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Can you survive without blood?

Making converts is one thing but keeping them is quite another


by , CEO, CMI–Worldwide

Published: 18 April 2015 (GMT+10)
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, April 2011

If you knew in advance that more than half of the youth in your church were going to walk away from Christ after they leave home, wouldn’t you want to do something about it? There has been a lot said about what’s been described as the ‘exodus of youth from the church’. We are really talking about the future ‘life-blood’ of the church. The stark reality is that there won’t be much of a body of Christ left with so little blood left in it. Here are just a few of the reports.

  • The Southern Baptists report 88% of children leave the church never to return.1
  • George Barna research found that 6 out of 10 active youth stopped being involved in their adult years.2
  • Gallup Poll finds church attendance drops to 32% during teen and adult years (a 68% loss).3
  • Seminary survey finds up to 50% of youth struggle in their faith after university graduation.4
  • USA Today reports 7 out of ten leave the church by age 23.5 And similar things are happening in Western churches in general.

Whose children are they?

Sadly, surveys like this abound. CMI speakers often alert congregations to such awful stats when they conduct presentations in churches. But more alarming is the apathetic response of parents and grandparents to these figures when shown. Even though many older parents approach us to unhappily confirm that their own children are part of those statistics, others see their own children happily attending Bible classes and enjoying youth activities, and simply think “That’s somebody else’s children. That won’t happen to mine.” Through the myriad of different surveys in different denominations, one thing is clear—this is really happening. So, whose families is it happening to? Might I speak frankly by saying: It’s not someone else’s church, or somebody else’s children. It’s potentially our own, and we often find out when it’s too late. I’m sure those ‘other’ parents didn’t think it would happen to their children either.

Even when new blood is being introduced to the church, a revolving door syndrome ensues. In 2005, one major denomination says it recorded over 5 million ‘salvation decisions’, but retained only just over 4%.6

Having fun in church is not enough

The Great Commission implores us to reach the lost and make disciples of all nations, but Jesus adds “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:16–20). A disciple is more than just a believer. He/she is a follower of Christ who is to be involved in spreading the message. This requires teaching and equipping so that application can follow. Although some argue the definition of missions, I’ve always believed that ‘missions’ starts at home. When engaged in evangelism abroad, one knows that part of one’s job will be to confront the dominant false religions and ideologies of a particular country. But we fail to recognize that in our own countries the most influential and dominant ideology at work is evolutionism and its concomitant ‘truth’ that ‘science has shown the Bible to be wrong.’ Most children are exposed to this on a daily basis, so to make disciples in our own churches we must counter the dominant worldview that we know they will be taught.

It’s not rocket science!

Another recent survey confirmed the root causes and what ministries like CMI have been saying for years. Several hundred children across 11 schools were surveyed—from Scripture classes, so one would expect them to be relatively informed about the faith. The four biggest questions they had were:

  1. How can I know that God exists?
  2. How could a good God send people to hell?
  3. How can I believe in a good God when there is so much suffering?
  4. Doesn’t evolution prove that God doesn’t exist?

1, 3 and 4 are questions that CMI specifically addresses. Other most popular questions were “Where does God come from?”; “Why did God make us?” and “If the Big Bang is true does that mean God is not?”7

A youth minister also wrote to us and said:

“I used to beat my head against a wall wondering why we lost all our young people at about age 16. I’ve realized that age 16 is when they teach evolution in depth in science. Some of the teachers actually identify the Christian students and make a special point of explaining the differences and difficulties in reconciling Genesis and the ‘facts’ of evolution. It’s no wonder we lost them. I come near tears just thinking about it.”8

The real tragedy is that these stats can be easily reversed. Don’t let your church’s children become a ‘lost’ statistic. We have more answers to help young ones (and older ones too) connect the Bible to the real world than at any time in church history. Please act now—in your own families. Talk to your church leaders, ask them to have a CMI presentation, and run a discipleship course in your church that includes basic teaching on Creation. We are here to help.

References and notes

  1. www.sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc02/newsroom/newspage.asp?ID=261.. Return to text.
  2. www.barna.org. Return to text.
  3. www.gallup.com/poll/6124/Religiosity-Cycle.aspx. Return to text.
  4. fulleryouthinstitute.org. Return to text.
  5. www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-08-06-church-dropouts_N.htm. Return to text.
  6. Crabtree issues discipleship challenge, http://ag.org/top/Events/General_Council_2007/News. Return to text.
  7. What Questions Are Adolescents Asking?, Mason, M; Singleton, A; Webber, R; (2007) The Spirit of Generation Y, Mulgrave: John Garratt pub. Return to text.
  8. Letter from Giselle S. Church censors biblical creation. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

K. W.
I think the answer to Question #2 lies in the fact that God is good, but also just. And He wouldn't be perfectly good if He wasn't perfectly just. God can't allow sin to go unpunished. If it's not repented of, it will be paid for by the sinner in eternal hell. God would not be completely holy if He allowed sinners into heaven without their sin completed atoned for. But thanks be to God that He prefers that we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from that sin and that He endured and paid the full punishment of our sins on the cross!
Gary Bates
Hi there, we have actually answered this question in the article Why would a loving God send people to Hell? The search engine on our site is pretty useful! :)
Albert N.
Why Children are leaving the Church? I think the biggest reason is that the hypotheses of Evolution has been taught as "fact" in the public school system for about 30 years. The psychological principle of "Cognitive Dissonance" says that it is impossible to believe 2 opposite things at the same time. If a person believes that the Universe came into being by accident as the scientists say, then it is impossible for that person to believe that God created the Universe and all life.

Brian D.
I am currently attending Texas A&M University. In my home church, I grew up with 14 boys, about my age. Now, only 4 of us are frequent attenders to church. The rest either attend once a year or not at all. Looking back, I see that one of the ten was serious with God at about the age of 13, inspiring others do do better. By age 15, that had changed and he was the bad apple of the barrel. Another one took God serious up to age 16, then he started to drift away. By 18, I rarely saw him. The rest never did take God seriously. The only reason they attended church was because their parents made them. Upon entering church, they promptly began to socialize, especially with the younger girls. The unique thing about the exodus from my church is that creation was/is strongly taught. Most of those who left church were home-schooled with creationist material. Therefore, I feel it safe to say that creationism is extremely important; but, there is also something missing. Creationism being taught did not keep my church from losing 72% of the boys. From what I can discern, their parents did not shelter them from the world and its influence. Consequently, they felt the pull of the world before they were strong enough, spiritually, to resist it.
Gary Bates
I think you pointed out the problem perfectly. Bad company or influence corrupts. Of course sin is the problem. Adam and Eve had all the knowledge they needed about God being the Creator but they still chose their own way. The world has more attractions today to tempt people away than ever before. And part of the sin problem for some is using evolution as a justification to deny God as Creator.
Luke M.
Sad but true, the 'microbes to man' myth is peddled as total truth despite many science teachers themselves acknowledging the extreme holes and uncertainties contained in it. I live in hope of the day when Creation will be taught in all science classrooms showing students the truth, as opposed to the guesses and half truths given via Evolution.

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