By: Sierra Bancroft
Hebrews 10:23-25 ~ “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (NLT).
As a senior who is about to graduate from a Christian high school, I have begun to wonder how many students actively pursue their faith after their required Bible class is no longer. I wonder this because I know the vast majority of private school kids have gone to church for most of their lives, but is that just because of their family or is that their own spiritual journey? Along with that, do students feel pushed in the environment they are currently in to take the time out of their busy college schedule to pencil in God? This article will take a look into the realities of faith after high school.
According to (imbedded link) [http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropouts-and-disciples-how-many-students-are-really-leaving.html], many studies only tend to look at the percentage of young adults that take a “hiatus” from the church and do in fact return which is the key variable to the high percentages of 70-80%. They believe that the confusion between hiatus and dropout are what causes the high percentages. They took a study that examined high school students who attended church regularly for a year in high school and found that between the ages of 16-29 about 13% had dropped out of the church and had planned on never returning. While this number may seem as only a small amount of the church population the problem lies in the future. If current generations are sticking with churches purely because they are in high school, then churches will die out because they will eventually have no new members. The current generations decision of whether or not to stick with the church will affect that churches livelihood and wellbeing in the future.
Now that the facts are evident, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why students abandon the faith. The first one that comes to mind is that the restrictions and forcing of the faith are gone in most circumstances. Often times, if Christianity has purely been forced onto high school students during their four years and it was never personalized, why would they stick with it? If it was just something to cross off their requirement list for graduation, why put in extra effort to continue something extra? The other that comes to mind is not having the same amount of time in college. To me, the solution is simple, you have to make time. But if you have been liberated from restrictions, why would you carve extra time that could be spent sleeping or doing something more fun? Another reason could be the actions and impressions the church has left on the student. If they have been hurt or scorned by the church there is no reason in their mind to continue with it, but it is more reason to get away from it. They could have been hurt in a number of ways; the church reacting with hate to a situation, preaching on something sensitive to them in a harsh and demeaning way, or even having friendships within the church that ended badly. There is a multitude of reasons why high schoolers stay in the church but the main thing to look to are the solutions, the ways we can prevent the 13% from dropping out of the church.
As I’ve said before, the current and future generations of young adults are crucial and necessary to the churches livelihood and survival. This is why I am using this article as a means of calling out the church and calling for action within its multiple denominations and locations. Here are some of my proposed solutions to the dropping out of high schoolers from their churches. First and foremost, make sure your churches youth programs are strong and effective. Having leaders who are willing to devote their free-time to help students grow in their faith is monumental to this continuation. As well, making sure that you are welcoming and aware of all that happens in high school for the students. Keeping a youth focus makes the students feel special and important which will increase the chances of continuation with the church. On top of that, make sure you are planning fun and engaging events with your students to make their church experience more personal; make church something they look forward to and not dread. The second solution is creating multiple times to fellowship and meet with the church so that it can accommodate everyone’s schedule. Having the traditional Sunday morning service but also have night services on Friday and Saturday. Make it hard for students to give the excuse of not having enough time. The third is to take extra precautionary steps to make sure your messages and even side conversations are not offensive or demeaning to any student. This means showing love in every situation and explaining things in a way that keeps the Truth of the situation but not turning someone away because of harsh words.
Personally, my journey with my church has been bumpy but with the help of a variety of youth leaders, my parents, and the amazing community that I have found I am excited to continue my faith after high school and to step into all God has for me. But I can’t seem to get that 13% of students out of my head. Every day I pray for the students that surround me that they would make personal connections with the Church and have a passion for sticking it out with Jesus. If you’re a student reading this, I plead that you would stick it out and find a community that suits you and to stick with it. Having Jesus in your life won’t make everything sunflowers and daisy’s, but He will make your life something that is worth living. Here’s to making that 13% disappear, will you join me?