LifeWay Director Shares Advice for Keeping College Students in Church Amid Rising Number of Young People Dropping Out

To combat the growing number of young people who leave the church, leaders must invest in student ministry and make an intentional effort to focus on individuals during traditional college years, the director of student ministry at LifeWay has said.

A 2017 LifeWay Research survey released on Tuesday reveals that 66 percent of Americans between 23 and 30 years old said they stopped attending church on a regular basis for at least a year after turning 18, compared to 70 percent in 2007.

The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent).

Of the 66 percent who left the church during their college years, 71 percent didn’t plan on taking a break, the study found.

Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay and author of Within Reach: The Power of Small Changes in Keeping Students Connected, pointed out that for the most part, young people aren’t leaving the church out of “bitterness, the influence of college atheists, or a renunciation of their faith.”

“What the research tells us may be even more concerning for Protestant churches: there was nothing about the church experience or faith foundation of those teenagers that caused them to seek out a connection to a local church once they entered a new phase of life. The time they spent with activity in church was simply replaced by something else,” he said.

Trueblood explained to Lifeway that there are ten strong predictors of young adults staying or dropping out of the church after high school, including parental influence, regular Bible reading, and the investment of adults.

“One of the most influential aspects of a student’s spiritual development is the investment of multiple adults speaking into their lives,” he said. “Since that’s the case, church leaders need to make an intentional effort to regularly train the volunteers who work with students. Equipping adults to serve in student ministry is vital to the spiritual health of students.”

Trueblood advised church leaders to be “willing to spend time digesting what is and isn’t working in student ministry, according to the research, and make adjustments that will keep students grounded in their faith and committed to the church.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett