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Why Are Young Men Leaving The Church?

Church life today is suffering from the disappearance of young men between ages 20 and 25. Why is it that as long as the boys stay home with their parents, they go to church; but when they leave home between the ages of 18 – 20, they leave the church as well? Bojidar Marinov thinks he knows the answer. He writes:

[W]hy would a young man stay in the church? Is there a “male” message in our churches today? Is there a message that gives a young man a worthy cause to work for and to fight for? Why would he stay, to listen all his life to the same sermon over and over again, in many different versions of it? Come back every Sunday to learn—for the n-th time, over and over again—that God loves us? Shed tears over the same emotional stuff every week? Or hear that we live in the “last times” and therefore evil will expand and he can’t do anything to turn the tide? Or that his gifts mean nothing in these “last times,” all he is supposed to do is to “witness” to save a few souls from hell?

. . . What message do the churches have for those with the gift to be bankers? “Praise God you make money to pay tithes”? What about truck drivers? “God put you there to evangelize at the truck stops”? Do the churches have a message for banking itself as a legitimate part of the kingdom of God? Or truck driving? Or fitness? Or business management?

There is no message for them. The church’s message concerns only the church and the limited scope of activities that the pastors have declared to be “spiritual.” Any young man with gifts outside the scope of these activities is left to feel a “second class” citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. And guess what: Men are born with the impulse to be first class. This impulse is in the Y-chromosome. They will look for a cause, they will look for meaning in life, they will look for ideas, worldviews, professions, that give them the opportunity to have that meaningful first-class life. . . .

Why would he want to stay in a church, passive, listening to the same sermon every Sunday that tells him that there is nothing he can do to change the world except snatch a few souls from hell? He is eager to go out there and prove himself in all those fields but then the church is silent about them, the preachers never preach about them and never explain the spiritual value of those jobs, sports, political and social causes, business, etc. in the Kingdom of God. There is no theology for political action, no theology for business action, no theology for social activity. . . .

The silence and the refusal of the churches to preach and teach a comprehensive worldview creates a tension; and our young men resolve the tension by leaving the church and going to the world. . . . It is a perfectly logical response to the deficiencies in our churches’ preaching and teaching. . . .

This hasn’t always been the case. Two or three centuries ago . . . America was postmillennial. The American church had a message of victory, a message that this country was a City on a Hill, and by its example God would change the world for Christ. Whether they were rafters and cowboys in the wilderness, or store clerks and builders in the cities of the East, Christian boys heard the same message from their preachers: “We are a nation created by God to be Christian and to exhibit God’s glory. We have a Manifest Destiny to create a godly society that will be admired and imitated by the nations of the world. . . . Men like Cotton Mather preached on political and economic issues (Fair Dealings Between Debtor and Creditor is one example); and the civil government was constantly under scrutiny and criticism from the pulpits. The churches did not wait for their boys to go out and find worthy causes. The churches led the boys in those worthy causes in their crusade to redeem the world for Christ. . . .

And young men stayed in the churches, and built Christian families, and expanded the Kingdom of God, and built the Christian culture that we today thank God for. . . .

That should tell us how we can take our young men back. As long as we have a female church with a female message, our young men will prefer to stay away from it. You only get what you preach. The loss of our sons to the enemy is a curse, and it is our fault we have let our churches truncate the message to irrelevance.

Read more here. . . .

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One Response

  1. Being a young man within that age group, I agree that sometimes the message which gets preached can seem a bit old-fashioned and even irrelevant to young men. However, it can seem old-fashioned and irrelevant to all demographic groups! I think there’s an element of sheep-like behaviour within this age group as well: Whilst living at home, guys go to church with their parents. When they move out, possibly to go to university or wherever, they suddenly have their own routines to form, and allow their non-Christian friends to help form those in such a way that they involve going out on Saturday nights and not waking up until midday on a Sunday. I think that sermons can improve to help keep young men focussed on the church, but as a helper at a youth group I feel that these maybe have more of a role to play than they currently do.

    Church sermons have to be aimed at the whole church family, so if you focus upon the young men you might lose the interest of the middle-aged women (for example). The key is to keep the message fresh and interesting for anyone, and then in smaller demographic groups (eg a youth group, or a parents group, or a senior citizens group) pay attention to the specific needs of that audience. With young men who are about to leave the nest, maybe this needs to involve some hard-hitting messages about the dangers of straying and being distracted by the world – there’s no point in the leaders trying to be their best friends, sometimes we need to give them the truth no matter how hard that is to hear. Maybe it can involve very practical measures such as recommending a church in the place which they are moving to. But basically, to keep the youth interested, you need to have youth ministry which runs alongside (not instead of) the main church ministry, I feel.

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