Despite an overwhelming number of programs to firmly ground children and youth in Christianity, a recent study by The Barna Group (www.barna.org) finds that the majority of young adults, also known as “twentysomethings,” move away from active participation in Christianity during their young adult years and beyond.
Approximately 61 percent of young adults who had been involved in church during their teen years no longer actively attend church, read their Bibles or pray. In addition, adults in their 20s also tend to be the most spiritually resistant group in America, according to Barna. Research shows that the majority of this group pulls away from church during the college years.
In addition, the usual events that draw young adults back to religious activities, such as the birth of a child, have a weaker draw on the current generation of young adults. According to the Barna study reported Sept. 11 in an article titled “Most Twenty-Somethings Put Christianity on a Shelf Following Spiritually-Active Teen Years,” only one-third of young adults who are parents regularly take their children to church, compared to 40 percent of parents in their 30s and half of parents who are 40 or older.
A study at the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles supports The Barna Group research, but also refines it.
The four-year study that began in 1997 and concluded in 2001 tried to determine the percentage of “born-again” college students who left the faith during their time in college. The study looked at eight types of college environments and then determined the number of students who fell away during the four-year period.
According to the UCLA study, the highest number of students who no longer claimed born-again status after four years was found in Catholic universities with 59 percent of previously identified born-again students no longer claiming this status.
Forty-five percent of private university students no longer claimed their faith with 38 percent of nonsectarian students falling away.
Thirty-four percent of public university students no longer claimed to be born again while 32 percent of public, four-year college students left their faith.
Lower numbers of students disavowing their faith were seen in Prot1:PersonName w:st=”on”>testant universities and historically black colleges, with 31 percent and 25 percent drop-out rates, respectively.
By far, the lowest number of students no longer claiming born-again status was seen in colleges that were part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Only 7 percent of these students fell away from their faith.
“It appears from the findings of both the 1985/1989 and the 1997/2001 surveys that students that have strong religious beliefs self-select to attend Council for Christian College and Universities institutions and there find a nurturing environment for their religious beliefs and practices,” according to the UCLA study. “Born-again students that choose other types of colleges find environments that are not intended to nurture their faith, and over time more of these students fall away from previously held beliefs.”
Daniel Kinnaman, the director of The Barna Group’s research, said the shift of young adults from churches signals that current youth ministry in American churches needs to be reinvented.
“Much of ministry to teenagers in America needs an overhaul?not because churches fail to attract significant number of young people, but because much of those efforts are not creating a sustainable faith beyond high school,” Kinnaman said.”A new standard for viable youth ministry should be?not the number of attenders, the sophistication of the events, or the ‘cool’ factor of the youth group?but whether teens have the commitment, passion
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