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Open the doors wide!

Barna: Six Reasons Young Christians Leave the Church

Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
“Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.” One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).”

Although this study is obviously American, I would hazard to guess that the exclusive nature of Christianity is felt by Canadian youth as well. Many of us have tried for years to get churches to look at being outward looking rather than inward. That’s the main point of the Marks of Mission ad Fresh Expressions of Church. The church exclusiveness comes from decades of not needing to look outwards because our pews were full and Sundays were centered on family and church. Times have changed and diversified. A lot of youth understand the concept of growth and change but many adults in our church don’t. Many continue to think their church has always been there and will continue to be. In reality we are facing a time where many church buildings and congregations are failing. We are facing a time of questions and challenges. We are facing times of trial and change. Youth want to be socially engaged, politically motivated and relevant and are often not finding that in their home parishes. Youth want to engage in something that has meaning, worth and that includes their social interactions. Their peer groups are the driving force behind behaviour and social circles. If our churches exclude youth’s peers because of inward looking or condescending church behaviour is less then helpful when trying to engage the youth that are searching and looking for acceptance.

How many times have we heard congregations say that they don’t want to change the liturgy, service times, music, coffee hour? How many times do we ask for Sunday School teachers, youth leaders and an actual youth budget? Change is not a necessary evil. Change is just plain necessary. It’s not about throwing out the old but it is including the new. One does not have to be in place of the other. There is a need to lose the exclusive country club attitude and warm up to inclusivity, change and relevance. Those parishes that do this will draw young people to them and open up the doors of opportunity and have an ability to preach the gospel without words.


Laura Walton

About Laura Walton

Laura Walton is part of the Youth Initiatives Team for the Anglican Church of Canada. She is the half time youth minister at All Saints', Collingwood and has a private counselling practice in the area as well. As the mom of 2 teenagers, a Preacher's Kid, and long time volunteer in the Diocese of Toronto Laura has worked in the field of youth and children's ministry on the ground floor level for many years. Laura has a love for sports, music and challenging the status quo which she brings to her work in youth and children's ministry.
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