Are you concerned over the number of people, particularly young adults, who no longer attend church? Does it seem like they’re leaving in droves? Have you asked yourself, “Why is this happening?” Or, “What can I do about it?”
Not only am I concerned, I’m one of those who left! (But I returned. I will share more on that in 5 Reasons I Came Back to the Church, publishing soon.) Have I got your attention?
Number 5 reason I left the church: I felt like I didn’t belong.
Ever feel that way? Or ever hear your teen or young adult yell that at you (or even whisper it) when you try to get them to come to church with you? Sometimes a person fights all his or her life to feel like they belong somewhere… anywhere. This is my case. It’s a lie I’ve been told by our enemy – all my life – but my childhood circumstances also added to that feeling of isolation. I lived in dread of others not valuing me for who I was. I actually thought my church family considered my blood family of lesser value than everyone else. (I’ve since learned from others that this was an incorrect perception on my part. But it hurt overwhelmingly at the time, which increased my feeling of isolation.)Sometimes a person fights all his or her life to feel like they belong somewhere… anywhere. - Lisa Harp Hinds Click To Tweet
Number 4 reason I left the church: I was single.
What? Did I really say that? YES! I was unmarried for a large portion of my life, and that definitely made me different than almost everyone else. I got teased a lot (and called “old maid”) by older people and by some young adults who were married (and were my friends). Of course, the church family always wants their young adults to marry into the church – or at least marry a Christian from another church – right? Probably. But wishing it doesn’t make it happen.
Number 3 reason I left the church: I wanted to serve young people but wasn’t allowed because I was single.
Am I serious? Absolutely! I had a heart for teens after leaving home and serving as staff at my church’s high school (and after praying for the Lord to fill my heart with love for those teens). After I returned home, I was encouraged by a couple who had served in a similar capacity in their district (and were also serving at the church high school after I left) to be my district’s youth coordinator. However, I was told by one of the district board members that it wasn’t appropriate for me to be unmarried at my age (at the time) and serve in that capacity.
Number 2 reason I left the church: I saw people serve the church in official capacities who had questionable lifestyles or values.
That doesn’t happen in your church? Ever? Really? Since people – not the building or grounds – make the church and we have not yet been made perfect (Phil 3:12), we still must deal with imperfect people in the church. Or perhaps you prefer to think in terms of our weaknesses rather than our lack of perfection (2 Cor. 12:9). Maybe you never stumble (praise God!), but I do, so I’m still working on bridling my whole body (James 3:2). However, the point here is that sometimes the wolves mingle with the sheep, and worse yet, they lead the sheep astray. I was quite sure I saw this happening on at least a couple of different levels, and instead of doing something about it, I left.
Number 1 reason I left the church: My mom committed suicide.
Think about it. I had been dealing with feelings of not belonging, I had been told I wasn’t fit to serve in a capacity that God had drawn me to, I saw people serve the church whom I thought should definitely not be, and now my mom had committed the ultimate sin. Talk about feelings of isolation! Of course, I also had emotional issues due to this, as many do who survive a loved one’s suicide. I thought I should have somehow prevented it! I thought I should have been her savior! I put the blame on myself (not on God), so I struggled and struggled. I wasn’t good enough! If I went to church, I’d be a hypocrite. I drew away from God, even as He was reaching out for me. I hid my deepest thoughts and feelings from my church family, so no one knew what was going on inside my head or my heart.I hid my deepest thoughts and feelings from my church family, so no one knew what was going on inside my head or my heart. - Lisa Harp Hinds Click To Tweet
I’m not the only one!
Have I left out some of my reasons for leaving the church? Probably, but these reasons stick to the forefront of my memory. I want you to ponder these reasons that I’ve shared because you can bet I’m not the only one who has dealt with these issues. Maybe there’s no one else who is struggling with all 5 of these reasons at the same time, but teens and young adults (and older adults, for that matter) may be struggling in similar ways. Spend some time in prayer over your church family. Spend significant amounts of time over this situation. Gather prayer groups together to pray over this issue. Ask God to reveal names – or maybe no names, if that makes you uncomfortable, but reasons – to pray about. Ask Him to intervene and to use you to make a difference in the lives of those who are struggling. Be His hands and His feet. Be His voice. Reach out to someone today!
(Originally published July 14, 2015, in Equip Magazine. Republished with permission.)
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- Have questions about how you fit into Christian leadership? Check out these resources:
- Do You Turn Away from God When You are Hurting? - July 21, 2021
- 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Leave Your Church - January 15, 2021
- 5 Reasons I Came Back to the Church - January 13, 2021