Right after that session, we went to listen to Rachel Held Evans and she let us know that young adults are leaving the church and not returning. But she had a solution. The solution was for the church to be more open to embracing gay marriage. So her solution was that evangelical churches (whose young adults were continuing to come back) should adopt the perspectives of many mainline churches (whose young adults are staying away). In other words, the way to fix the problem you don't have is to adopt the methods that led others to having the problem you don't have.
A few years ago, I heard a young man give his faith story. He talked about how his parents lived a good life, tried to follow Jesus' teachings, but that he never heard them talk about their inner relationship with God nor did they seem to have a vibrant prayer life. He decided that, at this point, he too wanted to live a good life and try to live according to Jesus' teachings. But at the same time he was an agnostic, unsure if God really existed. My thought at the time was that this young man came by his agnosticism honestly.
This really tracks well with what the Fuller Youth Institute has learned in their project called Sticky Faith. Young people will largely model after the lived faith of their parents, especially the faith of the father. (Sorry, moms, that's just what the research showed.) This is the critical and most important factor. They also found that if the father was not religious, even the grandfather could have a significant effect. When church attendance is not important to parents, it will not be important when they become adults. When a personal relationship with Jesus is not demonstrated, young people will assume God does not truly exist. This is not true in every case, but it is simply what is most likely to happen.
If you are a parent, you cannot outsource the faith development of your children. If you are a father, you cannot expect your wife to take care of it for you. If you don't have a faith story to share, get help and start to develop your faith journey. If you are only nominally Christian, ask God to awaken a passion within you. Live into that story and share that story in vulnerable ways with your children. Their futures depend on it. And so does yours as a parent.
You can read part 2 of this blog post about young adults leaving the church.
For more information about Sticky Faith, you can start with this article and this book.
For more about statistics about young adults, you can start with this article and this book. In another post, I'll talk about attitudes toward Christians and divorce statistics. Again, the popular view is not the accurate view.
-John M Troyer