that church was essential to their lives. For example, the first reason, cited by 27 percent of the church dropouts, clearly depicts the nonessential attitude of the dropouts toward church: “I simply wanted a break from church.”
But even reason number eight, a disagreement with the church on political or social issues, indicates a noncommittal posture. In this case the dropouts easily could have found another church that was a better fit with their social or political views. Instead, they decided to drop out from church totally.
Churchgoing students drop out of the church because it is not essential to their lives.
Rainer, T., Geiger, E., & Rainer, S. S., III. (2010). Essential church. Nashville: B&H.