There is an ongoing silent migration away from the church of an estimated 3,500 individuals each and every day. A 2014 study indicated that over 1.2 million people will leave the church in the next year. Several factors are contributing to this trend, but the majority of individuals who are leaving the church report that they no longer feel connected. Can this be reversed? Can the church connect with these people before it is to late?
This movement away from the church has been ongoing for several decades. The number of churches that are closing their doors every year is leading to an overall decline in church attendance. In 2015, it is estimated that over 10,000 churches will close their doors. This has lead to a growing host of Christians who no longer have a place to connect with other believers. In fact, The Barna Group reports that the average size of a church congregation in America is just 89 adults. That means for each church door that closes, almost 100 people are left without a spiritual home.
When asked about the importance of church in their lives, 80% of 14-33 year olds reported that church was 'not important' to them. Millennials, as they are often called, have very different preferences of what church should look like compared to their parents. Millennials prefer worship spaces that are quiet and decorated in a classic style. They prefer casual dress and a sense of community over privacy. Clint Jenkin with the Barna Group says, "Millennials don't look for a church facility that caters to the whims of pop culture. They want a community that calls them to deeper meaning." In short, churches do not need to create ultra modern worship spaces to connect with young people, but rather create an environment that engages and inspires.
When asked about these shocking statistics, Roger Chasteen of the Kross Radio mentioned a positive trend "67% of US listeners now stream their music online." The Kross – which streams online as well as through Android and Apple apps, can reach the unreachable. "Listeners can tune into the Kross anytime anywhere and connect with a larger Christian family," said Chasteen. "Millennials are getting their news and information on the go it only makes sense that they would want their Christian music on the go as well." In fact, more and more churches are increasing their online presence, from social media to streaming service - young people want to access the church from their own homes, on their own time.
Ultimately, while the trend of young people leaving the church is troubling, there is hope. Churches should continue to reach out to their community and engage with young people. Church leaders who use social media and streaming content will likely see their congregations grow over time. Jenkin with Barna went on to say, "When Millennials visit your faith community, are they welcomed and respected, or harassed and put on the spot? Think about how you can respect and respond, rather than assert and demand. If, at the end of the day, teens and adults can say they met with God in your faith community, getting them to come back won't be much of an issue."
Sourced: The Fuller Institute, Barna Group, The Kross and Pastoral Care Inc.