Leprechauns, Unicorns, and “Good Kids”: Part 3 Drop Outs

Over the last few years I’ve tried my hardest to identify the people to whom God has called me.  It would seem as though my general ministry direction has gone the way of shepherding young adults. I’ve spent time in contexts with soon-to-be college freshmen all the way up to young couples with little ones, and I’ve learned a lot from those interactions.  A few years ago I started to notice a trend among the youngest young adults, specifically those who were 18-19 years old.  As this group of young men and women prepared to head of to college or get their first full-time job they simply fell off the map when it came to participation in a faith community.  I was noticing what many others in my field had already started to discuss, I was surrounded by Church drop-outs.

It’s likely that I will address the “drop-out” issue in coming posts, so I won’t go into all the details regarding this phenomenon, but I do want to give some recent statistics.  Depending on the study, it is estimated that at least 60% of young people who grow up in church, will drop out after youth group with one study reporting an alarming 88%! (see note below) It was only yesterday that I was speaking with a church lay-leader who lamented that they have practically no young adults in their congregation.  At one point in the conversation he almost demanded an explanation from me, “What’s going on?” he asked.

This is where Christian parenting and a larger Church phenomenon intersect.  It is often thought that the life experiences of young adulthood gets the drop-out ball rolling,  whether it’s sitting though the liberal evolution-centered lectures in college, or increased exposure to other religious beliefs, or new circles of friends. Based on my own experience and other related research,  I strongly believe that there was a spiritual disconnect in the hearts of these young adults years earlier. The question is, what is at heart of this disconnect and what does it have to do with our parenting?

So here’s where I invite you to consider this line of questioning and share your thoughts. It would be great to hear from some young adults as well!


NOTE: Barna Research Group and LifeWay Research place dropout rates between 60-66% with no more than 35% returning in later adulthood. A 2007 study within the Southern Baptist Convention returned a rate of 88%.