[The following article originally appeared in the Dec. 16, 2009 issue of BALedger.com, the website of the Broken Arrow Ledger.]

Some churches suffering loss of attendance.

By Lucienda Denson, Lifestyle Editor

“Nationwide polls and denominational reports are showing that the next generation is calling it quits on the traditional church. And it’s not just happening on the nominal fringe; it’s happening at the core of the faith.”

That’s the opening paragraph in a press release promoting a new book, “Already Gone,” by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard.

Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, considers the findings so on target, the church recently hosted an “Answers in Genesis” conference led by Ham.

During the conference, Garland asked those in attendance to have a small group prayer that young adults at First Baptist would not be among the two-thirds who are “already gone” from the church.

Two-thirds of young adults who have grown up in evangelical churches are leaving, according to Ham and Beemer.

Information in the book is based on data collected from 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of 1,000 20-to-29-year-olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis but have since left them behind.

Garland compared what is happening in 21st century evangelical churches to Martin Luther’s Reformation in 1517 that created protestant churches and the creation of the Puritans who separated themselves from the Church of England.

“This is a literal re-shaping of the church the way it has been for the past 400 or 500 years,” Garland said.

“They (young people) have written church off as a moralistic bad guy that wants to keep them from enjoying their life. You don’t have to have a passport to find them; they are on every street in the city,” he said. And they’re not just young adults. Separation is beginning as early as middle school.

Young people no longer believe in Genesis, which is the basis for Christianity, Garland said. They question everything from creation to the divinity of Christ, and for that he credits laws that require the evolution theory be taught in public school classrooms and ban instruction on Biblical creation.

Nancy Mabry, youth director at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, agrees that evangelical churches are losing twenty-somethings, but she credits a reluctance to make any sort of commitment as the underlying cause.

If young people can’t commit to a skating party on Sunday evening until Sunday morning, they’re going to have difficulty making long-term commitments to anything else, Mabry said.

When she was in her 20s, she said “If you didn’t have a fever, you went to church. Some people say they don’t come to church because Sunday is the only day they have to spend with family. Why don’t they spend it with their family in church? Now, church is an option,” Mabry said.

There is an exception, however, according to Mabry. Traditional churches that are liturgical churches and smaller evangelical churches seem to be retaining their twenty-something members in greater numbers than larger and mega-churches.

The Rev. John Wilke, senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, has read the book and said he found it to be a fascinating study.

He cited one of Luther’s writings as something for church leaders to consider: “A faith that costs nothing and demands nothing is worth nothing.”

“I think that is where the church is today. I get too many things in the mail from churches that say, ‘Come just the way you are, you don’t have to change,’” Wilke said.

“While God loves you where you are, he expects you to change. We don’t put the fear of God in our churches, we don’t have that respect. We’ve made Jesus our homeboy. He’s not our homeboy, he’s our Saviour.”

Wilke said the only church he knows of that is experiencing growth in the 20-to-29-year old age group is the Greek Orthodox Church.

“The Greek Orthodox Church is a liturgical church. Kids want to return to something different from what they get from the world. If we want to reach these kids again, we are going to have to return to what the early church was doing. We need to raise the bar,” he said.

Wilke would endorse a movement to extend confirmation study to two years, so members fully understand the doctrine of the church they are joining, and that God is bigger than they are.

“God isn’t a vending machine of good gifts. This (joining the church) will not be the easiest thing you have done,” Wilke said.

The Rev. Shelby Scott, pastor of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, said the 20-to-29-year-olds are holding steady at St. Patrick’s. One of Scott’s sons is in that age group.

“There is sort of a strange rebound in some of the ancient liturgies, such as Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Episcopalian. What we would call the emerging church is something that is very appealing to that age group. Places that have a sense of order, mystery and transcendence are very appealing.

“Those are the areas that are growing. I am seeing a slight uptake here of people of that age,” Scott said.

“I think there is a hunger where entertainment is the approach to worship. It doesn’t really satisfy. I think there is a richness in the ancient traditions that speaks at levels where contemporary music fails. My experience is different than what you’re seeing in the ‘already gone’ people.”

Scott agrees with Garland that Christian worship is going through a significant change. He believes young people are looking for a doctrine that requires more of them than just showing up at church.

“The pendulum is swinging back. What previously had been discredited –  traditional liturgies and such things as incense and mystery – has become something of a strength and intrigue for the younger generation,” he said.

[Already Gone is published by Master Books.]

[The following review is by Kyle McDanell, pastor of Goshen Bible Church in Kentucky.]

Recently a representative from Answers in Genesis came to our county and gave a series of talks on creation, evolution and culture. The three talks were very good and I especially enjoyed, and learned a lot from, the talk on fossils. At the mini-conference someone picked up Ken Ham (founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum) and Britt Beamer’s new book called, “Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church And What You Can Do to Stop It.” The book is centered on a poll taken of a thousand young people who left the church after high school and seeks to give the reasons why and how the church can fight against this growing trend.

The truth is, a far majority of students that grow up or are involved at some point in their teenage years end up leaving the church after high school. The statistics the book reports are at times surprising. For example, the survey suggests that there is a great percentage of students that grew up attending Sunday School who end up leaving the church than those who only attended the worship service. This is rather shocking to say the least!

The authors see the integrity and authority of God to be under attack in our culture today. And I believe they are right. Their perspective is the attack made on Genesis and the creation account. The authors rightly point out that churches have more than willingly obliged to the attacks made on Scripture without defending God’s Word. As a result, the Bible is presented as a book of stories rather than history, truth, and authority. As a result, our students learn stories, but do not learn truth. It is tempting to say that just because one doubts the historicity of Noah’s Ark or the creation account doesn’t mean that one can’t be a good Christian. It is possible, certainly. But the slippery slide one finds themselves on is very dangerous. If God’s Word can’t be trusted in Genesis (or anywhere else for that matter) then why should we trust it regarding everything else?

Overall, this is a good book that should challenge us all. The authors point out that the answer to keeping our young people is not changing the music or dressing differently, but to share the gospel and preach God’s Word unashamedly. They are right in saying that we live in a post-Christian culture and we need to learn how to reach such a culture.

[The following article was posted exclusively on WorldNetDaily on June 14.]

Groundbreaking study says Sunday School makes exit more likely.

What does the age of the Earth have to do with the exodus of young people from American churches?

Ken Ham, known for his Answers in Genesis creation-science ministry, says a major study he commissioned by a respected researcher unveils for the first time in a scientific fashion the startling reasons behind statistics that show two-thirds of young people in evangelical churches will leave when they move into their 20s.

The study, highlighted in Ham’s new book with researcher Britt Beemer, “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it,” finds church youth already are “lost” in their hearts and minds in elementary, middle and high school – not in college, as many assume.

“A lot of the research already done has been to find out how many believe, how many support abortion, believe in the resurrection, say they’re born again,” Ham told WND. “But nobody has really ever delved into why two-thirds of young people will walk away from the church.”

Get “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it”

The first-of-its-kind study by Beemer – a former senior research analyst for the Heritage Foundation and founder in 1979 of the American Research Group – included 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of 1,000 20 to 29 year olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis.

The survey found, much to Ham’s surprise, a “Sunday School syndrome,” indicating children who faithfully attend Bible classes in their church over the years actually are more likely to question the authority of Scripture.

“This is a brutal wake-up call for the church, showing how our programs and our approaches to Christian education are failing dismally,” Ham writes in the book.

Among the survey findings, regular participants in Sunday School are more likely to:

  • Leave the church
  • Believe that the Bible is less true
  • Defend the legality of abortion and same-sex marriage
  • Defend premarital sex

The book explores a number of reasons for the findings, but Ham sees one overarching problem that is related to how churches and parents have taught youth to understand the Genesis account of creation.

Ham – who believes in a literal six-day creation that happened 6,000 to 10,000 years ago – says the church opened a door for the exodus of youth, beginning in the 19th century, when it began teaching that “the age of the Earth is not an issue as long as you trust in Jesus and believe in the resurrection and the Gospel accounts.”

“What you see in the Bible is that when there is compromise in one generation, and it’s not dealt with, you usually notice it to a greater extent in the next generation,” Ham told WND.

In previous generations, young people could live with this inconsistency, he said, but with an increasingly secular and atheistic public education system – where some 90 percent of church-going youth are trained – today’s youth find it hard to see a connection between what they are taught in church and what they learn at school.

“Because of the way in which they’ve been educated,” Ham said, teens come to believe “that what they are taught in school is reality, but the church teaches stories and morality and relationship. Bible teaching is not real in the sense of real history.”

Now, as parents or leaders tell youth they can “continue to believe in evolution, millions of years,” Ham said, young people are starting to see, ‘Well, I can then believe what I’m taught at school – but school has nothing to do with God.'”

The key issue is that this doubt about the Bible’s account of origins causes youth to doubt the authority of Scripture, he said.

“Salvation is not conditioned on what you believe about the age of the Earth and the six days of creation,” Ham said. “There are many who believe in millions of years and are Christians.”

But the Genesis issue does matter, he contends, “because salvation does rise or fall on the authority of Scripture. The message of the Gospel comes from these words of Scripture.”

When that Bible is undermined, he explained, everything it teaches is in doubt.

Ham’s new book shows how young people can be given “answers to help them understand you can really believe God’s word, that it ‘connects to reality and it’s really a book of history.'”

Helping young people make sense of reports such as the claim last month of the discovery of a “missing link” proving Darwin’s theory of evolution is Ham’s specialty.

In a May 19 interview with WND, he pointed to a line in the scientific report about the discovery that countered the researchers’ bold claims to media.

The fossil’s species “could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates evolved [the line leading to humans],” states the report, published in the online journal Public Library of Science, “but we are not advocating this here.”

The London Guardian newspaper also reported that scientific reviewers of the research asked that others “tone down” claims that the fossil was on the human evolutionary line.

“The reviewers said we don’t know this is a missing link, and they asked the people who wrote [the newspaper reports] to tone it down,” Ham told WND, “and yet we have this media hype claiming this is it, this is the missing link.”

[The following post was originally published in Ken Ham’s personal blog, “Around the World with Ken Ham.” Ken is the founder and president of Answers in Genesis and the author of numerous books, including Already Gone published by Master Books.]

Tomorrow, a unique publication arrives in our warehouse—a resource that, if many people read and act upon, could change the face of the church in many ways.

1. Already Gone—This book calls for a “revolution” in the church—featuring statistically valid research that will challenge and shock the church.

Here is a copy of our press release concerning this unique publication:

NEW BOOK MAPS OUT PATH FOR LOST GENERATION TO FIND CHURCH: ‘Already Gone’ Delves into Reasons for Young People’s Exodus.

Ken Ham and renowned researcher Britt Beemer take a penetrating look at the mass exodus of young people from church in their book released this week, “Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It.” Surveys have consistently shown that more than 60 percent of children who grow up in church will leave it as they become young adults. Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the acclaimed new Creation Museum, and Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Read the rest of this entry »

Nationwide polls and denominational reports show the next generation is calling it quits on the traditional church. And it’s not just happening on the nominal fringe; it’s happening at the core of the faith.

What are those factors causing the next generation to be lost from local churches? Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis commissioned Britt Beemer from America’s Research Group to find out. In the first scientific study of its kind, Beemer surveyed a thousand 20-30-year-olds who used to regularly attend evangelical churches, but have since left them behind. The results are not just surprising.

They are shocking:

  • Those who faithfully attended Sunday School are more likely to leave the church than those who do not
  • Those who regularly attended Sunday School are more likely to believe that the Bible is less true
  • Over half of those who faithfully attended church feel that church is not relevant to real life today

Statistics reveal a huge disconnect taking place between our children and their church experience. The trends are frightening, but Already Gone shows how to fight back for our families, our churches and our world. Teaming relevant statistical data with powerful apologetics, Ham and Beemer show we can make a difference today that will affect the statistics of tomorrow.