Why Are Young People Leaving Evangelical Christianity?

A new five-year study on the Millennial Generation (those born between 1982 and 1993) has just been released by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm. It shows that young Christians – particularly those interested in scientific and creative fields – are leaving their churches. This is particularly true of more conservative congregations.

But why? The Barna Group has identified six major factors that are driving young people away from religion:

  1. Young adults and teens see their churches as overprotective, saying “Christians demonize everything outside of the church,” and that their churches ignore “the problems of the real world.”
  2. Many find their connection to Christianity to be shallow, saying that church is boring, or that their faith “is not relevant” to their career or interests. 20% even stated that God seemed to be missing from their church experiences.
  3. Reason number three is a big one – many young adults feel a strong conflict between their religion and science. A full quarter of those surveyed believe “Christianity is anti-science,” and 23% have become frustrated with debating creationism vs. evolution. Three out of ten believe that their churches are out of step with the modern, scientific world. The research further goes to show that young Christians interested in science are struggling to reconcile their religious beliefs with their profession.
  4. Many also see their church’s views on sexuality as simplistic and judgmental. Most young Christians are just as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, despite holding more conservative attitudes regarding sexuality. 17% say they feel judged in church because of their sexual decisions. 40% of Catholics between 18 and 29 believe that the church’s teachings about sexuality and birth control are out of date.
  5. Many young Americans believe that Christianity is not open-minded or tolerant towards those of other religions. 29% feel that they are being forced to choose between church doctrine and their friendships.
  6. Finally, many of those surveyed admitted that they were unable to express doubts within the church. They felt unable to ask questions and receive satisfactory answers. 18% stated that their faith did not help them cope with depression and emotional problems that they experience.

In an article for Alternet, Elanor Bader interviewed some former evangelicals to get their take on the results. Brittany Shoot, a writer and activist, spoke about her own experience moving away from her church:

“When I was a child I was told that someone I cared about was HIV-positive. I somehow learned that he was gay and had contracted the virus through sex. There was such shame around the diagnosis. I knew that I shouldn’t tell anyone he was sick because they might shun me. Even as a kid I thought, ‘something is wrong here.’” Later, when Shoot was in high school, a friend disclosed his homosexuality. “You didn’t come out in the Christian culture we lived in,” she says. “He didn’t feel safe; we also knew that no church in the area would love and protect him.”

Shoot mentions that, while she no longer attends services, she finds many progressives’ bashing of religion to be harmful and counterproductive. “Most people who’ve moved away from evangelism still have family members who are religious,” she says.

It would be interesting to see if these young people are leaving Christanity altogether, or simply joining more progressive churches. Those numbers didn’t appear to be included in the report.


Related Stories:

The Secret Language of Christianity

Progressive Christians Attack Congress for Neglecting the Needy

Homophobia driving Christians from church says Australian report

Photo credit: Barron Fujimoto


Harley Williams
Harley W6 years ago

As a Seventh day Adventist we spend time just at church then at home. So we are conserving energy. We have many times cleaned up trash and worked to help others as well as go to church.

I think people should do both. A good sermon encourages people to do right and help others. But not all sermons are good.

Jean D.
Jean Dahlquist6 years ago

What would happen if everyone who went to church for 2 hours every Sunday instead did community service for 2 hours? Picked up trash, volunteered for habitat for humanity, planted a tree? I think our world would be a much better place. Connect to your community and your world, and I think perhaps you'll find more of a connection with the divine than listening to a lecture. Just an idea...

Samuel W.
Harley W7 years ago

Thank you Mackensie for stating a truth. Power and the desire for power along with the wish for sex with children lead to pedeophilia not Christianity.

Christians are supposed to operate on one truth that we believe. GOD exists and he loves us. From the Bible we get two basic principals that all of our actions are supposed to be based on. We love GOD and we love all other people in this world as much as we love ourselves. For all the people of the world are our neighbors.

From these we get Ten Basic rules which are called the Ten Commandment see Exodus 20 for the original list not the shortned version many put out.

When people do not follow these basics they are in effect stating they are not acting as Christians.

Seventh day Adventist loveing GOD and his world and all people.

Bernard Cronyn
7 years ago

Once again we have Sheik Ameer sitting on his ivory throne dispensing wisdom and justice to us ignorant minions. I have no great love of any divisive proselyting religion but at the same time I believe in balance and fairness and as an ardent follower of the Islamic faith you are a living example of the expression, “The pot calling the kettle black.” It does not take more than a few minutes of searches on the Internet to discover many modern instances of Sharia instigated and Mullah supported gross cruelty and abuse of minors.
You see Ameer, when one gives a randy man limitless power over children and women whilst labelling him “holy” or “chosen by God or Allah” the chance always exists that he may drop his pants – irrespective of his religion!

Mackenzie K.
Mackenzie K.7 years ago

By the way, it's not that religion leads to pedophilia, but power leads to abuse of said power, which, coupled with some corrupt morals, has lead to this.

Mackenzie K.
Mackenzie K.7 years ago

Craig D., it could be a "homo crush," or it could just be that he's a good president.

Mackenzie K.
Mackenzie K.7 years ago

Carol B., you religious nut, imposing your religion on other people is wrong. You should definitely advocate for your morals (although I question your source), but keep religion out of it. By the way, "I'll pray for you" doesn't help; it only sounds condescending.

LD B7 years ago

Craig D. is a TROLL.


Decobecq Brigitte
Decobecq J7 years ago


Perhaps people understand more that God is not outside of them but a real part of them...
Man has a part of him that is divine... If you act like this, you could change your viewpoint about life and what will be wrong or not...

LD B7 years ago

Where have you been, Carol? How could you possibly have missed all of the Republicans in State after State who are trying to insert their religious believes into the Law?

As for Obama, what he is saying is that those who are not directly in the business of providing religious services have no right to deny others anything based on an arbitrary and capricious basis.