Hemorrhaging Faith - Part 1
By Pastor Mikel
Recently at the Canadian Youth Workers Conference, I attended a seminar on a current study titled Hemorrhaging Faith. The focus was an examination of a national poll of 2700 young Canadians that revealed the stark reality of the success rate of Canadian churches in retaining young adults. James Penner, a professor from the University of Lethbridge, conducted this study and believes that if we maintain the status quo, the church will no longer have young adults attending by 2020. The study revealed that the church is having a 23% success rate with young adults engaging in the local church. Penner refers to this group of young adults as Engagers. 36% of young adults are considered Fence Sitters. This group has revealed that, while they recognize the church as positive, they have not had a life-transforming experience with the love of Christ and, therefore, are sitting on the fence on whether or not to engage in the church. The next group are the Wanderers, which make up 26% of young adults. This group is open to spiritual things but has determined that their lifestyle is inconsistent with the church and has concluded that they are not welcome. The driving concern for this group is that they perceive that the church is not willing to engage their doubts and questions of faith. The last group are the Rejecters, which make up 15% and have decided to reject the church.
As I have processed this information I am actually encouraged rather than discouraged. This study has revealed some key areas that, as a church, we need to focus on. I would suggest that we need to realize that a simple program is not going to persuade someone to a transforming experience with Christ, but rather it is through authentically sharing our faith experience with others and in that process allowing the Holy Spirit to move and impact that individual. Programs are excellent to help us connect, but we need to be aware of engaging individuals through programs. This study also reveals that we need to be willing to step into the messiness of life and engage in an individual’s doubts. It does not help to present a life of perfection, which is utterly false, to someone that is struggling with doubts. Our world is exceedingly complex and has many powerful issues that need to be genuinely wrestled with. I believe it would be a gift of grace to someone with doubts to hear from someone else that they have struggled with doubts also. Sharing that you have experienced God’s grace in the journey of your doubts and have come out on the other side can be a real encouragement. I believe a focus on these key areas could have a profound impact on stopping the hemorrhaging of faith. As a community of faith, I believe we can make the difference.
To learn more about the Hemorrhaging Faith study, please click here.