How to Keep Your Kids From Leaving The Church

It's widely known by pastors that most students who grow up in church end up leaving the church and becoming spiritually disengaged after high school (no longer praying, reading the Bible, or attending church).  But for years the research has shown that these young people usually find their way back to church when they reach their thirties and forties.  New research, however, shows that this trend is reversing.  Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University says that students who leave the church are no longer returning.

So what can we do to keep our young people in church and spiritually engaged after high school?  I believe the family-integrated church model can help. 

In a typical age-segregated church, high school students are part of youth group, which is a church within a church.  They have their own small groups.  They have their own worship service.  They have their own pastors and worship leaders.  They have their own activities, such as retreats and camps.  And then when they graduate high school, they are kicked out of the youth group.  Without a deep connection to the church-at-large, it is easy for them to drop out of church.  I remember when I graduated from high school.  I felt completely lost at church.  Where did I fit in?  I wasn't a part of the youth group, but I didn't feel like I could hang out with the adults.  I was shoved into a "College and Career" Sunday school class, and that was just weird.  Some of those people had been in the College and Career class for ten years! 

The family-integrated church model can fix this.  From the beginning kids are integrated into the church-at-large.  They attend small groups with the adults.  They attend worship with the adults.  They volunteer with the adults.  They become deeply entrenched into the church.  And when they graduate high school, there is no shift.  They will still attend the same small group, sit in the same worship service, and volunteer in the same ministries.  They will be used to doing church with people of multiple generations.  They will already belong.  They will not have to find something new.  They will not have to transition.  Their life outside of church will change, but church will remain the same. 

Most kids leave the church after high school, and they don't return.  Church-as-usual just isn't cutting it.  It's not getting the job done.  Are we willing to think outside the box and try something different?


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