Category Archives: Church

Who is really leaving the faith and why?

This is a challenge to parents as much as it is to the church.

Many have reported alarming numbers of Millennials leaving their faith. This summary provides a good context for understanding what the numbers actually reveal.

See previous related posts
Critical Thinking

What follows is from the Gospel Coalition blog.

Who is Really Leaving the Faith and Why?

It’s likely you’ve heard the news: the sky is falling. Reports have been circulating for a while now that our churches are on the decline and it’s the young people who are to blame. Articles, blogs and even books have been written warning ministry leaders and parents alike, the Millennials are leaving our churches in droves of hundreds and thousands.

Intrigued by the implications of a generation giving up on organized religion, we set out to understand who is leaving and why. And what we found was surprising. Many of the most significant and encouraging findings are largely being ignored, while the less accurate and discouraging ones are being emphasized.

Focus on the Family talked to respected sociologists of religion and studied the best, nationally-representative studies and found the bad news is not as bad as you might have heard. Our new report, “Millennial Religious Participation and Retention” draws out some very important research for those who are raising and ministering to the next generation

Pew Research recently found that 18% of young adults leaving their faith altogether and another 20% are switching from one faith to another. This latter cohort, while leaving individual churches, are not leaving their individual faith. They might be switching to a church across town or to one near their college campus. With more young adults switching than leaving, it’s odd very few are talking about those switching. In fact, many, we suspect, have been counting them along with those who are leaving.

Also interesting is the huge difference between conservative, Bible-teaching churches and mainline Protestant churches. The General Social Survey, perhaps the most academically-trusted source for demographic data back through 1972, recently noted a 2.2% decline in mainline churches and a slight 0.6% increase among conservative churches (from 1991 to 2012).

Perhaps most interesting is what Pew learned about those leaving their faith. Pew asked those leaving if they ever had a strong faith as a child. Only 11% said they did. The other 89% said they never had a strong faith in the first place. As our report says:

Not surprisingly, homes modeling lukewarm faith do not create enduring faith in children. Homes modeling vibrant faith do. So these young adults are leaving something they never had a good grasp of in the first place. This is not a crisis of faith, per se, but of parenting.

Young adults are not developing a strong faith as children and walking away as they enter adulthood. Instead, the majority are failing to develop strong faith in the first place and then walking away. As Notre Dame Sociology Professor Christian Smith writes,

Religious outcomes in emerging adulthood … flow quite predictably from formative religious influences that shape persons’ lives in early years … religious commitments, practices and investments made during childhood and the teenage years, by parents and others in families and religious communities, matter – they make a difference.

This has huge implications for those working to instill faith in our children. First, it’s encouraging that those children who develop a deep faith early on will likely hold onto that faith throughout their lives. But secondly, this shows being in and around church is simply insufficient to develop strong faith for many children. Taking children to church and Sunday school, while important, should not be seen as the only, or even best, way to instill strong faith in our children.

Parents should be intentional about creating homes where their children learn a vibrant faith from God-fearing parents, relatives and other adults. Parents should teach personal habits of prayer and Bible reading in their children, which makes them much more likely to hold onto their faith.

Christian Smith doesn’t mince words: “Parents are huge, absolutely huge, nearly a necessary condition” for a child to remain strong in their faith into young adulthood. He concludes “without question, the most important pastor a child will ever have in their life is a parent.”

There are many reasons why young adults leave their faith, but perhaps the most significant is that they never developed a strong faith in the first place. Instead of trying to appeal to those with lukewarm faith, perhaps we should back up and consider how we can teach parents to cultivate strong, lasting faith long before our children enter adulthood.

For more of our findings, read the complete report at Focus Findings, a ministry of Focus on the Family.

Andrew Hess is the Manager of Church Outreach at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Adjunct Professor of Humanities and Theology at Colorado Christian University. He is passionate about equipping pastors and ministry leaders to lead thoughtful, thriving ministries.

The Power and Place of the Word of God

The power and place of the Word of God.

John Albert Bengel

Scripture is the foundation of the Church: the Church is the guardian of Scripture. When the Church is in strong health, the light of the Scripture shines bright; when the Church is sick, Scripture is corroded by neglect; and thus it happens, that the outward form of Scripture and that of the Church, usually seem to exhibit simultaneously either health or else sickness; and as a rule the way in which Scripture is being treated is in exact correspondence with the condition of the Church.


What to do, before, during and after a worship service

From the 9Marks Blog though reposted on my sites..

At the Trellis and Vine Workshop in DC today, Colin Marshall shared ways that ordinary church members can serve the church on Sunday mornings.

Before the Service

  • Read the passage in advance
  • Pray for the gathering
  • Greet newcomers (act like you are the host)
  • Think strategically about who you should sit with
  • Arrive Early

During the Service

  • Sing with gusto (even if you can’t sing)
  • Help with logistics (if there’s a problem, help fix it)
  • Don’t be distracted
  • Listen carefully
  • Be aware of your facial expressions (you may affect others and discourage preachers)

After the Service

  • Connect newcomers with others
  • Get newcomers information
  • Start a conversation about the sermon
  • Ask someone how they became a Christian
  • Stay late

Reformation Day

This weekend we should celebrate Reformation Day, which commemorates October 31, 1517, the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. The event which marks the start of the reformation.

The theses challenged the institutional churches practices of selling indulgences–a certificate that “guaranteed” the purchaser of a reduction of time in purgatory.

If you would like to know more of the story, you can download the book, Here I Stand, free through October 31, 2010 at The Listener’s Bible.

Quotes–The Impact of the Church

When the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.  It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.  
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Here is the great evangelical disaster–the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this–namely, accommodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.  
Francis Schaeffer

The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God–
not an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice.
A. W. Tozer

Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship.  As a result, their meanings and values are distorted.  Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.
Gordon Dahl

You cannot pick and choose from the Bible what you want to believe is inspired.  The Bible does not present itself that way.  Even more, the Bible will have no sustaining power for life if you make yourself the arbiter of what you will and will not believe about it.
Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell

All quotes taken from Church Swindoll’s book, The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal

What people look for (need) from Church

Some interesting information about why people go to church and what they want from church.

After you read the statistics–please comment–what are your reasons for attending church?

Top 6 Things people are looking for their Church
(Reveal Survey, Willow Creek)
56%–Challenges me to grow and take next steps
55%–Helps me to understand the Bible in greater depth
51%–Helps me develop a personal relationship with Christ
50%–Helps me apply the Bible to my life
49%–Provides compelling worship services
35%–Provides strong programs for children to learn about God (this one was high among people with children, but since only 58% of respondents had kids, that lowers the numbers)

Much of the following is from Thom S. Ranier’s book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched.

While the survey was fairly small (350 new Christians, 350 Christians who switched churches and 100 pastors–all from conservative evangelical church)–I think it is meaningful for the environment in which I serve.
The strength of the data–if you have a clear mission and focus on the development of people (true discipleship with a focus on serving), you will attack both believers and new believers.
The weakness of the data–it doesn’t show why people necessarily leave a church or how to reach those who are not “generally” like the rest of those at our church.

Top 13 Reasons that Unchurched People Choose a Church
(research conducted by Ranier in his book Surprising Insights of the Unchurched, p. 18)

90% — Pastor/Preaching
88% — Doctrines
49% — Friendliness of Members
42% — Other Issues
41% — Someone Church Witnessed to Me
38% — Family Member
37% — Sensed God’s Presence/Atmosphere of Church
25% — Relationship Other than Family Member
25% — Sunday School Class
25% — Children’s/Youth Ministry
12% — Other Groups/Ministries
11% — Worship Style/Music
7% — Location

Top 9 Reasons that Church-Attenders Choose a Church
(research conducted by the Barna Group in 1999)
58% — Doctrine/Theology
53% — People Caring for Each Other
52% — Preaching
45% — Friendliness
45% — Children’s Programs
43% — Helping the Poor
36% — Denomination
35% — Like the Pastor
26% — Sunday School
Notice (the following) that what keeps people are is ownership of the ministry–moving from attending a church to belonging or from “their church” to “my church.”

Top 6 Things that Keep the Formerly Unchurched Active in the Church
(research conducted by Ranier)
62% – Ministry Involvement

55% – Sunday School
54% – Obedience to God
49% – Fellowship of Members
38% – Pastor/Preaching
14% – Worship Services

The statistics speak for themselves. Overall, doctrine, the pastor and his preaching, and the friendliness and fellowship of the congregation are the most influential qualities.

Also, a broader Gallup Poll discovered that 40% of Americans claim to attend church or synagogue regularly but 15% never attend.  The reasons why…

#1 Reason Why People Attend Church

23% for spiritual growth and guidance
20% keeps me grounded/guided
15% it’s my faith
15% to worship God
13% the fellowship of other members (the community)
12% believe in God/religion
12% brought up that way (tradition)

#1 Reason Why People Do Not Attend Church
24% don’t agree with organized religion/what they preach
21% don’t have time/don’t get around to it
16% don’t believe in going to church
10% don’t believe in God (atheist)
9% don’t have a church I connect with
6% I’m lazy
3% church wants/asks too much money
2% poor health/disabled
1% family members are different religions
(The last 5 sets of statistics found on Church Relevance)