Why young people leave the Lord

Young people leave the Lord for a host of reasons including flawed parenting, ineffective ministries, poor decisions, disenchantment and the attitudes of Church members. Every aspect of a congregation should be examined, so we can retain them and help them grow closer to the Lord.

Often, older Christians forget their own youth and fail to identify the challenges young people face. Christians who did not grow up in the internet age do not understand the extraordinary obstacles our youth face today.

The moral dilemmas of our culture, in some ways, dwarf those of previous eras. Accordingly, these young people need our prayers and support.

Two facts come into play to empower Satan in pulling these young people away from God and their parents.

First, many young people do not have any concept of mortality. It never occurs to them that they can die. Even if they have had friends that died, it does not seem to penetrate their version of reality.

Young people will take chances with sex, drugs, alcohol, driving and stupid stunts because they feel indestructible. They know they will be safe in the end, so all they risk is a little discomfort. Moreover, they often believe that they have all knowledge and their omniscience will be a safety net.

Second, social status is the single important force in the universe to most young people. Being embarrassed in front of their peers is more terrifying than anything a horror movie can create.  Accordingly, their peers become their moral barometer and lead them to destruction (Proverbs 4:14-17; 5:1-5; 6:24-29).

These two facts intersect to endanger our young people. If they do not feel a sense of mortality and they are horrified at displeasing their peers, they will be likely to go against their upbringing morally and rationalize their behavior, so as to maintain inner harmony.

They will live dual lives while they are under the roofs of their parents. Yet, when they are free, their moral decisions will lead them down different paths.

A middle-aged person will face ridicule from a few people at work and ignore it. A young teen will think their world is over and contemplate suicide. Young brains work differently and we must be aware of that.

We must do what we can so that our young Christians have healthier peer groups that will encourage and strengthen them. Likewise, they need to see us making right decisions and turning to God’s Word as the answer to life’s challenges, rather than friends or the world.

Knowledge is a lot of the battle and we can use these facts to help salvage the spiritual lives of our youth, before it is too late. Love, patience, prayer and empathy are of inestimable value in this war. Utilize them today.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

4 thoughts on “Why young people leave the Lord

  1. I fell away from the church between the ages of 23-32. There were several reasons for it-a bit like “the perfect storm.” The initial seeds were sown as I started college and began to meet even more people who were not members of the church (before this, I didn’t really get out much–my life was limited to high school, work, and family). I remember watching my roommate’s mother, who was a devout Lutheran, and having a hard time believing that she might go to Hell, when she was so obviously a better person than I was, or might hope to be. I’d had these thoughts before, about grandparents, for example, but this just struck me differently. It was also about this time that I became more fully aware of the arguments between “institutional” and “NI” factions within the church. My best friend was NI, and I was uncomfortably aware that, as I was from a “mainline” congregation, that I was not considered as legitimate a Christian…. As my dad, who had been an elder and very zealous in the faith, had been dead for 3 years by this time, I was consumed with anxiety over whether or not he was in Heaven if, in fact, the NI stance was correct. And I mean, consumed. One bad night, when I tried to explain it all to my roommate, her confusion over it all showed me that, as important as they may be, our internal disputes and arguments make us look ridiculous in the eyes of the world. That was the first seed.

    The second involved family problems and our congregation’s handling of these–and even more than this, my mother’s reaction to them, which was to fall away herself. This was a long process, but it meant that not only would I get little help with my own issues, a little later on, but that, as her primary confidante, I heard a lot of negative comments about the church. Which I believed.

    The final straw was, of course, the non-Christian boyfriend. He was Muslim, actually, and fairly devout. I was desperate, in luuuuuurve, and again, while I would never convert to Islam, I was still very confused about how decent, sincere people could be sent to Hell. Later on, time proved that he was not as decent as I had initially thought, but by that time, I was so caught up in him, it was a mess. I fell away, no one came to get me, and I became as worldly as just about anyone you know. I don’t think my story is at all unusual…

    So…why do young people fall away? They’re not prepared, psychologically, to handle a lot of the new ideas they encounter in college. They’re exposed to negative issues in their congregations–without also being exposed to the proper ways to handle those inevitable conflicts. Their primary relationships are not with other Christians. No one notices the initial fault lines in their thinking or behavior. And one of the big ones–they meet, date, and even marry non-Christians. I don’t know how many people I’ve seen seriously damaged by that last.

    I came back to the church because my parents had laid the right foundation when I was very young. All the time I was away, I knew I was in trouble. But I did it all myself–no one ever came after me. It’s hard to get so involved in another’s life–I don’t like it myself. But if we want to keep young people, we have to know more of what’s going on in their heads.

    Just my 2 cents!

  2. Excellent article and a I also appreciate Leah sharing her story. It is true that in general young people do not fully grasp immortality.

    However, a new trend in young people is that many do not believe they will live past the ages of 17 and 25 is considered “old.” These children live with violence in their homes and in their communities. Just something to consider as we reach out to the lost in our communities… these children so desperately need the light of Hope.

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