Recent survey data released by LifeWay Research confirms what many regular churchgoers probably already knew: Finding young adults coming to church on a regular basis is a challenge.
The poll of 1,000 people between the ages of 23 and 30 concluded that at least 70 percent of them stopped attending church completely for at least a year as they entered adulthood between the ages of 18 and 22.
The most common reasons – also probably not terribly surprising – were focuses on education, acclimating to the workforce and developing social relationships outside of church. Once young adults reach their mid-20s, however, about 65 percent return to church to some degree. Over the long-term it does point to continuing attendance attrition and a real challenge for youth pastors and volunteers to strongly engage teens at a level which promotes continuity.
Women are more likely than men to feel “the desire to return” (41 percent vs. 22 percent) and to feel “God was calling me to return to church” (34 percent vs. 18 percent).
Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “There is no easy way to say it, but it must be said. Parents and churches are not passing on a robust Christian faith and an accompanying commitment to the church. We can take some solace in the fact that many do eventually return. But, Christian parents and churches need to ask the hard question, ‘What is it about our faith commitment that does not find root in the lives of our children?’”
The answer may lie in one simple word – priorities.
Particularly for young adults who do not live at home while attending college, the desire to create your own world and new social circles is powerful. By the time many kids graduate from high school they are ready to experiment on their own in many ways, which doesn’t necessarily always mean the negative connotations associated with alcohol and drug use. Breaking out of the known is ordinary, and if attending church and being part of a Christian community has not already been internalized, the time lapse of returning to church – or perhaps not returning at all – will continue to be a factor.