Volume 14, Number 1, September-October 2010

 

Already Gone

Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it

By Ken Ham and Britt Beemer • Copyright 2009 by Ken Ham • Master Books

Ken Ham is the president and founder of Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio. AiG produces an abundance of creationist materials, hosts a website and sends out creationist speakers all over the country. Ham is a prolific writer and speaker and has appeared on several major TV programs on big networks including Fox, CNN, ABC and BBC.

Based on his own experience and research by pollster George Barna, Ken Ham believes we have an epidemic of closing churches mainly due to young people leaving and not returning. After interviewing 22,000 adults and over 2000 teens Barna concluded “six out of ten 20-somethings who were involved in a church during their teen years are already gone.” According to 2006 Barna Group statistics on twenty year olds, 19% did not attend church as teens and still don’t. Of those who did attend as teens, 61% no longer do so.

Ham wanted to learn more detailed reasons for this high attrition rate. Britt Beemer, a market research analyst who had done work previously for the Creation Museum, and his America’s Research Group polled 1000 individuals from all over the country who had regularly attended church as teens but did not attend now. Based on a wide variety of questions no one clear reason for dropping church attendance stood out. The top 5 reasons given were: boring services, legalism, hypocrisy of leaders, too political, and self-righteous people.

Another major finding of this survey was that, “We are losing many more people by middle school and many more by high school than we will ever lose in college.” Among those who no longer believe that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true, almost 40% had their first doubts in middle school and almost 44% in high school. Ham says: “many parents will fork out big bucks to send these students to Christian colleges, hoping to protect them in their faith. But the fact is, they’re already gone. They were lost while still in the fold.”

This study also revealed that, “Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children.” Those who regularly attend Sunday school are more likely not to believe all the accounts in the Bible are true, are more likely to defend abortion, more likely to defend premarital sex and gay marriage, more likely to believe God used evolution, more likely to believe the earth is billions of years old and much more along the same lines.

Ham offers two major ways to counteract this trend. First he calls for a total renovation of church educational materials. He believes the Bible is taught as just “stories” and “not really connected to the real world” and we yield science teaching to the secularists. He stands for the teaching of strong biblical apologetics in general and creation apologetics in particular. He believes a major reason the church is losing its young people is because we no longer take a firm stand on the straightforward reading of the Genesis accounts. If they can’t trust the beginning of God’s word, why should they trust any of it? Ham writes, “It’s not enough to just tell students, ‘believe in Jesus!’ Faith that is not founded on fact will ultimately falter in the storm of secularism that our students face every day”. Secondly he strongly exhorts parents, fathers in particular, to take responsibility for their children’s religious education, citing Deut. 6:4-10 and Eph. 6:1-4. Don’t just drop them off at Sunday school.

Those surveyed were also asked what they missed by not attending church. “Only about 7 percent said they missed the music, and nobody was missing Sunday school. Most of them simply said, ‘I miss worshipping God.’”

There is very much more to this 190 page book including a 14 page appendix detailing some of the Beemer survey questions and several lists of teaching resources (not just from AiG).

While some smaller church groups may think this was a study of mainstream churches, and not applicable to them, this writer challenges them to honestly accumulate statistics of their own. Of the young people in your group for the last ten years, where are they now?

This writer agrees with much of this book and believes Servants’ News readers could learn some valuable lessons from it. Ken Ham believes the primary way for each of us to make the church relevant is “By defending the Word, living by the Word, and standing on the Word uncompromisingly.”

 

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