I recently asked which ones of my papers from this past semester people would enjoy, so I will start with some causes for college students leaving the church. This really is a serious problem in our culture, and I hope that all my young friends will become stronger in the Lord and stay in the church. Once we leave the church, we open the door for Satan to deceive and destroy.
I know the essay is a bit long, but bear with me!
I know the essay is a bit long, but bear with me!
The Growing Trend of Going Away
He came from a Christian, home schooling family in rural North Carolina, went to a very
conservative, family-integrated church, and went to Bob Jones University for his first year in
college. He confessed to be a Christian himself, but as college years wore on, he began to go to
church less frequently and began to question the church, the Bible, and finally, God. Within ten
years of finishing high school, he was an out-right atheist, completely denying Christ. The whole
case was no surprise to God, and sadly, it is becoming a more familiar story in the United States.
College students are leaving the church. According to Ham (2009),“61% of today's young adults
who were regular church attendees are now `spiritually disengaged.' They are not actively
attending church, praying, or reading their Bibles”(p. 24). Many “Christian” college students are
dropping out of church. The question is not if it happens but why it happens. There are many
possible reasons for this growing trend in America and Europe. Some may think church is
boring, others would say there are too many hypocrites in the church, while still others are not
even Christians themselves, and finally there are some who do not see the importance of church.
First of all, college students may be leaving the church because church services are not
entertaining enough for them. Although they may not outright say it, they think church is
boring. Lifeway did research for why people leave church, and they found that 12% leave
because of a “boring service”(Ham, 2009, p. 29).They grew up going to church, but most of their
childhood years they were in Sunday school and youth-group. When they left for college, they
realized real church was dull. They may have a right to accuse churches of this, for it is true that
many churches are nearly dead, with only a few older people still attending. One man wrote
of his experience at one such church, “I am ushered into the small foyer area where around 30
chairs are set up and where I join a handful of elderly people with their heads bowed” (Ham,
2009, p. 9).Although many churches are still full of life, a college student may not be able to find
such a church near his or her college. It seems that too much entertainment for children and
youth is actually a problem for young people. As Ken Ham noted, “Sunday school is actually
more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children” (Ham, 2009, p.
38). Although good, gospel-centered Sunday school can be a help to children, many Sunday
schools or “children's churches” take away the true meaning of the Bible and set up young
Christians for not wanting to be in the real service. Some may object that Sunday school can
actually be a great benefit to children in drawing them to God. This is very probably true, but
that only further shows the fact that every child is different, and Sunday school is definitely not
always the answer.
Another explanation for why college students leave church is that they think there are too
many hypocrites in the church, and they do not want to be associated with hypocrites.
Westerholm (2014) stated, “And when the leaders are not as perfect as they appear, worshipers
(especially the young) leave the church devastated” (par. 5). Possibly these young people had
dads as elders or deacons, and they saw the gritty workings of the church. They saw the real
lifestyles of people who acted very spiritual in church but were worldly during the week. The
young man in the opening story of the essay was among this group of church-leavers. His father
was an elder of their church, and he saw things that made him disgusted with not just those he
would call “hypocrites,” but the whole church in general. He, like many others, had resentment
toward the church because of growing-up experiences. The sad thing is that the accusation is
quite true. The church is full of people trying to look good and make a name for themselves, but
they do not truly love God. Many people will go to church on Sunday, but the rest of the week,
they live worldly: drunk at the bar Saturday night, praying at church Sunday morning. However,
hypocrisy can show up much more slyly, such as gossiping (which so many Christians are guilty
of), complaining, being self-centered, telling crude jokes, and using bad language. Of course,
some will bring up the fact that not all church members are hypocrites. True, not all church
people are hypocrites, but the fact that there are some at all can be reason for a young adult to be
disgusted with church in general and leave. It only takes one rotten orange to spoil the whole
The third and possibly biggest reason that “Christian” college students leave the church is
that they are not really true Christians themselves. As author of Growing Up Christian, Karl
Graustein (2005) put it, “Because we do the things Christians do and we are surrounded by
Christians, we tend to assume we are Christians, too. But just as standing in a wheat field doesn't
make someone wheat, being raised in a Christian environment doesn't make someone a
Christian” (p. 33). In the same way, many college students grew up in the church, but they never
actually surrendered their own lives to Christ. Very probably, they were living as hypocrites
themselves. Of course, only God can know the heart, but Christians should be able to see the
fruit of others who call themselves Christians, and when no fruit or “evidences of grace” are
noticeable, one will wonder if that person is truly saved. Especially when one actually calls
himself an atheist (as in the opening story), it seems that he or she was never a Christian. Some
may argue that people still go to church even when they are not Christians. While this may be
true, many will leave when they are away from their parents. When one is not truly regenerated,
he or she will not be interested enough to stay in church for very long.
The fourth and final reason is also perhaps the most startling. Some college students are
leaving the church because they do not see the importance of it. David Kinnaman (2011) writes
of one young woman, “She told me, `I never lost faith in Christ but I have lost faith in the
church'” (p. 26). Like many other young Christians, this woman still confessed to be a Christian,
but she seemed to be sickened with the church for whatever reason. The fact is, the church has
indeed become very polluted. This pollution can be seen in the hypocrisy already discussed,
focusing on a larger congregation instead of the spiritual growth of the members, and a focus on
fun to attract the unsaved. There have even been pastors who were not Christians themselves.
Young Christians may think that they can live more righteous lives just staying away from the
church. They have concluded that church is not important to their faith, especially if it is so
corrupt. What these Christians are forgetting is that man did not institute the church, God did.
While it may be true that it is not a good reason to leave the church (as some may object), it is
nonetheless a real reason, and it should make the church consider how they are representing
the body of Christ.
Many young people are leaving the church for various reasons including church services
being boring, false believers in the church, not having a saving faith themselves, and not seeing
the importance of church. If people do not realize these problems in the church, there will likely
become even a worse issue in years to come. As David Kinnaman (2011) said, “The church is
not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing
culture” (p. 21). If, however, the church addresses these reasons for why people leave and begins
to make changes in the way she does things, the next generation could be a turn-around of the
present trend. That one young man may have left , but there is hope that the next will stay.
Graustein, K. (2005). Growing up Christian. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company.
Ham, K. (2009). Already gone. Green Forest, AZ: Master Books. [Google].
Kinnaman, D. (2011). You lost me. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. [Google].
Westerholm, M. (2014, April 6). Serving appetizers: Worship services that keep their promises.
Desiring God. Retrieved from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/serving-appetizers-
This is an old church we drove by in Pennsylvania.