Study: Teens Leaving Churches, Citing Judgmental, Unfriendly Atmospheres

A five-year study by the faith-and-culture research organization The Barna Group has found that almost 60 percent of Christian teenagers are leaving church life after age 15, many not returning as they enter young adulthood.  The study followed 1,296 teenagers who were either current or former churchgoers, and it found that teens largely see churches as overprotective, antagonistic to science, and unwelcoming to those who doubt their faith.

One in four 18- to 29-year-olds said "Christians demonize everything outside of the church." One in three said "Church is boring."

Clashes between church expectations and youths' experience of sexuality have driven some away. One in six young Christians said they "have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them." And 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Catholics said their church's doctrine on sexuality and birth control is "out of date."

"Churches are not prepared to handle the 'new normal,"' Barna president David Kinnaman, told RNS. "However, the world for young adults is changing in significant ways, such as their remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, their alienation from various institutions, and their skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible."


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