Why Kids Leave the Church After High School

The Youth Transition Network has released the results of research about why 70% of students in high school youth groups have left the church within a year after high school graduation.

One big reason is the unrealistic expectations that our young people sense from parents and church authority figures. When asked, “What does it mean to be a good Christian,” students responded with a long list of do’s and don’ts, always and nevers:

• No sex
• No secular music
• No fun
• No profanity
• No bad attitudes
• Be perfect
• Be a virgin
• Be wholly devoted to God
• Be righteous
• Be a role model
• Don’t doubt
• Have all the spiritual answers
• Always be positive
• Always be in a good mood
• Wear proper clothing
• Go to church all the time
• Always read your Bible
• Always be praying
• Know the whole Bible
• Get along with everyone
• Always be happy
• Never talk back
• Do not fail
• Do not fail
• Do not fail

Wow. And that’s a PARTIAL list! If someone said to you, “This is what it means to be a Christian,” would you want to sign up?

What’s also heartbreaking is what ISN’T on the list:

Reveling in God’s love for me
Appreciating His gifts of grace and mercy
Loving God back because I am so moved by His tender love for me

No wonder so many students live a “goody-two-shoes” Christian life on Sundays and Wednesday nights, and a completely other, separate life the rest of the week! No wonder they don’t see the point of staying connected to a church once their parents stop making them go.

So many of our students feel that they can’t be successful Christians. They think it’s hopeless to live up to the expectations they sense. They think that being a Christian is just too hard.

Sounds like they need to be introduced to what grace looks like. Sounds like they need to have it modeled to them. Sounds like the rest of us need to embrace it ourselves and live it out so they can see it up close and personal, and see why following Jesus is so much more than checking off the boxes on our spiritual report cards!

This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/why_kids_leave_the_church_after_high_school on April 28, 2009.