Hemorrhaging Faith - Salvation Army Canada


Salvationist.ca | The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda

The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda
View RSS Feed


  • Feb25Mon

    Hemorrhaging Faith

    Our children are leaving the church. How do we help them stay connected to their faith? February 25, 2013 by Colonel Floyd Tidd
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Hemorrhaging Faith - Why are young people leaving the church?Did you know that only one in three Canadian young adults who attended church weekly as children still do today? Or that three out of five young adults who stop attending church will also drop their affiliation with any Christian tradition? The facts are clear: our children are leaving the church.

    The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has released a report entitled Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church. Researchers listened to the stories of 72 young adults aged 18-34, and received feedback from another 2,000, all of whom were raised in a Christian tradition. By showing why and when many left the church, the report can help us more effectively engage the emerging generation in their faith journey beyond the adolescent years.

    Not surprisingly, young people often leave at points of transition: for example, between junior high and high school (yes, that early!) or when a youth leader moves on. Navigating life's transitions can be tricky for anyone, but it's most challenging during childhood and adolescence. How can we reach out to our young people? What bridge-building opportunities can be created to help keep them connected to their faith? The young adults in the report identified four common factors that can be both motivators and barriers to faith.

    1. How parents express their faith. This can be either a motivator or barrier to church attendance. Although the influence of peers and church programs is significant, the message that parents send is stronger. Perhaps we need an approach to youth ministry that includes a greater emphasis on the role of parents and the spiritual leadership of the family.

    2. Young people's own experiences of God. When young people have a personal sense of God's presence, they stay more engaged with church and faith. This awareness may come through answered prayer, a powerful worship experience or even in solitude. Those who do not share such experiences can feel disengaged. That is why we must walk alongside youth, discussing together frustrations that arise when God seems absent. Gently pointing out the presence of God in their lives can be the gift of a lifetime to a young believer.

    3. The example of other Christians. Many young adults haven't given up on Jesus—just the church. Where the church is a dynamic, encouraging and caring community of authentic believers in Jesus, it is a strong motivator for young people. They are watching to see if Christians live out their faith in practical ways, both inside and outside of the church. We can create opportunities for intergenerational interaction and missional experiences that will strengthen the value of community and give young people a chance to express their faith. How can we be more welcoming and embracing of our youth? Perhaps we should start by asking them.

    4. The church's approach to teaching. Youth are looking for opportunities to openly ask questions and integrate their faith with their everyday lives. To stay engaged, they must see the church as a partner in their faith journey. We must explore new ways to create open dialogue and intentionally mentor young believers as they discover and apply the teachings of Jesus.

    Hearing the thoughts of Christian-raised young adults is a gift provided by this research project. What will you and I do with what we have heard?

    Colonel Floyd Tidd is the chief secretary of the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church can be accessed at hemorrhagingfaith.com.


    On Tuesday, February 26, 2013, Concerned said:

    This is a multifacted problem that many denominations are struggling with, not just the Army. There is no easy solution, if any. The difficulty is compounded for us by our small size and uniqueness.

    Much of the root of the problem stems from factors the Army can do nothing about, and they too are manifold. They include everything from Sunday shopping to the influence of technology and media to the rise of multiculturalism. These influences, but to name a few, are not going to go away.

    I am at a loss as to what can be done, and while Colonel Tidd does suggest some steps that can be taken is there anything more systemic that can be implemented? The steady decline of the Sunday school in most corps, not to mention the virtual disappearance of the Corps Cadet programme would seem to suggest otherwise.

    I realize that there are strong, growing evangelical chuches. There are also deeply committed young people, knowledgeable in their faith, in all denomiations. Yet one only need look around just about any corps in Canada these days to realize that we are not holding on to our youth like we did at one time and should now. We must, if we are going to survive.

    Are there answers?

    On Tuesday, February 26, 2013, Alexander said:

    This is something that has been on my mind for some time.

    i'm not saying that every Corps is the same with young people. But my Corps seems to have a problem accepting young people and treating them in the appropriate manner.

    Both my Children have been brought up in the Salvation Army at the local Corps and both of them on separate occasions have came home in tears from the Corps Hall over something someone older has said or done to them. Now they don't go near the Corps and in fact sadly drifted away from the lord. Hence sadly the Corps has no young people.

    So from Personal experience treat our young people well and they will stay in the Corps/church.

    On Monday, February 25, 2013, Wayne said:

    Thanks for this article and the insight provided.

    This is something we've all been experiencing for many years. It's good to have a contemporary research into the "whys" behind this reality. The four major reasons cited make perfect sense to me. I would only add a comment; I think our faith has to be seen and proved to be both honest and intelligent. We all, young people and the more mature, must be willing to ask ourselves the critical questions about intellectual credibility of many aspects of our faith rather than being afraid to ask these questions and voice our doubts or skepticisms.

    We have nothing to lose in this exchange of honesty and intelligence. There are compelling answers that satisfy the mind and soul ... but we must have the courage to ask them.

    Leave a Comment