Raising Kids Who Stay

The Bible calls us to “commend [God’s] works from one generation to another [and] declare your mighty acts” (Ps 145:4). But how are we to do so when our young people drop out of church? How do we get them to stay? 

In Jan 2019, Lifeway Research in the United States released the results of a survey of 2,002 young adults entitled “Church Dropouts: Reasons Young Adults Stay or Go between ages 18-22”. The study conducted in 2017 comprised of churchgoing young adults from Protestant churches up to the age of 17, which roughly corresponds to the age of Singaporean students who complete education in a junior college or polytechnic.

Dropping out

Here are some of the major findings regarding young adults who dropped out of church:

  • It’s common. Most young adults who were regular churchgoers stopped attending church for at least a year when they became young adults (66%).
  • Most return to the faith. Most of the young adults raised in church continued in the faith (70%).
  • The critical years are from ages 17-21. Researchers found that within that age range, church attendance plummeted (attendance drops each year from 75% at age 17, to 69%, 58%, 40%, 36% each year before stabilising around 33% at 21). 

 

Why do others stay?

Respondents who stayed in church were also polled. Their responses showed that the top factors contributing to regular attendance were:

  • Church was a vital part of my relationship with God (56%).
  • I wanted the church to help guide my decisions in everyday life (54%).
  • I wanted to follow a parent/family member’s example (43%).

The detailed findings of the study have been written up in a book entitled “Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith” by Jana Magruder. Summarising the book’s thesis, Trevin Wax writes that “… children who remained faithful as yong adults (identifying as a Christian, sharing their faith, remaining in church, reading the Bible, and so on) grew up in homes where certain practices were present.” 

What practices are these?

The single biggest factor was Bible reading, followed by prayer, serving others in the community, singing Christian songs, and the credible examples of parents personally living out the Christian faith.

Wax asks helpful questions that we might want to consider and discuss in our care groups, or with our spouses:

  • What kind of culture do we want in our homes and churches?
  • What space are we creating for our children to flourish?
  • How are we rooting our families in God’s Word?
  • How are we modelling prayer and repentance?
  • What are the songs that are in our hearts and on our lips?
  • How are we fulfilling the Great Commission? 

 

What can we do?

As insightful and helpful as studies are, ultimately, what makes the difference is not the wisdom of statistics or human reasoning, but the holding power of the living God. It is to Him that we must bring our requests and seek His help through prayer.

With this in mind, let us continue to give thanks for our children in junior worship and Sunday school, for Vacation Bible School and the various children’s ministry activities, outings, and for Mok Chuan-Xin and the teachers who faithfully serve week after week.

Let us pray for our youth, and for the volunteer leaders led by Pastor Sam, who teach them the Bible every Friday night. Critically, let us encourage parents of children and youth to read the Scriptures with them in family devotions, and model Christlikeness and humble repentance in the home. Keep praying for the Mums Connect and the Christian Parenting group that meet, that they would encourage one another to raise their children well in the Lord.

Let us also give thanks for the young adults in our midst – the 19-23 year olds, led by Nehemiah Chong and Bibianna Yeo, who by the grace of God are still attending church, and find ways to help them develop a vibrant relationship with the living God.