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4-14: Where Are They Now: Tracking Kids Who Grew Up In The Church

Consider these statistics as we look at the importance of reaching the next generation


Consider these statistics as we look at the importance of reaching the next generation—especially those who find themselves between the ages of 4 and 14, when children are most receptive to the gospel:

  • Only one in three Canadian young adults who attended church weekly as a child still do so today.
  • Of the young adults who no longer attend church, half have also stopped identifying themselves with the Christian tradition in which they were raised.
  • There are four primary toxins that keep young people from engaging with the church: Hypocrisy, judgement, exclusivity, failure.

These are just some of the findings in Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church, a ground-breaking Canadian study of 2,049 young people between the ages of 18 and 34. The study was commissioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable.

“For those of us who are close to what is going on in youth ministry across Canada, the research findings are not so much surprising as they are confirming – that many who have grown up in church are no longer strongly engaged by the time they reach their adult years. We have heard their stories but now this research validates their actual departure. More importantly, it provides a glimpse behind the curtain as to why and the challenges that need to be addressed,” says John Wilkinson, chair of the EFC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable.

In addition to the 2011 survey by the Angus Reid Forum, 72 interviews were conducted with young people who shared honestly about their often broken relationship with the church. There are various real life statements and possible reasons behind why some young adults have left the church. Here is a window into a few of the reasons shared in the Hemorrhaging Faith study:


Information Explosion:

The Hemorrhaging Faith study recognizes that the amount and type of information available is ever-expanding and easier to access than ever before. This over-abundance of media has far-reaching ramifications for the next generation. They are exposed to excessive advertising, which gives rise to consumerist tendencies. They are increasingly exposed to thoughts and ideas from around the globe, which feed into pluralistic values and may lead to disengagement from faith or church.

“So I think I left my … my Christian faith, I didn’t officially abandon it completely for, like, 5 or 6 years (after leaving church). I said, you know what, I’m not going to call myself a Christian anymore; I don’t even know what that means. I started to journey, I started to explore other faiths, I started to get curious about other people, how they grew up, how they knew God and all that. Amazing Buddhists and Muslims, people who had great conversations about God and they were such loving people ... I was always taught those people were wrong or evil. And then I met these people and I was like, this person is not evil, this person knows God, like, looking in their eyes, there was no denying it for me. So it just made me curious.”


Times of Transition

The next generation is exposed to new social networks as they face seasons of transition. They leave one school and go to another, or change communities. This can have a great impact on how they view even communities of faith, and whether they desire to engage or disengage. Transition can be seen as a new-found freedom to engage in things not permissible while living under your parents’ roof. This can lead to the abandonment of church. It’s like some will take their faith and put it in a lockbox, with the thought that they may take it out when life becomes more stable.

“I was 17 or 18 and I was truthfully partying really late on Saturday night and not getting up in the morning."
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“I got an apartment that has expensive rent and I need to pay for it, and so I just get as many hours as I can and most of the time I work every Sunday, and I’m definitely, now that I’ve worked there for a while, I’m going to start asking for every other Sunday off so I can go to church. But yeah. It’s definitely because of the rent (that I’m not attending church).”

Life Distractions:

Leaving those teenage years is a time when distractions can set in. The transition from dependence to independence can be one of the things that distracts away from a commitment not only to family, but also church family. The Hemorrhaging Faith study notes that attending church on Sundays, reading one’s Bible, praying and other faith practices are not considered relevant to achieving autonomy.

“Coming into my second year university I thought that I had everything figured out, I had a good job, I was playing lots of sports, and school was going really well, I had a lot of friends, I was going out all the time, … but I was starting to fall away from the faith, like, I didn’t go to church every Sunday, it was more irregular.”

Daily tasks often serve as distractions from religious commitment. Busyness takes over. Students are needing to balance school, work and personal time. They are carrying new responsibilities like getting groceries, paying bills and maybe even vehicle repairs or the reliance on public transportation.

These are take time and energy, and they can feel a new sense of overwhelming pressure. For many, it is difficult to figure out how times for worship and reading the Word can fit into this already full daily schedule.


What Are Some Things We Can Do Now, While Our Kids Are Younger?

  • Pray with and for your children every day.
  • Always make church a priority. As a family, get involved in your local church family, finding places where each one can serve and get involved.
  • Help children create good and godly habits such as spending time in God’s Word, and being in times of corporate worship at church.Allow them to see and sense the difference when those things are in their life vs. not being part of their daily walk with Christ.
  • As a family, do not be distracted by all the other things in life that can pull you away from time with God and with one another.Stand firm in protecting the things that are sacred.
  • Be aware of the toxins that can creep into your home and family life very quickly which can keep teenagers and young adults from desiring to be at church or having a relationship with Jesus Christ: hypocrisy, judgement, exclusivity, failure.Keep family dialogue clean and uplifting. Do not tear down others or be quick to judge.Life a life that is pleasing to the Lord and admired by your children, so they cannot find fault or be quick to point a finger.Include others who may be different than you, showing care to those in need and valuing both the believer and the unbeliever. And lastly, encourage your children in their faith, always setting the example with passion and purpose as you faithfully serve the Lord.When they falter, gently pick them up, forgive their wrongdoings and help them return to the right path.


To obtain the entire Hemorrhaging Faith study, visit


To obtain a copy of Before You Say Goodbye, click here.

#Hope4NextGen, #414