Lost mePeople are calling it "The Great Departure" – Christian young people leaving the church. Close to 60 percent of young people who went to church as teens drop out after high school. Now the bestselling author of unChristian trains his researcher's eye on these young believers. Where David Kinnaman's first book unChristian showed the world what outsiders aged 16-29 think of Christianity, You Lost Me shows why younger Christians aged 16-29 are leaving the church and rethinking their faith.

Based on new research, You Lost Me shows pastors, church leaders, and parents how we have failed to equip young people to live "in but not of" the world and how this has serious long-term consequences. More importantly, Kinnaman offers ideas on how to help young people develop and maintain a vibrant faith that they embrace over a lifetime.

Kinneman identifies three types of young people who have left church:

1. Nomads – they walk away from church engagement but still consider themselves Christians.

2. Prodigals – they lose their faith, describing themselves as "no longer Christian." 

3. Exiles – they are still invested in their Christian faith but feel stuck (or lost) between culture and the church. 

Kinnaman goes on to offer "six reasons" why the next generation is disengaging from church:

1. Overprotective: "The church is seen as a creativity killer where risk-taking and being involved in culture are anathema." 

2. Shallow: "Easy platitudes, proof texting, and formulaic slogans have anesthetized many young adults." 

3. Anti-science: "Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible." 

4. Repressive: "Religious rules, particularly sexual mores, feel stifling to the individualist mindset of young adults." 

5. Exclusive: "Although there are limits to what this generation will accept and whom they will embrace, they have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. Thus Christianity's claims to exclusivity are a hard sell." 

6. Doubtless: "the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts."

For more details on these six reasons, click here.

Research worth checking out …

P.S. Also worth reading is Essential Church.

8 thoughts on “You Lost Me – Latest Church Research from Barna Group

  1. So the question that arises is: So What? Not why does it matter, but, so what can we do about it? It is not as simple as being the opposite of the reasons.

  2. Modern people have a higher level of (secular) eduacation, of exposure to different multi-cultural wordviews and accees to information.
    Coupled with the fact that we live largely in a post-cult era people no longer view the Church and Chucrh Leadership as an authority. (This authority has been eroded by generations of abuse by the Clergy including the manipulation of scripture – eg. the false teaching of tithing).
    The outcome of this is that the sheep are scattered – and are easy prey.

  3. Hi lionfish, you said the false teaching of tithing. I see nothing false about it. Mal 3:10 Bring the whole tithes into the store house.
    I encourage you to seek the Lord on this matter, he will answer.

  4. Isn’t this a wake up call for the church… If what we are doing is turnng off 60% of the next generation and we keep doing it… We’re doomed. This is what i have worried about for years, hence my previous posts here and on facebook. Perhaps instead of trying to transplant aging church practices of yesteryear we should be radically adjusting our approach; 5 songs, a message and dash for the carpark just arn’t going to cut it anymore.
    Its good that you raise the issue as too many are sitting in the church year in year out without a clue that their kids will walk out the door as soon as the get the nerve.

  5. From the website this is the most profound but:
    Between these extremes, the just-released book You Lost Me points to ways in which the various concerns being raised by young Christians (including church dropouts) could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families. Kinnaman observed that many churches approach generations in a hierarchical, top-down manner, rather than deploying a true team of believers of all ages. “Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.”
    What we have done is isolate people from true community by splitting people into age groups, and turning church into an event to attend, where the exact opposite should be happening.

  6. Yes, Peter, hence the need for more inter-generational interaction.
    One contextual factor to consider with the research for this book is the amount of ‘nominalism’ in the USA, where the vast majority of people think they are ‘Christian’, and going to church is something everyone does. In Australia, we are in a much more post-Christendom stage and people don’t go to church here out of tradition as much. If they go, they chose to because it is meaningful to them.
    Although there sill is some drift out of church by kids who grow up in church here in Australia, the amount of young people and young adults active and engaged in Australian churches is quite unique in the world and something we should be very thankful for.

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