Question: "Why are so many young people falling away from the faith?"
Answer: Not every child who starts out in church stays in church; in fact, many young people are falling away from the faith and walking away from the church as they grow older. A recent survey conducted by the Barna Group, a leading research organization whose focus is on the relationship of faith and culture, found that less than 1 percent of the young adult population in the United States has a biblical worldview. Even more startling, the data shows that less than one half of one percent of Christians between the ages of 18 and 23 has a biblical worldview.
The Barna Group defined a biblical worldview as belief in the following:
• absolute moral truth exists
• the Bible is completely inerrant
• Satan is a real being, not symbolic
• a person cannot earn his way into the kingdom of God though good works
• Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
• God is the supreme Creator of the heavens and the earth and reigns over the whole universe today
Another study by Fuller Seminary also looked at why young people are falling away from the faith. The Fuller study determined that the most important factor in whether young people leave the church or remain steadfast in their faith is whether they have a safe haven to express their doubts and concerns regarding their faith before leaving home. Such a refuge is found in two places: their home and their church youth ministry.
The Fuller study also found that most church youth programs tend to focus on providing entertainment and pizza rather than building up young people in their faith. As a result, teens are ill-equipped to face the challenges they will encounter upon leaving home. It’s no wonder that some young people fall away from the faith, if they were never grounded in the faith to begin with.
Two studies conducted by both the Barna Group and USA Today found that nearly 75 percent of Christian young people fall away from the faith and leave the church after high school. One of the key reasons they do so is intellectual skepticism. But how many of these youth were actually taught the Bible in their homes or in church? Statistics show that children today spend an average of 30 hours per week in school where they are often taught ideas that are diametrically opposed to biblical truths, e.g., evolution, the acceptance of homosexuality, etc. Then they come home to another 30 hours per week spent in front of a television set bombarded by commercials and sitcoms, playing video games, or connecting on social media. This is in contrast to the time spent weekly in the church classroom: 45 minutes. Given the amount of exposure to worldly influences versus Bible training, it’s understandable why young people leave the home without a Christian worldview and why many are falling away from the faith. Not only are most youth not being well-grounded in the faith, but they’re also not being taught to intelligently examine the views of skeptics who will inevitably challenge their faith. Most of these students are not prepared to enter the college classroom where more than half of all college professors view Christians with hostility and take every opportunity to belittle them and their faith.
A key factor in keeping young people from falling away from their faith is the influence of their parents. It’s as the Proverb says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). One particular study found that when both parents were faithful and active in the church, 93 percent of their children remained faithful. When just one parent was faithful, 73 percent of their children remained faithful. When neither parent was particularly active in church, only 53 percent of their children stayed faithful. In those instances where neither parent was active at all and only attended church now and then, the percentage dropped to a mere 6 percent.
There are many competing beliefs in the marketplace of ideas. Relativism and skepticism are commonly seen as “enlightened” positions in our society. Christian parents must train their children in God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6:6–9). Teenagers should be able to walk away from the home without falling away from the faith. They must be fully trained in how to respond to their unsaved friends. They should be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within them (1 Peter 3:15).
The fact that so many young people are falling away from their faith should concern every Christian family and every church. It’s not enough to blame the secularization of society or the increased biblical illiteracy of the world in general. If the world is biblically illiterate, then the church is partly to blame, since the church is to be “declar[ing] the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Churches need to take a hard look their youth programs. Instead of entertaining youth with skits, bands, and movies, we need to teach them Scripture with logic, truth, and a Christian worldview. Frank Turek, a Christian author and lecturer on apologetics, addresses the problem of youth falling away from the faith this way: “What we win them with we win them to. If we win them with entertainment and low commitment, we win them to entertainment and low commitment. Charles Spurgeon was way ahead of his time when he implored the church to start ‘feeding the sheep rather than amusing the goats’” (“The Seeker Church: Is Anyone Making Disciples?” CrossExamined. Web. 5 Oct. 2015).