Are the Students in Your Church ‘Already Gone’?

21 Feb

Everyone knows the church in America is struggling for relevance. The Judeo-Christian culture has given way to a secularized society driven by a secular mass media culture. Today churches are more likely to be treated with disdain or as nuisances rather than as a pillar of virtue by community leaders and public officials.

Few, if any, have nailed down the problem as concisely as Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, who in 2009 authored the book, “Already Gone.” The book followed a survey of 1,000 people in their twenties who had once attended an evangelical or conservative church. Here are a few pertinent numbers from the survey:

  • 61 percent of American 20-somethings were churched as children but now spiritually disengaged
  • 95 percent attended church regularly during elementary and middle school years
  • 55 percent attended regularly in high school years
  • 11 percent still going to church in early college years
  • 39.8 percent first had doubts in middle school
  • 43.7 percent first had doubts in high school
  • The majority do not believe in evolution

One of the most amazing findings of the survey was that Sunday School was actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children. Sunday School had no impact on what children believed in critical areas. Many SS teachers and pastors just say “believe the Bible, it’s true” without teaching apologetics.

Children get two lessons Sunday and neither is relevant to them, the authors found. Students can’t cope with attacks on the faith because they haven’t been taught to defend it. Bible stories are seen as “fairytales” which do not connect students to the real world. Children get their “facts” from and form their worldview based on what they learn in school. On Sunday morning children are told what to believe, but not why to believe it. They’ve never been taught Christian apologetics in the church, leaving them vulnerable to skeptics.

Yesterday’s Sunday School students are today’s young adults who now see the church as irrelevant. Most of them checked out of church mentally as teens. They were already gone by then.

As a result, the church and the Bible are no longer the go-to places to learn historical science. Schools are. The prevailing culture is aggressively teaching the apologetics of evolution and secular humanism. And they do teach children how to defend their worldview, while connecting it to the real world. Think environmentalism, for example. It’s no wonder so many children from Christian families are tuning out.

“The basic foundation of Judeo-Christian heritage in U.S. no longer exists,” Ham and Beemer write. “It is already gone. Bible not taken seriously outside the Church. Relevance of Scripture is already gone.”

The researchers also learned from their subjects:

  • Too often churches focus on making people feel good.
  • Music is over-prioritized, especially the evangelic church. Choirs are out, and concert-style music teams take up a lot of the worship time. But all this music is not feeding the souls or teaching people to defend their faith.
  • Irrelevant messages: people want to hear the Word, but they’re not getting enough of it.

The young people surveyed are likely to attend a non-traditional type of worship activity, such as a house church, para-church, or online ministry. These people didn’t find the Word of God in church, so they’re looking for it outside the church.

This book is not short on solutions to this crisis—foremost among them: the teaching of apologetics in the church. Ham and Beemer recommend the following solutions:

“If we’re going to stop this exodus epidemic it must happen in the church and home during elementary, middle and high school years.

“Churches must relate the Word to the world in relevant ways and teach apologetics.

“The entire structure and focus of our programs need to be reconsidered. We need to make radical changes in the format and style of these programs to determine how they can be most effective in teaching truth to our children and overcoming the issues that undermine biblical authority in their thinking and drive them away from church.

“Unless the facts behind the Christian faith are clearly and convincingly communicated in a way that students can learn and remember, their faith will not stand up to the assault of doubt from the world. It’s not enough to tell students “believe in Jesus!” Faith not founded on fact will ultimately falter in the storm of secularism that our students face every day.

“The Word of God has never changed, but the church’s perception of the Word has changed when it began to compromise with the world and scientific views undermining the Bible. Good observational science supports faith. Bring facts back into our faith.

“We must change hearts from the ground up. Culture changes from the ground up. To change the culture, hearts and mind need to changed in regard to the Word of God. It is our job to stand on the Word of God with compromise and defend the Christian faith and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Church leaders should passionately and consistently challenge church members to maximize their influence with youth and young adults. Frequent and intentional contact can either prevent or counteract the tendency of some to drop out of church.”

Ham and Beemer call on greater involvement with the young by parents, Christian educators, youth pastors, and pastors. “All must defend God’s Word with the youth.”



One Response to “Are the Students in Your Church ‘Already Gone’?”


  1. Sunday is National Pray for Marriage Day « The Arizona Christian - February 24, 2012

    […] Are the Students in Your Church ‘Already Gone’? […]

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