I’m the type that gets star-struck… It just happens! I found myself with a few stars in my eyes as I sat in the same room as David Kinnaman and Jim Henderson. David Kinnaman is the author of two books and the current president of the Barna Research Group. Jim Henderson authored The Resignation of Eve which I reviewed here on my blog a few months back. Jim Henderson is an advocate of women in ministry and is bold enough to ask the questions that others avoid (I got that line from his website, but after reading one of his books and seeing him live – I know that is the truth)! I admire the work that both these men do, so it was a pleasure to spend 4 hours in a live setting to hear directly from them.
The event I am referring to is You Lost Me Live. It was a presentation based off Kinnaman’s recent book You Lost Me which focuses on why the next generation is the leaving the church and not coming back. In some cases, they aren’t just leaving the church, but they are walking away from faith all together. It was great to have the research of Barna bring to life this startling trend.
There is so much I could pull out my time at You Lost Me Live to blog about, but that would take forever and probably excitement me a whole lot more than it excites you. So, I will share one thought that stood out to me. Here we go – There is a belief among the older generations that Christians may walk away from their faith during their college years, but not to worry because they will reconnect with the faith community once they have kids. It was interesting to learn that there a lot of factors that play into this being a false assumption.
The biggest factor that took me by surprise was how the economy played a large part in this. Students are coming out of college with more debt than ever before. They are also coming out of college into a hard job market. While some can’t even find employment, many are living paycheck to paycheck. This leads to many adult life experiences being put on hold. Things like moving out of the parent’s house, buying a house, getting married, and having kids are happening later and later in life. Living with the parents might be the only option for a post-grad who can’t make enough to cover the bills. This prolongs other life changes – like getting married. Who wants to propose and move into the parent’s basement? Who wants get married and have kids when they are can barely support themselves? Research shows that young people are waiting longer to get married and have kids. While most cite careers as being the reason why, is it any wonder that a career takes priority when there is a mound of debt that needs to be paid off.
This makes a lot of sense to me. I can see it in my own friends since I’m the generation they are talking about (young Christians ages 18-29). So what does that mean? The church just waits for them to come back in their 30’s once they get all the pieces of the puzzle put together? That seems like an awful lot of wasted time to me. If someone has a gap in their church attendance of 10+ years, I have a hard time believing it will be easy for them to come back to church. I’m sure most will say that they hold on to their Christian beliefs; I’m not positive that we will see the fruit of a healthy Christian lifestyle. How deep will this faith they claim be?
The thing about You Lost Me is that the research is stated simply. The issues are clearly seen. However, a research group doesn’t have the answers; they just tell you how it is. In a way this is a golden opportunity. The church has some talking to do. They need to be honest about where the next generation is at. They need to acknowledge their needs and their struggles. They need recognize that the times are different. It’s like it was when you were growing up. However, we are all human and have our human frailty in common. We all need a Savior. When the gospel is at the core of our message then we truly do having something offer this generation that seems to be walking off. When I say the gospel, I really mean the good news – the story of Jesus – his love and redemption. It’s not about being churchy and making them all act the same and look the same and talk the same. There is hope in Jesus and we need to keep that at the forefront.
Oh my… there are so many other topics I could discuss… this might have to be a blogging mini-series!