Why Are Kids Leaving the Church? Is it their Parents’ Fault or the Church’s Fault?

Did your parents ever say to you, “It’s not nice to point”? You may have heard, “Every time you point at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” It seems that this is the case with the Church today. We are pointing our fingers at parents and thinking they are the cause of their child’s spiritual departure from the Church.
finger pointing

It is true that they are the number one influence in their child’s life. They are there 24/7 with their child, and they have the time to make this their priority. Unfortunately, most parents’ priorities are messed up, and they put their child’s education and activities above church and their child’s faith. That can never be good.

But what about the Church? Are we doing everything on our end to build a child’s faith? We purchase what we believe to be the best curriculum out there. We build amazing facilities, and we decorate them to appeal to children and families. But are we doing our part to build the faith of a child and make them want to be there?

Before we blame parents, we ought to look at their faith development. Many parents today are converts. They were reached with the Gospel, and in so many cases, it stopped there. Conversion became the beginning and end of discipleship. Oh, they attended Sunday school and heard all the stories. But they were never discipled to become disciple-makers themselves. They have not had someone come alongside them to help them grow in their faith as Paul did with Timothy.

We have set up a system that is failing our children and youth in the Church. Businesses call this “silos,” where people are grouped and do not cross over to different groups. Sadly, the Church today mimics in many ways a secular public school with children being divided up by age. As they move from preschool to children and then from children to student ministry, there is a firm dividing line between the two.

The way our churches are organized actually prevents older kids in the church from investing in the younger ones. They have also quenched the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of children by sequestering them in classrooms and having them just sit and listen while someone ministers to them.

This model of ministry is not biblical and has become a stumbling block to many of our kids today. The church is a dry and boring place where only a few do all the ministry while many others simply observe. Why would they even want to come back as adults? It is like they are a child who sits on the bench and never is allowed to play in the game. This gets old and you do not really want to be an observer in someone else’s game

In their book, GenerationS: How to Grow Your Church YOUNGER and STRONGER. The Story of the Kids Who Built a World-Class Church, Pastor How and Pastor Lia explain how they have built a church with more than 20,000 members in Singapore. They have been successful because one generation invests in a younger generation. They now have five generations serving in their church. They have taught the older generations to invest in the lives of the younger ones so that they might find their place in the body of Christ.[1]

What is amazing about their church is that half of the children do not have parental support. Their parents do not know Christ. They are going to church, not because of their parents, but because the church gives them ownership and purpose. They themselves have a vested interest in the body of Christ. Many parents are reached with the Gospel through the kids in their church.

So, when we point at parents and blame them for not discipling their children, there are three fingers pointing back at the Church and what we are doing. The enemy rejoices because the Church has become, in many ways, the killer of the faith of our kids. The writing is on the wall—we have a problem.

Research shows that 50 percent of Christian kids, once they enter college, will walk away from the faith, never to return. Of the 50 percent that stay, 40 percent will be apathetic believers (just sitting and listening). It is believed that only 10 percent will have a Great Commission mindset.

It’s time to stop doing what we have always been doing and start training and releasing this current generation of children to minister. There is an old saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” What we have set up is not working—we are losing our soon-to-be-adult kids.

Here are some things you can do now to make a significant change:

  1. Pray for a God-size vision. There are a lot of good ideas (i.e., age grading), but are they HIS ideas?
  2. Stop blaming parents. Remember, there are three fingers pointing back at you.
  3. Look at children and students in your church as younger brothers and sisters in Christ.
  4. Break down the silos. Allow students in your church to pour their lives into younger children in your church.
  5. Fight for the kids in your church. This is a battle that we must all fight for this generation.

Please join us for our next Empowering The Next Generation conference. We are excited to share with you a vision where kids are the Church NOW. Click here for more information.

[1] Tan Seow How and Cecilia Chan, GenerationS: How to Grow Your Church YOUNGER and STRONGER: The Story of the Kids Who Built a World-Class Church. (Generations Pte. Ltd, 2021), 2.