Statistics in the Church
Church and Religious statistics are notoriously complex. Research groups like The Barna Group and The Pew Research Center are forced to sift through changing trends, shifting opinions and inconsistent definitions to get even the slightest idea of the current religious temperature. As a result, research questions can be difficult to answer in a sweeping and comprehensive way.
But there is one question, relevant to us, that yields a consensus from most Christian research groups.
Are students who grow up attending Church dropping out after graduation?
The bad news is most research groups answer this question with a resounding "YES" at a rate anywhere between 70-90%. These numbers are staggering and show a true problem with reaching students with the gospel.
Anomalies in the Statistics
Based on this data, it seems that students who stay in the church as they enter young adulthood are a statistical anomaly.
The good news, however, is that there are more statistics to consider. The drop out rate does not make distinctions in one major category; faithful families.
Lifeway Research, a Southern Baptist research group, has found that their are four contributing factors for students who have stayed in church after graduation.
Wanted church to help guide decisions in everyday life.
Parents still married to each other and both attending church.
Pastor sermons were relevant to life.
At least one adult from church made a significant investment in me personally and spiritually.
Family Discipleship and Church Dropouts
It is easy to blame the church and the pastors as the reason that students are dropping out of church, but the findings of Lifeway show that only one contributing factor had anything to do with the pastor. Of the four findings that contribute most to students staying in the church, three of them have a particular application within our homes.
Wanted the church to guide them: The wisdom of the church is the word of God. Parents who choose to follow the wisdom of God set an example in the home, showing that where the word of God is read, known and preached is where the best guidance is given. Those students who want to be guided by the church have most likely seen examples of a life lived in conjunction with God's word in their home and found it fulfilling and wise.
Parents still married and committed to attending church: The commitment of the family to be faithful to each other and faithful to their God makes a huge impact on students. All children have a radar for hypocrisy, but teenagers especially have a desire to witness authenticity and realness. Live your faith before your children and follow the will of God in your relationships with you family.
Personal and spiritual Investment from adults: It is a growing trend in Christian churches to limited the exposure that children and students have to adults and their time at church. This is harmful to the connection that students make with the church and the people of God. If students don't feel they belong to the church or the christian community around them, they easily leave. Families should seek to involve themselves in the fellowship of the church. Worship together, join a small group and invite people from church into your home. This will help your children feel connected and become a part of the church.
The goal of every christian parent must be to help their children discover the truth of the Gospel and help them build their life upon it. Faith on displayed within a faithful home along with a commitment to worship God with our children, will show authenticity and help create a family narrative that will not hinder their desire to be join the people of God.