Most people who have served in a children’s ministry or student ministry context have heard various statistics about youth leaving the Church after they graduate high school. 70%-%80 is generally the estimate you hear, and my personal experience growing up church backed up those numbers as about 4 out of 5 students I grew up with were not involved after we graduated.

Statistics on Youth Leaving the Church

Lifeway Research conducted a survey in 2017 of young adults to gather statistics on youth leaving the church by asking about their experience. The same study was done by them in 2007 and the results were not that different. They asked the question:

Did you stop attending church regularly (twice a month or more) for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22?

In 2017, 66% of those surveyed said they stopped attending church, compared to 70% in 2007. So, at least there was a small decline.

Why Youth Leave the Church

In the Lifeway Research study of 2017 the top 5 reasons for why youth leave the church were:

  1. Moving to college
  2. Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical
  3. I didn’t feel connected to people in my church
  4. I disagree with the church’s stance on political/social issues
  5. My work responsibilities prevented me from attending.

2011 Study by Barna on Youth Leaving Christianity

In 2011, an extensive research endeavor by the Barna Group revealed some new insights into this huge issue facing the Church. The details are found in a new book called You Lost Me. Here are some highlights from the full post on their site:

  • 1 out of 9 (11%) lose faith in Christianity
  • 4 out of 10 (40%) leave the Church but still call themselves Christian
  • 2 out of 10 (20%) disconnect from Church and express frustration about “church culture” and disconnects with society
  • 3 out of 10 (30%) stay involved church

Yes, that’s 101%, because the “out of 10” references were probably rounded. Here are the myths they believe exist, that aren’t true from their research:

  • Most people lose their faith when they leave high school.
  • Dropping out of church is just a natural part of young adults’ maturation.
  • College experiences are the key factor that cause people to drop out.
  • This generation of young Christians is increasingly “biblically illiterate.”
  • Young people will come back to church like they always do.

Looks like the 70% number is accurate if we’re looking at church involvement.

What do you think? How can we help change that trend?