Studies show 66% of teens who are active in church leave the church after high school. Ben Trueblood of LifeWay Student Ministry joins me today to discuss the missing links and how we can help our kids stay connected to the church as they leave home.
Lifeway released a survey of 23-30 year olds who were active in church throughout their high school years. The goal was to track their church engagement from ages 18-22. The biggest focus of this study was on the retention rate of the students who were active in high school years and remained active throughout their college years.
What were the big picture findings of the survey?
66% of Active High School Students (attends 2x or more per month) leave church in the first couple of years after graduation.
- Life change/situations 96%
- Church/pastor related reasons 74%
- Religious, political, ethical reasons 70%
- Student/youth ministry reasons 63%
Why do 2/3 students leave the church?
- There is statistically no significant difference in church drop out rates between college, military or workforce graduates. It’s not a college/career problem; it’s an age gap / transition from high school problem.
- only 39% of students who leave say their dad was active in church as well
- #1 reason why they walk away was life change was that they moved to college and stopped attending church; its generally not about hating God or purposefully walking away from the faith
- They didn’t feel connected to people in the church (not just kids but other generations too).
Why do the 1/3 stay connected to the church?
- When teens can identify 3 or more spiritual mentors through the high school years, they are THREE times more likely to stick with the church during college years
- Mentor relationships can begin to take root in early stages of elementary and middle school! Adults who will take the kids seriously make the kids want to stick around longterm.
- The stay rate is 13% higher for students who have a father who attends church
- Virtually no evidence of a student ministry “coolness factor” keeps kids in church.
- Help your teenager connect beyond just the worship service. (student ministry, life groups, mission trips, etc help them become more connected to the body of Christ).
- The goal isn’t to become a good church-goer, but when someone is growing in their faith, there is more connection and likelihood to be with the people of Jesus.
- Advice to parents:
- Help your teen overcome the initial barriers because there’s nothing that pulls them to be part of the body of Christ when they start out on their own.
- If you do a college visit, its ESSENTIAL you take time to visit churches in the area as well
- Parents, stay connected to the church; show genuine love and interest in the church. Pay attention to the pipeline of ministry.
- 31% of those who left had returned to church by age 30, and the number one reason why they came back is because a parent invited them.
- Our parental influence goes far beyond when our kids move out. Don’t give up on inviting them back to church!
Listen for Ben’s answers to these Patreon Questions:
- At a smaller church, where people are already volunteering at capacity, how do we make mentoring, discipleship and relationships with our kids and students a foundational part of our church?
- Is there a significant long-term difference between students who come out of student ministry vs those who didn’t?
Tweet ThisThe stay-in-church rate for teens is 13% higher for students who have a father who attends. Click To Tweet When teens can identify 3 or more spiritual mentors through the high school years, they are THREE times more likely to stick with the church during college years. Click To Tweet Mentor relationships can begin to take root in early stages of elementary and middle school! Adults who will take kids seriously make the kids want to stick around longterm. Click To Tweet
Within Reach by Ben Trueblood (statistical results geared toward pastors, youth pastors)
A Different College Experience by Ben Trueblood and Brian Mills (read this with your graduating seniors and kids early in college life; also a great grad gift; good last-semester curriculum for youth)
Your local student ministry!
Marriage Snapshot tool