EF Canada: Major Research Report Addresses Why Canadian Young People Are Leaving the Church

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RICHMOND HILL, ON – “Only one in three Canadian young adults who attended church weekly as a child still do so today,” says James Penner, lead author of Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church. “What is more,” continues Penner, “our data indicates that only half of young adults continue to identify with the Christian tradition they were raised in.”

John Wilkinson, chair of the EFC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable, says “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 engaged by the time they reach their adult years.”

“In the interviews we did with 72 young people, we heard stories from young adults hungry for an experience of God,” says Penner, “but who were frustrated and even wounded by what they found at church. We have to hear their voices and what they’re saying.”

“We also found,” continues Rick Hiemstra, another of the report’s authors, “that there are four spiritual types of young adults with very distinct experiences of church. The experience of one of these types, whom we call Engagers, provides key insights into strategies that any church can use to help young adults stay in the church and thrive.”

The report explores, among other things, family of origin, immigration status, rites of passage and practices of spiritual disciplines.

Other issues are addressed, such as the importance of providing young people with meaningful ways to participate and lead in the life of the church, and also the tendency of youth and young adults to leave at pivotal turning points in their lives, e.g., the transition from elementary to high school, family breakdown and the loss of key mentors.

The report can be accessed at hemorrhagingfaith.com. Complementary copies of the report are available for the media.

The Hemorrhaging Faith research project is the cover story for the September/October issue of Faith Today. James Penner and other project participants will be appearing on 100 Huntley Street (CTS) on September 12, 9:00 AM.

Hemorrhaging Faith is a major study commissioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable and funded by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, The Great Commission Foundation, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, Stronger Together 2011 and Youth for Christ Canada.

The study relies in part on findings from a survey conducted in the summer of 2011 by Angus Reid Forum, which heard from 2,049 Canadian young adults (18-34) who had indicated that they were raised in the church – either in the Roman Catholic, mainline or evangelical traditions – about their spiritual lives as children, teens and young adults.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of evangelical Christians, gathered together for influence, impact and identity in ministry and public witness. Since 1964 the EFC has provided a national forum for Evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical principles in life and society. In addition to 40 evangelical denominations, the EFC affiliates include ministry organizations, educational institutions and individual congregations, who uphold a common statement of faith. The EFC is an active participant in the World Evangelical Alliance.