A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life noted that at least half of all U.S. church goers have switched their religion at least once. Then they noted that estimate may be conservative. So, roughly half of us who were raised in the church have switched from our childhood denominations of our parents. Talk about rebelling!
Most believed their spiritual needs were not being met. (Of course, who knows what that means?) Switches, typically, were made before the age of 36. More Catholics than Protestants switched. (I hear prayers for immigration and more babies!) Many switched simply because they moved to a new town and another church was more convenient.
Many left and never signed up for another church. Frequent reasons were: hypocrisy (welcome to the human race), too many rules, and too much focus on power and money. Many just simply drifted away in adolescence or young adulthood and stayed away. A few, a very few, tried other religions and returned to the faith of their youth.
A very interesting point was that Christian education and/or youth groups had no effect on retaining young people. But participation in worship services did have a slight positive effect.
The challenge for the church in this country is how to be relevant to a new generation of people who call themselves spiritual, but don’t necessarily see religion as a way to feed their spiritual hunger. These are, typically, “post-moderns” who see a world of multiple truths. They can’t even comprehend a church who claims to be a “one true” church. (I will blog later about the emerging, post-modern church. This is a church that is very different than the one we have now. But we do not yet know what that will look like.) How do we preach the gospel-truth in a multiple truth world? I believe that God never gives up on us. God’s love is too great for that. In other words, if we don’t respond to God in this life, we will have the opportunity to do so in the next life.
Unfortunately for me, I will not live long enough to see the end of this transition. But the ride to that point will be interesting.