Transitioning Out of Church

By Julie Roys

          They were expected to win gold.  But, in 2008, both the American men’s and women’s 4 x 100-meter relay teams dropped their batons and went home empty-handed.  Imagine – four years of grueling training and sacrifice down the drain because of a failed hand-off.        
         Transitions are difficult to navigate. But, sometimes more is at stake than even an Olympic medal. According to a new study, good transitions are key to keeping young adults in the church. 

         The study called, “Hemorrhaging Faith,” involved about two-thousand Canadian young adults and found that only one in four respondents raised in evangelical traditions attend church weekly.  Among those raised in Catholic and mainline traditions, the results were even more bleak: a mere one in 10 weekly attend church.   Interestingly, though, most of these young people say they dropped out of church during a time of transition.  And contrary to conventional wisdom, more of them dropped out between their elementary and high school years than between high school and their early 20s.    

            Rick Hiemstra, director of research with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, suggests this may be due to the age-segregation so common in churches today.   “(Children have) never been in the service,” Hiemstra says.  “We’ve spent years teaching them that there is nothing going on of interest to them upstairs during the service.”  So, when they age out of Sunday school, “why would they be suddenly interested in what we are doing?” 
            This confirms what leaders in the integrated church movement have been saying for years: God designed the church to be inter-generational – and church meetings need to connect kids to the life of the church, not separate them from it.  According to study researchers, if kids don’t experience church as a vibrant community that impacts their family life, they’ll likely drop out.
            Fortunately, we can learn from our mistakes.  In 2012, the American men and women’s relay teams fixed their baton-passing issues and won gold in the Olympic 4 x 100 relays.  Hopefully, our churches can do likewise.



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1 thought on “Transitioning Out of Church”

  1. Always enjoy your commentaries–and this one was no different.
    We have started a new family integrated church in Northwest Indiana–we just celebrated our 1 year anniversary and absolutely love what we’re doing!

    We’ve followed this movement for over 10 years and helped another FIC for about 3 years before planting one near where we live.

    If you’re ever in our area, come and visit–

    Rhonda Devine

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