I have the privilege of preaching in 50-70 churches every year and I have noticed that many of the churches are populated primarily by median and senior adults. I have noted for decades that we are failing to keep college-age students and young adults in our churches.
Current statistics confirm my observations. In Why They Stay, an extremely informative and helpful book by GBC state missionaries Steve Parr and Tom Crites, it is reported that only 20% of young adults who were active in church as teens were still active in church at age 29. They also stated that in America only 16% of all churches across every denomination have a significant young adult population.
These statistics are alarming and do not bode well for the American church in the decades ahead. Alerted to this disturbing statistic, Parr and Crites conducted a national research project – not to find out why young adults are leaving the church but to find out why those who remained active have maintained their loyalty to Christ and His church.
The authors of Why They Stay surveyed nearly 1,400 young adults from all over the country from different traditions and backgrounds. Of those surveyed 99% claimed to be Christians and 93% indicated they were church members. The results were telling.
Factors that determine the path
When the survey was analyzed the authors discovered 15 factors that make a great difference in the likelihood that children and teens will remain in church as adults. There were ten issues that make somewhat of a difference in lifetime involvement and five surprises that do not make as much of a difference as one might think.
The goal of the book is to help parents, pastors, and church leaders know what to do to insure the likelihood of teenagers who are currently attending church to remain faithful to the church when they turn 30.
Why They Stay is by no means a tedious volume of facts, figures, and statistical data, but a fascinating book of personal stories and anecdotes that illustrate both current reality and biblical truths.
Whether Parr is relating the challenges of knowing how to discipline a strong-willed daughter or Crites is revealing his angst over not being able to outwit Tracy in a sixth grade language arts class, Why They Stay is not only spiritually beneficial, but good reading.
If you have any interest at all – and you most certainly should – in making investments that keep children and teens connected to the church for a lifetime, you need to read Why They Stay. The book has 215 pages and is a publication of WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, and is available at your local Christian bookstore and your favorite online retailer.
Proceeds from copies purchased through the egbc store, the GBC eStore, go to the Mission Georgia offering. Visit www.whytheystay.com to learn more about the book and the movement.