Top Ten Reasons Why Our Kids Are Leaving the Church

A workplace colleague recently engaged the young people of his church in a discussion: Why are your friends leaving the Church? Now, as a former youth-group leader I know that getting kids to open up and talk is not an easy undertaking. But on this topic the discussion was so lively that he took notes. And then he shared them with me, inspiring this list (in no particular order) of reasons why our children–and grandchildren–are choosing not to worship with and serve alongside an organized body of believers.

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  1. I don’t agree with the politics preached from the pulpit.
    Is God a Republican? Or a Democrat? When I worship with my church family, I feel pressure to vote a particular way once I turn 18. And that’s not right.
  2. Some of my friends don’t feel welcome here.
    I have friends from another side of town. I have gay and lesbian friends. I have friends whose skin is a different color. I have friends with piercings and tattoos. I don’t feel comfortable inviting them to share worship with me here because I’m not sure they’d feel welcome. 
  3. The leaders spend too much effort trying to seem cool.
    Why does the pastor try to dress like a teenager? (He can’t pull it off.) I don’t need hipster adults; I need mentors who will inspire me and examples who will model for me the kind of person God wants me to be in 10, 20 or 50 years.
  4. I don’t feel respected as a person.
    When adults see me in church, they don’t see a person; all they see is a kid. I don’t know everything, but I do know something. Do I have to wait until I’m 35 to be treated halfway seriously?
  5. I’m too tired from Saturday night to get up and go to worship Sunday morning.
    Hey, I’m alive, I’m in college, and I like to have fun on Saturday night. Not drinking or partying but hanging out with good friends. Sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning. But my friends and I might go to a worship service if there was one Saturday night, like at 7 or 8 o’clock.
  6. The sermons are boring and have nothing to say to me.
    Yeah, I know that parents with little kids need some help from their church. And my grandparents are having trouble coping with their empty nest. But what about me? I’m here too! I can’t relate the message to my life. And is it too much to ask that you include a video clip or visual aid–something!–to make the message understandable and interesting? I’m having trouble staying awake .
  7. Anyone older thinks they automatically can tell me what to do .
    I get tired of people telling me what I should be doing, what I should be wearing, what I should be saying, without making the slightest effort to get to know me first and find out who I am.
  8. It’s full of people pretending to be something they’re not.
    What good is going to worship on Sunday if it has no effect on what we do the other six days of the week? If it’s real, shouldn’t it lead us to make better choices throughout the week? Love more deeply? Live with more integrity? Serve with more compassion? I don’t see it happening; the church is a bunch of hypocrites.
  9. Shouldn’t it be about more than just a list of “Do This But Don’t Do That”?
    Is that all there is to our faith? Is it just a bunch of rules? I desperately want something–or someone–to believe in. But all I hear about in youth group is what I shouldn’t be doing.
  10. Too judgmental!
    I don’t feel loved and appreciated; I feel judged. I know I’m not perfect, but then neither are you. Can’t we both love one another and support one another as we fight our battles and work on our issues?

Maybe things haven’t changed too much. Matthew 23 tells us that Jesus had strong words for the church leaders of His day. He criticized them because “they do not practice what they preach” and [e]verything they do is for people to see”. They insisted on complete compliance with a heavy load of rules, but “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness”. Jesus called them “hypocrites”, “blind guides”, and “whitewashed tombs” who were clean on the outside but filthy on the inside.

So, how does the Church keep our young people from heading for the exits? (And, really, the reasons that young people give for abandoning organized church bodies are pretty much the same reasons that adults give for drifting away.) Let’s try these remedies:

  1. Be welcoming.
  2. Be caring.
  3. Be courageous.
  4. Be accepting.
  5. Be real.
  6. Be about relationships before rules.
  7. Be a role model.
  8. Be nice.
  9. Be Biblically sound.
  10. Be humble.

What are others saying? Take a look at this blog. Or this one. Or maybe this one about Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church.

 

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Top Ten – Steps to Recovery from a Bad Choice

I make bad choices. I do my best to avoid them, but I make bad choices. My duty then is to accept responsibility for them by admitting them, apologizing to those whom I’ve hurt, and trying to make it right. I hope I can be forgiven by those affected by my mistake.

But sometimes the hardest person from whom to secure that forgiveness is myself. I hope I’m generous in forgiving others, in releasing myself from any lingering bitterness, in forgetting the disappointments of the past and in moving on to the greater achievements of the future.

But it’s hard to forgive myself. That’s grounded in my pride–arrogance really. While I’m willing to accept shortcomings in others, I expect more from myself. So when I really screw up badly, it throws me for a loop. I can’t believe I acted in such a fashion. I can’t let it go–even when those whom I’ve hurt have forgiven me.

I’m a left-brained, analytical person. I make lists. So years ago after a particularly poor choice had me mired in depression, I decided to devise a step-by-step process to pull myself out of the muck. Here it is:

  1. There is a God. I’m not Him.
  2. Because I’m not God, I am not perfect.
  3. Because I’m not perfect, I will make poor choices–big ones sometimes.
  4. My poor choices will hurt people, sometimes badly, sometimes the ones whom I love dearly.
  5. When I make a poor choice, I must accept responsibility for it.
  6. I accept responsibility by admitting it, apologizing for it, and trying to make things right. (Sometimes things are irretrievably broken because of me. I can’t fix them.)
  7. I will learn from my poor choice and commit not to make the same mistake twice.
  8. I will ask those whom I’ve hurt to forgive me. I’ll ask God to forgive me.
  9. Then I’ll forgive myself and move on.
  10. But I will still make mistakes. (See #1, #2 and #3 above.) 

Top Ten – Best First Lines

It’s summer. And time for a summer-vacation blog post. Summer means beaches and beaches mean books. Is there anything better than sitting down with a good book on a sunny, sandy beach with the whole day stretching out before you?

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I love a book with a good first line, a line that not only draws you into the book but gives you a clue about what you’ll be reading. A good first line will not only get you and the book to the Barnes & Noble checkout line (when you were sure you were “just browsing”), but it will also capture the theme of the book in just a few words.

Here are my top ten favorites. (OK, I cheated. There are eleven. I just couldn’t bear to make the final cut down to ten.)  

11. “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” –JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
This captures the major conflict of the Harry Potter books, doesn’t it? What is it like to be a wizard in a world full of muggles like Mr. and Mrs. Dursley? Is there any teenager who doesn’t feel like a wizard in a muggle world? And as we become adults, don’t we realize that there is no such thing as “perfectly normal”?  

10. “It was a dark and stormy night” … –Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford
This might be the most famous opening line of all time–but not for a good reason: it’s undoubtedly the most ridiculed opening line ever. When Snoopy was struggling to write his novel with a typewriter perched on the peak of his doghouse, he always started with those same words. San Jose State sponsors an annual bad-opening-line contest named in “honor” of Mr. Bulwer-Lytton. Betsy Dorfman won in 2014 with this stinker of an opening line: When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose.

9. “It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.” –Jim Harrison, The English Major
Is there more poignant way to start off this novel about a 60-year-old man’s quest to find balance and meaning in his life after his 38-year marriage unexpectedly implodes?

8. “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind
Yeah, the book is about war and slavery and Reconstruction, but at its heart one finds Scarlett, her resilience, her resourcefulness, her ruthlessness and her undeniable power over men.

7. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” –Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Isn’t that so, so right? Ooooohhh, if only I could write like that, to cleverly express a truth with a concise and apt metaphor! 

6. “When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake–not a very big one.” –Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
I was hooked as soon as a read the opener to this Pulitzer-Prize winner. What is a blue pig? And pigs eat rattlesnakes? On the porch?? The opening line let me know that I was in for a heckuva read–something different from my daddy’s Louis L’amour westerns–with a surprise in every chapter.

5. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” –Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
What many call the greatest novel ever written is a story about the many ways in which a family can be unhappy: a rejected proposal of marriage, a proposal that would have been accepted if the gentleman had had the courage to offer it, an unfaithful wife, a cold and unforgiving husband and all sorts of other Russian complexities.

4. “All children, except one, grow up.”  –J.M. Barrie: Peter Pan
Is there a more concise, more accurate description of what this wonderful story is all about? I think not. 

3. “Call me Ishmael.” — Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Confession: I’ve never read Moby Dick. But no list of opening lines would be complete without this one.

2. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … ” –Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities
This famous first line foreshadows the duality and tension of the novel’s ending when–SPOILER ALERT!–Sydney Carton arranges to go to the guillotine in Charles Darnay’s place so that his friend could be reunited with Lucie, the woman both men love.

1. “In the beginning, God … “ — God, The Bible
Could there be a more appropriate way to begin the story of God than to let us know that He was already there at the beginning? At the outset, the Bible tells us that at one level, this God thing is easy to understand–He created everything!–but it also signals us that there are deeper, more mysterious aspects to His story and His nature that will take us more than a lifetime to unravel.