By David Kinnaman.
Baker Books, 2011.
by Faye Reynolds, Director of Intergenerational Ministries for the CBWC
Do you now any Nomads? Prodigals? Exiles? These are the categories that the Barna Group has identified as those who have drifted away from faith and the church, renounced their faith entirely or found alternative ways to explore and practice faith. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church….And Rethinking Faith is a summary of the most current surveys conducted by the Barna Group on reasons why those particularly in the age category of 18 – 29 have quit attending church.
Kinnaman begins by identifying three main factors that affect the environment and culture that youth are coming from: 1) access, 2) alienation and 3) authority. We all have incredible access to knowledge and information including all kinds of religions and practices, scientific theory and discovery, sexual content, health and wholeness advice – the list is endless. Access to knowledge does not necessarily translate into wisdom and so the challenge to the church today is to worry less about control of information and more about offering wisdom in how to engage with that information. The church must be less threatened and more engaging. The second factor deals with the alienation that many youth feel as they engage their vocational callings and culture while feeling disapproval from their Christian communities of their choice; and the third factor deals with the suspicion toward any institution or voice of authority claiming to have the corner on truth. These three factors greatly affect how youth interact with their world, including their church community.
Out of their surveys, Barna has noted six factors that contribute to the exodus from the local, institutional church. In quick summary, families have been overprotective of their children leaving them with few skills to truly encounter the “real world”; churches have offered shallow, mass-produced discipleship programs rather than in-depth mentoring; churches have pitted God against science forcing an either/or choosing; the church has disengaged from sexuality rather than addressing issues in honest dialogue; the exclusive claims of Christianity have caused conflict for youth reared in a tolerant society; and lastly, the lack of hospitality within the church to safely confess doubts and ask tough questions. Although these six factors are specifically gleaned from the perspective of 18 – 29 year olds, I know many peers in their 50’s that have also wrestled with these same issues and have vacated their pews.
As David identifies the various reasons that youth are leaving our churches, he strongly challenges the church to rethink the way we fulfill the great commission to go and make disciples in today’s society. The last chapter is particularly beneficial in offering 50 ideas that would help the church rethink its calling and ministry.
I would recommend that we as pastors of the denomination all read this book and engage in discussion as to how we better shape the church of this century so that we are truly making life long disciples of Christ.