Let’s talk about Drew Dyck’s book, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith… And How to Bring them Back.
As a former youth pastor, I heard the stat over and over again: “70% of young people leave the church by the time they’re 22.” But why? This book sheds some light on this question. Through a number of personal interviews, Dyck discovered 6 kinds of people who’ve abandoned their Christian backgrounds:
#1. The Postmodern
This is the “That’s true for you, but not for me” kind of crowd. Still, they love to hear about honest experiences. So share your story, but keep it real. He gives a good reminder not to approach them like they’re into logic, reasons or science. Save your theistic arguments for later.
#2. The Recoliers
People who’ve been hurt by Christians and feel like it’s all God’s fault. They might bring up intellectual challenges even though they left for emotional reasons. Empathy’s a big need here. Show them how God really wants Christians to relate to hurting people. Again, save the theistic arguments for later.
#3. Modern Leavers
Some people do leave because of problems with ideas that don’t make sense to them. Many atheists like to talk about reasons, evidence and logic. Your theistic arguments will be a lot more useful with people described here.
Wiccans. I’ve got a relative who’s a Wiccan and I found this section interesting. Dyck says Wiccans benefit from seeing Christians pray, and he suggests sharing your spiritual experiences with them. Incidentally, the book I recommend for those who want to understand Wiccans is Witchcraft: Exploring the World of Wicca (by my former professor, Craig Hawkins).
This describes one of my good friends really well; a guy who left his Christian background for the party scene or another form of outright hedonism. Dyck shows how some of this can be traced to popular trends which began in the 80s and continues today:
As we fired up the fun in youth ministry, we watered down the gospel…That mentality has actually led to entertainment numbness and resulted in a boring gospel. Somehow we thought we could water down the message for young people and make it easier for them to swallow, but it turns out that they’re choking on our concoction (148-149).
If it weren’t for the grace of God, I might have gone this way myself. I like his point here:
They don’t want pizza and video games…They want a cause to live and die for. In other words, they want the true gospel (150).
Some leave gradually. They went to church cause everyone else did. As everyone else drifted away, they left, too. Again, I found myself going, “He’s describing another realtive.” Dyck says to invite them back, challenge them and connect them to real relationships in the church.
As someone who’s currently involved in a church plant doing multi-generational ministries, I loved this insight:
Young people who had relationships to older Christians, whether their parents or other faithful congregants, were far less likely to abandon their faith in their twenties (177).
My only caution would be to remember that people aren’t always going to fit into these little categories. But understanding some of these broad themes will no doubt assist you as an ambassador of Jesus.
I enjoyed this book and suggest you check it out. It’s an easy read at just under 200 pages.
Look inside the book on Amazon.com