PunkSam Rainer has been doing some interesting research on why 18-22 year olds in the US leave the church. According to his findings, 70% of people who leave the church do so between the ages of 18 and 22. However, some of the commonly supposed reasons for the high dropout rate at this lifestage have turned out not to be accurate. Three myths have been dispelled by the research:

1. The influence of the secular university pushes young people away from the faith. In fact, there was no statistically significant difference in dropout rate between those who attended university and those who did not.

2. Secondary school students are planning to leave the church once they go to university. The research in fact showed that 80% of high school students did not intend to leave their church after graduating.

3. The scandal-happy media has disenchanted youth. In fact, only 15% of those who were unhappy with the church said that it was because of a moral or ethical failure of the leadership.

There are significant differences between the US and Australia, including the fact that a higher proportion of US university students move out of home to attend university. However, it does seem as if the most likely explanation for the high dropout rate is simply the failure of churches to make it simple and attractive for university students to be involved in the life of the church. It takes a significant effort for someone to join a new community, and it appears that most young adults find it all too hard. Sam’s book, tentatively titled Essential Church, is due to be published in the second half of next year.

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