September 18, 2012
Uh Oh, Canada
Research shows young adults in Canada are leaving churches too. What can we learn?
You know the research isn't going to be good when the title of the report includes the word "hemorrhaging." A new study published in Canada shows the same trends evident in U.S. churches are no less real in hockey country. The report titled "Hemorrhaging Faith" (I can already imagine the solution-based conference and book: "Clotting Faith"), is featured in the latest issues of Canada's Faith Today magazine.
Some of the findings include:
-Only 1/3rd of young adults in Canada who attended church weekly as a child still attend as adults.
-Among those who no longer attend church, 1/2 have also abandoned belief in Christianity.
-There are four primary barriers that prevent young adults from engaging the church: Hypocrisy, judgement, exclusivity, and failure.
The Faith Today article based on the research places young adults into four categories:
Engagers (23 percent): Have a positive view of Christianity and still regularly engage with a church.
Fence Sitters (36 percent): May still identify as a Christian and have generally positive views of the faith, but they have made choices inconsistant with church teachings and therefore remain at a distance.
Wanderers (26 percent): May think the church has a positive role in society, but it's not for them. They do not agree with the church's views on moral and social issues.
Rejecters (15 percent): Although half say they were raised in the church, they now reject religion in all of its forms and identify as atheists.
While the study has a lot to say about negative and positive perceptions of the church, it does not lay the heaviest burden on church leaders. Instead the research found that a young person's parents play the largest role in determining whether or not they remain engaged in the church as adults. Parents exhibiting a vibrant, authentic, and positive faith are more likely to have adult children who integrate Christian faith and the church into their lives. Parents with nominal faith of who drop out of church themselves, are more likely to have children who abandon the church as well.
What's the lesson? Canada is a more secular and progressive culture than the United States. What we see in the Canadian church is likely to be what occurs in the U.S. in the coming years. Based on this research, as well as other studies on this side of the border, it seems that church-based solutions to retaining young adults will not be enough. We must have a more robust effort to engage whole households, and the best way to retain future generations is to ensure their parents have a vibrant, positive connection to Christ themselves.