Young people aren’t walking away from the church—they’re sprinting. According to a recent study by Ranier Research, 70 percent of youth leave church by the time they are 22 years old. Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29 years old. Unlike earlier generations of church dropouts, these “leavers” are unlikely to seek out alternative forms of Christian community such as home churches and small groups. When they leave church, many leave the faith as well.
Drawing on recent research and in-depth interviews with young leavers, Generation Ex-Christian shines a light on the crisis and proposes effective responses that go beyond slick services or edgy outreach.
But it won’t be easy. Christianity is regarded with suspicion by the younger generation. Those who leave the faith are often downright cynical. To make matters worse, many Christians react poorly when young people walk away. Some sink into a defensive crouch or go on the attack, delivering homespun fire-and-brimstone sermons that do more harm than good. Others give up completely or take up the spiritual-sounding “all we can do is pray” mantra without truly exploring creative ways to engage them on matters of faith. Some turn to their churches for help, only to find that they frequently lack adequate resources to guide them.
This is where Generation Ex-Christian lends a hand. It equips and inspires parents, church leaders, and everyday Christians to reawaken the prodigal's desire for God and set him or her back on the road to a dynamic faith. The book features raw profiles of real-world, young ex-Christians. No two leavers are identical, but upon close observation, some categories emerge. The book identifies six different kinds of leavers (the postmodern skeptic, the drifter, the neo-pagan, etc.) and offers practical advice for how to connect with each type. Shrewd tips also intersperse the chapters alerting readers to opportunities for engagement, and to hidden landmines they must sidestep to effectively reach leavers.