Why Do 80% of Youth Leave Church After High School?

8 01 2013

GUEST POST: Josh Griffin has been in youth ministry for 16+ years in 1 small church and 1 big church. He currently serves as the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA.

There is a well-known statistic that tells us that 80% of youth stop attending church after they graduate high school. As a parent, that’s the most horrifying statistic in the world to me! Let me bring that closer to home, that means, in a church youth group with 20 kids, over 15 will no longer go to church after they graduate. In a home, 3 out of 4 of our kids statistically will forsake fellowship by the time they’re 18. The cry of all of our hearts should be “why”?!

I have heard many theories of why they leave: New temptations in college—no mom and dad bubble to be a governor for their sinful nature, exposure to new faiths and skeptical questions, not being properly discipled at home, going to youth group, not going to youth group, not sufficiently understanding creationism, etc. While these are real issues, I don’t believe any of them are the reason they quit church.

I spoke with a youth pastor friend who spent half of his life serving youth full-time, and with the first-hand empirical evidence of years of leading, watching, mentoring, equipping, and counseling teenagers he said that he can confidently say that most of them were NOT SAVED. They didn’t read the Bible regularly, they didn’t share their faith, many were sexually active, many experimented with drugs, they didn’t fight for godly fellowship, they were not givers, dated unbelievers, and the list of goat-like qualities goes on. They simply hadn’t been translated from darkness to light. They didn’t drift away from God after high school; they weren’t with God during high school. They drifted away from “church.”

The real question should be, how can we help our kids clearly understand the gospel—the power of God to salvation, and then equip them to live as believers?

Many of our youth genuinely don’t understand the gospel, the whole counsel of God, and we often just presume that they do. And many churches and homes have not taught our teens that an essential, fundamental part of being a disciple is sharing the gospel, and then equipped them for that adventurous task.

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