Why Kids Leave the Church After High School

Sue Bohlin's picture

The Youth Transition Network has released the results of research about why 70% of students in high school youth groups have left the church within a year after high school graduation.

One big reason is the unrealistic expectations that our young people sense from parents and church authority figures. When asked, “What does it mean to be a good Christian,” students responded with a long list of do’s and don’ts, always and nevers:

No sex
No secular music
No fun
No profanity
No bad attitudes
Be perfect
Be a virgin
Be wholly devoted to God
Be righteous
Be a role model
Don’t doubt
Have all the spiritual answers
Always be positive
Always be in a good mood
Wear proper clothing
Go to church all the time
Always read your Bible
Always be praying
Know the whole Bible
Get along with everyone
Always be happy
Never talk back
Do not fail
Do not fail
Do not fail

Wow. And that’s a PARTIAL list! If someone said to you, “This is what it means to be a Christian,” would you want to sign up?

What’s also heartbreaking is what ISN’T on the list:

Reveling in God’s love for me
Appreciating His gifts of grace and mercy
Loving God back because I am so moved by His tender love for me

No wonder so many students live a “goody-two-shoes” Christian life on Sundays and Wednesday nights, and a completely other, separate life the rest of the week! No wonder they don’t see the point of staying connected to a church once their parents stop making them go.

So many of our students feel that they can’t be successful Christians. They think it’s hopeless to live up to the expectations they sense. They think that being a Christian is just too hard.

Sounds like they need to be introduced to what grace looks like. Sounds like they need to have it modeled to them. Sounds like the rest of us need to embrace it ourselves and live it out so they can see it up close and personal, and see why following Jesus is so much more than checking off the boxes on our spiritual report cards!

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