Why Do Young People Leave the Faith?

The Top Reasons Young People Drop Out of Church

According to an interesting summary of the data published by the 2017 LifeWay Research Survey, Christianity Today records the primary reasons young people are leaving the Church.  The top five are as follows: major life transition, a lack of community, hypocritical congregants, political/social matters, and work responsibilities.  One would think that those who are leaving the Church are doing so because they are occupied with their studies at college, but such is not the case, only 14% cite schoolwork as keeping them from the Church.  What stands out as particularly informative is the amount of Christians that cite leaving the Church as having to do with political or spiritual concerns (70%; up 18% since 2007), a majority of whom do so during their transition to university.

Christianity Today mentions that the cultural emphasis on LGBTQ issues, race, and social justice are driving motivations for many Christian to pursue a moral cause that is outside of Christian context.  As these Christians turn to more secular forms of living, the question has to be asked, why has the conservative, evangelical message not captivated the hearts of our youth?  Why are college students, when exposed to new ideas, leaving in droves?  It’s because most Christians do not learn to think. 

People Leave Christianity Because They Never Learned to Think

The problem for a lot of churches is that the kids go to college, learn to think and figure out that they were never taught how to approach their belief structure rationally.  They then conclude, rightly I might add, that “just having faith” is not an answer or reason to do anything.  Unfortunately, the message that many of our church’s provide is one of blind adherence and not intellectual growth.  Their message translates into “have faith for the sake of faith and believe in the Bible because the Bible tells us to believe.”  No one would follow instruction or a piece of advice that followed the same circular reasoning that most Christians present, but because this is a religion there need not be a rational discussion.   

The Church Must Enable Christians to Think Critically About Their Faith

We have failed to offer real reasons for a young person to connect to a Church.  We see this in the fact that young people are generally not leaving Christianity but are leaving the Church, all while conservative, evangelical thought continues to not connect.  Conservative Christians need to approach the faith in rational terms, understanding that a faith that is worth having is one that is eternally true and present in all aspects of life.  Every student should go to the university and have a clear vision of who God is, His moral character, and real, rational, and logical reasons why the Christian ideology is true.


Caleb Russell Jacobs (BS, Liberty University; MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the host of The Basic Bible Podcast and writes at www.webasicbible.org.

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