Q (Reggie Joiner): We've been talking about people drifting away from the church for almost a decade. How is this research going to make any difference?
A: I really wanted to understand the why and the way behind their leaving.
Q: Give us an example of what that means.
A: I went into this assuming people all leave for the same reason. But they don't There are three types of young people leaving the church.
- Prodigal - Someone who leaves the faith
- Nomad - Still calls themself a Christian but leave the Church
This would be someone like Katy Perry. She still believes in Jesus but is not active in church.
- Exile - Person who feels lost from the safe, cultural Christianity
This is someone who works at Abercrombie & Fitch, or media or politics, and feels lost from the faith they grew up in.
Q: Tell us why people are leaving the church
A: There are six reasons.
When I grew up we didn't even have seatbelts, but this generation is sheltered. But the world is small. Everything is closer now. They want to engage the world but feel they take too many risks for their faith. People are leaving the church because it's too safe. They don't see people in their churches taking the risks they see people in scripture taking.
More than half of all church-going teenagers are interested in scientific careers, and they feel that many churches are either silent or antagonistic about science.
Q: You are technically saying there are people groups we are losing based on those six reasons.
We're losing young artists, designers, and musicians because the Church is overprotective.
Q: How does this help us change things?
A: It gives us handles, opportunities to think about and understand the real spiritual journies young people are undertaking. I think we can start conversations about the real things that separate us as generations.
Q: This is personal, some of the people in this room have sons and daughters who will walk away if we don't figure this out.
A: My challenge to us as the church is how do we respond to this? How do we mentor and disciple this generation? What can we do to show them what is in the Scripture and how it is relevant to our lives.
Q: This is why it's important to continue having these conversations. We don't just want to talk about it. We want to do something about it.
So for the last five years I’ve been studing the question, why do young Christians leave the Church after spending so much time in the Church.
I approach this as a researcher, but I’m also a pastor’s son. And I work in the church with young people.
This girl, Amy, came back from college and I met her in the coffeeshop and asked about her faith, and she sheepishly said, “I’m a Mormon now.”
Shifts between the 60s and now.
If you look at the percentage of young people who are born with an unmarried mom, it was 5% in the 1960s. Now it's 41%. It's 8 times more likely that someone is born with a mom not married to their biological dad.
Look at failure to launch. At age 30, the percentage of young women who have left home: 77% in the 60s, 4?% now. It's only 31% now for young men. It was 65%.
The percentage of Americans who were unmarried by their 30s, it was 17%. It's 54% now.
Teenagers are getting 10.5 hours of media intake per day.
89% believed the bible was sacred in the 60s. 67% now.
70% of boomers were aware of Billy Graham in the 60s. 22% have a favorable view of him now.
Do you think we're more or less sexualized, narcissistic now?
What if how we disciple is different now? What if this is the first generation who isn't going to come back to the church? How are we going to make effective Christ followers in a new generation.
I can't emphasize the urgency of responding to these trends.
Significant historical shifts are powered by profound social change.
After 9/11, there wasn't much you could do to keep people out of your church. 2-3 months later, there wasn't much you could do to keep them in.
Most of the 20-somethings in your community are unmarried, have fewer connections and loyalties (at work, to music, etc.) If we don't recognize this, how are you going to make disciples of this generation?
When you think about the exposure of this generation to science, one of the main reasons young people leave the church is its opposition to science. Young Christians interested in science leave the church. 52% of young Christians say they're interested in a career in science. Science is dominating our culture. Do you know that just 1% of youth pastors told us they had spoken on issues of science in the last year. The church is remaining silent on issues of primary importance to young people.
Take a step back from your day to day ministry and ask what it means to ask these new questions.
We're also losing many young artists.
A young woman named Katy grew up in a pastor's home. She had to eat "angeled eggs," not deviled. It wasn't the "Dirt Devil," it was the vacuum. Her last name is Perry. We lost Katy Perry because we weren't willing to disciple where people are at.
We've tried to mass produce disciples. This doesn't have anything to do with church size. There are large churches that don't mass produce disciples.
Only 1 in 11 churches say they do a good job of ministering to young leaders. Are we measuring success based on how well these young people are growing in their faith.
I think there are three things that are incredibly important in discipling young people.
- Solid relationships, intergenerational relationships
- Calling and vocation
- Dependence on God
Percentage of 18-29 year olds who were churchgoers as teenagers:
- 17% of young people had an adult mentor at Church
- 16% learned how the bible applies to my field or interest area
- 20% believe that Jesus speaks in a relevant, personal way.
So Eli tells Samuel that the Lord is speaking to him and says, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
God is speaking to the next generation of leaders whether we coach them or not. We have a real opportunity to guide the next generation and be an intergenerational body of Christ.
We had Carolyn, a 93 year old woman from our church, over for dinner. I asked her what things she is thankful for. She said, "I guess at 93 I don't have much peer pressure." The church is one great place where we don't have older or younger, male or female. The Body of Christ is about all of us.
Martin Luther called the printing press "God's agent of grace" because of it's effect on the Reformation. How will the technology we have today be "God's agent of grace."
Q&A with Reggie Joiner
Q: Why the title "You Lost Me" for your new book?
A: It's really the voice of young Christians about the Church. They're irreverent and blunt. It's really trying to capture the voice of young Christians and non-Christians.
Q: If we gave you 7th-9th grade boys, what would you do with them?
A: I'd start by having 3-4 times as many adults as kids. Young people are struggling, so you have to have many different adults involved in discipling them.
Q: How do we get older people to want to mentor younger people?
A: Some of it is how you teach and inspire them. Do some intentional things. There's something called the Fellows Program where you bring young people into your church and they live with a family for a year.
It's partly by arm-wrestling these people. It's partly by teaching and being intentional.
Q: I would suggest taht we see young people who are using their gifts in broader culture as missionaries. The older generation should not give the younger generation such a hard time. Talk about this.
A: Most of the young people are not going to be involved in church ministry professionally. Such a small percentage of young people feel that the church connects.
We interviewed young executives at Abercrombie and Fitch. We interviewed people on Broadway. Their connection is tenuous because they feel like their engagement with the broader culture makes it hard to connect with the Church.
Q: The church hasn't done a great job in the last few years of giving young people a safe place to doubt and ask questions. As leaders, what would you tell us to do to give them a safe place to process their doubt.
A: The whole theme of Catalyst, "Be Present," a lot of times the questions people are asking aren't important. They really just want you to be there.
We heard this profound story about a 25 year old mom on the plane with a 13 year old girl going to visit her dad. When the go to get off the plane, the 13 year old says to the woman, "I think you know me better than anyone else in the world.
Q: You talk about a time in your father's church when he invited people to particpate in mission and it upset people because they thought you had to believe a certain thing first. What is it with allowing people to participate in missions without believing in Jesus?
A: We think answers are the antidote to doubt. Doing is the antidote to doubt. Mother Theresa struggled with doubt.
Q: What should you do for those who have already walked away?
A: Be present. There's little you can do to talk someone out of doubt. Most of our time we're in our own little bubble living our lives. We're not willing to change much, but there are certain periods of time, when there's a major crisis in your life. These are periods of spiritual junctions.