on July 18, 2009
Ever think a book of statistics could keep you up at night? This one may be it, especially if you're a parent and/or involved in Christian education.
This book is the result of a collaborative project between Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and Britt Beemer of America's Research Group to survey 1,000 young adults who grew up in solid, Bible-teaching churches but have left the church either permanently or temporarily. Typical thinking in Christian circles is that young adults leave the church in college due to teachings and culture that challenges their Christian beliefs. Ham and Beemer's findings run contrary to this assumption, and they are shocking and disturbing.
"We've always been trying to prepare our kids for college... but it turns out that only 11 percent of those who have left the Church did so during the college years. Almost 90 percent of them were lost in middle school and high school. By the time they got to college they were already gone! About 40 percent are leaving the Church during elementary and middle school years! Most people assumed that elementary and middle school is a fairly neutral environment where children toe the line and follow in the footsteps of their parents' spirituality. Not so. I believe that over half of these kids were lot before we got them into high school! Whatever diseases are fueling the epidemic of losing our young people, they are infecting our students much, much earlier than most assumed." (31)
From their conclusions, 60% of the children and teens sitting in our chairs and pews each Sunday will disappear in the coming years. In fact, Ham argues that they might be physically sitting there week after week, but they are already gone. Want some statistics that will really keep you up at night? There was no statistical difference in their study between kids who attended public schools, Christian schools, or homeschool. No difference between Christian and secular college. Sunday School did make a difference, but not the one you would think - according to their study, kids were more likely to leave the church if they were also attend Sunday School!
I found it fascinating that the majority of the individuals they surveyed seem to have authentic saving faith in Christ. Most even agree that attending church is important for believers. So, where are they?
Ham's primary conclusion: the Church has failed to teach the Bible as relevant fact. We have, intentionally or unintentionally, taught the Scriptures as "stories" that relate to spiritual matters and have avoided engaging the deluge of challenging questions from the secular world that bombard churched children and adults the other 166 hours of their week. Questions about the reliability of the Bible, why homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry, the origins of the universe, the age of the earth, the feasibility of a world-wide flood, etc. When kids raise these questions in church, they are often told that it doesn't matter what they believe, as long as they trust Jesus. Or they are told we can't really know for sure. Or they are told just to talk about that at school and talk about Jesus at church. Conclusion: the Bible must not be true when it comes to "real" things like history and biology and geology, it just speaks to our "faith."
Secondly, we have failed to connect the Bible to our everyday life. We have tolerated hypocrisy, we have failed to teach Truth in a challenging and relevant way, we have compromised what the Bible actually teaches about the function and purpose of the church in favor of traditions and entertainment. Even people who sincerely believe in Christ as their Savior and believe that the Bible is true have left the church because it doesn't seem relevant to real life.
Ham is blunt and straightforward in this book without coming across harsh. But, I think he is right - the American Church needs to take a serious look at itself because it is dying from the inside out. If we compromise the foundation of our faith, what do we have left?
The second half of the book deals with what we should do about this epidemic. Personally, I would have loved to see this section get a little more practical, but I think that really is outside the scope and purpose of this book. Although the subtitle is "why your kids will leave church and what you can do to stop it," the "what to do" is so huge that this really needs to be a springboard for much more if anything is really going to change.
Why do I say that? For this to change in any noticeable way, Ham truthfully says that the majority of church members need to personally examine their thinking about the reliability and accuracy of the Bible, including in Genesis 1-11. That alone sounds nearly impossible without the direct intervention of God. Then the church leadership needs to examine and overhaul how we're "doing church" and why, the content of the sermons, the curriculum used in children's, youth, and adult ministries and Bible studies and perhaps even question and/or eliminate extraneous programming that isn't doing the job. We need to believe the Truth before we can defend it. We need to teach the Truth before it can be lived out. It is an enormous task, and it is almost laughable to say that in 73 pages those issues can be addressed well.
This book is something I hope that thousands of parents and members of church leadership will read and "chew on." Ham and Beemer have handed us a grim diagnosis, and we need to prayerfully seek God for answers about what to do about it. In reality, I think they have unmasked some deeper, foundational issues for the Church that have no easy answers - the answers are straightforward (Know the Bible, teach the Bible, live the Bible), but the practical aspects of what that means in our churches have huge implications that need serious thought.
on June 9, 2009
This book is the first of its kind. At last we get to see the questions asked that really shed light on why young people are quitting church. The church's relevance to our culture and youth is normally based on aesthetic issues of music styles, programming or even how the building looks. This book asks the questions about what really is the reason young people see the church as irrelevant and it comes down to underlying beliefs. If you want to know why your children see the bible as irrelevant and therefore also the church, you have to read this book. You will find out the major issues that remain largely unspoken in the church and not dealt with in the minds of youth and you will find out that there IS something you can do about it. At last a book that will help us all to better inform and secure the next generation.
on November 24, 2009
Already Gone is among a growing number of books addressing the floundering Western Church. Authors Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) and Britt Beemer (social scientist) focus on research showing churches are suffering a mass exodus of young people. The value of Already Gone is that it demonstrates the critical relationship between people's view of scripture and church involvement. The weakness of Already Gone is that it lacks a biblical framework for addressing the problem.
The authors observe that disengagement from church starts at an early age. They fault "well intentioned, firmly established programs and traditions of churches" that are "utterly failing" to teach the Bible as truth. For example, one tradition that has an "overall negative impact on beliefs" is Sunday school. Instead of teaching the Bible as historical fact from an apologetic perspective, most Sunday school classes present the Bible as mere stories with a moral teaching. Even more significant has been the Western Church's abdication of science to the secular evolutionists. Once scripture is questioned on one point, young people become skeptical of its other truth claims.
Ham and Beemer argue that churches must give up "long held cherished notions" about Christian education and focus on apologetics. But while Ham and Beemer correctly diagnose the problem, they fail to adhere to their own premise; follow scripture over tradition. Instead of offering a biblical model for training children, Ham and Beemer's recommendations are limited to shoring up the content of Christian education curriculum.
Despite their admission that Sunday school is ineffective, Ham and Beemer remain unwilling to discard this sacred cow of the American Church for no other reason than too many traditionalists would object. Here Already Gone misses an opportunity to address how we can replace an unproductive tradition with scriptural means. Sunday school has failed because the Western Church has embraced the mistaken belief that activities should segregated by age. The authors even misapply Proverbs 22:6 in their attempt to justify youth ministry and youth pastors. Already Gone should have explored the impact of using unbiblical means to teach youth in addition to unbiblical content. Already Gone reveals how entrenched age (and family) segregation practices have become in the Western Church. Even Ham and Beemer (two advocates of biblical authority) recommend using a "group of elders" to walk alongside of youth to "mentor, disciple and equip" them rather than defer to the biblical role of parents(Duet. 6).
What is missing from Already Gone - and most critiques of the Western Church
-- is an adequate description of the biblical economy for transferring knowledge about God to young people. Until the Western Church conforms to biblical standards for training children, the problem will not go away.
on August 5, 2009
I am not a Young Earth Creationist. Ken Ham wrote this book, and he is. It should be no surprise that this book emphasizes the importance of reading the Bible as though its words are true. Despite my personal notions, I loaded up my five kids one weekend and drove from Atlanta to Cincinnati to experience Ken Ham's Creation Museum, and I am so thankful that we did. I was surprised that the information presented went way beyond, "but the Bible says . . . ." The high quality displays were jam packed with information based on current, observational science - not hopeful conjecture. It also highlighted many widely accepted fallacies in the areas of astronomy, geology, paleontology, etc. (not to mention thoroughly discrediting the granddaddy of them all - Darwinism). I walked away wanting to learn much more - which, I expect, was the whole point.
If you believe in the Young Earth position, and you accept that there was a global catastrophic flood, then this is an excellent book. Even if you don't hold those positions, however, Already Gone remains an outstanding read - provided you have any reason to care about our children.
I believe the Bible's instruction that parents are the primary educators of their kids. I believe the purpose of education is not to equip our children with the opportunity to "succeed" in life. Instead, the purpose of education is to teach them (1) the Creation Mandate, and (2) the Redemptive Mandate. The probing surveys described in this book are critical to fulfilling the purpose of educating our kids. The reality is that the results of the surveys described herein are terrifying - and highly motivating - regardless of your specific denominational affiliation.
As their kids' primary educators, I believe every parent must read this book. As a man called to church leadership, and as someone who has served by teaching Sunday School for over a decade, I believe every pastor, youth leader, children's director, and Sunday School teacher should read this book and prayerfully consider its serious implications. As a former school board member, I strongly recommend that everyone associated with education, from Ivory Tower leadership to hands-on staff, carefully consider the statistical results presented in this book. If the information hits you as hard as it hit me, the book includes an appendix for you with resources that can assist you in connecting with kids before they are gone. Well done.
on June 16, 2009
Ken Ham does an excellent job of presenting statistical data to aid in identifying a real world problem that permeates the modern church. He explains the reasons why compromising Genesis undermines the confidence people have in the authority of the scriptures. By interviewing evangelical Christians that have left the church, this book explains that the process of departure from Christianity begins as early as middle school. Because middle school and high school students do not understand the reasons for our faith, they are disconnected from the Bible and this leads to their departure. The majority of people who depart do so because of a lack of confidence in Genesis. Since the younger generation does not find Genesis reliable, they also do not have confidence in the rest of scriptures.
This is a must read for all Christians, but especially pastors and teachers.
on August 24, 2009
Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard
Britt Beemer's America's Research Group was commissioned by Ken Ham to survey 1,000 former attendees of conservative Christian churches, who are now in their twenties, to discover why they left. Already Gone is a summary of the survey results, and a challenge to the church to heed the warning and make the radical changes required to remain relevant - not only to the younger generations, but to everyone.
Do you believe in the authority of Scripture? Does your life demonstrate it? Ken Ham poses these questions to young adult Christians both in and out of mainstream churches, to pastors, Christian teachers, to parents, churches, and educational institutions. The subject of Already Gone is the generation of Christians my age (20's), many of whom have left the church. Of those who have left, there are two main groups: one whose worldview is mostly secular and skeptical of the Bible, and one that believes the Bible is true and applicable but has found the church irrelevant. How is the church failing to deliver a biblical worldview to the children and youth who faithfully attend Sunday school, church, and youth group? Of the twenty-something's who remain in the church, are they submitted to the authority of Scripture, or is their search for a worship experience prevailing over God's teachings about the Body of Christ?
What about the parents, pastors, youth pastors, and Sunday school teachers who make up the older generation, the church establishment? Have they sold out God's teachings on the church for their beloved traditions? How much of what we think of when we hear "church" is actually biblical? Why is the most common accusation against the church that it is hypocritical? The church in America is losing members so drastically that we need to radically reevaluate our practices and teachings. Compromise cannot be tolerated.
As founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham must touch on his favorite subject: the foundational importance of Genesis, and how compromise on the historical and scientific truth of Genesis undermines all of Scripture, faith in God, and even the gospel. He calls the church back to teaching "earthly things," the correspondence between the Bible and reality. Christians need to be equipped for apologetics from an early age, to guard against doubts and to answer inquiries from a godless culture. This, more than music or games or attractive activities, is the only way to be relevant to people living in the real world and desperate for answers.
Already Gone is a fair, factual, and interesting treatment of the systemic problems in the church today. Lest we become like post-Christian Europe, where church is a marginal pastime for a few elderly people clinging to vestiges of tradition in empty cathedrals, we must take action now. Several reactions to the problem are presented, with their disadvantages and perks, but ever a challenge to study for yourself what God says about church and training up children.
As a member of the generation under the microscope, on the edge of the traditional church and ready to flee, I was impressed by the willingness to take us seriously. Some of us are leaving because we see the problems and want a church that does what a church should, and loyalty isn't strong enough to keep us from looking outside our experience. Ken Ham acknowledges, with some surprise, people in my situation. I appreciated this book. Even though I'm pushing for the more extreme reactions mentioned (abandoning Sunday school and traditional trappings: buildings, sermons, and orders of worship), I have a lot of respect for the way Already Gone ties the whole malady to the failure of Christians to teach and obey the authority of the Word of God. If a person is faithful to study and submit to that, he will be led to the mode of meeting and discipleship God intends, strongly equipped for the Christian call to evangelize our world.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
on January 2, 2010
In considering buying this book, you need to consider that it is dealing with the mass exodus of young people from the church, which is happening across the board. However, the focus of this book is on the conservative evangelical/fundamentalist churches. This exodus is more of a crisis of faith for these churches, because of their theology.
I've noticed the negative reviews are negative because Ken Ham is the author. This should not be an issue. Yes, Ham's focus is on recent creationism and his focus is mentioned in this book, but the theme of this book is the problem of twenty somethings leaving the church and how to stop it. He sees one's views of Genesis (which he feels is the foundation of all Scripture) to be part of the problem, but what do you expect? His argument here is more on the need to defend the Bible and to live it out.
The co-author is C. Britt Beemer, who does research. The survey is done of 1,000 people in their 20's who went to church as children and are not now. The survey was very detailed (the full survey is in the appendix), and revealed some interesting facts. Among these is that Sunday School is not helping the problem and that there are two different groups that leave the church. Some do so because they believe the Bible is not relevant; others still believe the Bible but feel the church is irrelevant.
Besides pointing out the problem, Ham deals with solutions. Those solutions are well thought out. He recognizes that a lot of what's going on in church is not the commandment of God but the traditions of man. He also realizes that those traditions may be good, bad, or neutral, but it doesn't change the fact that they are traditions.
Every pastor, every youth worker, every Christian education minister and Sunday School teacher, and every Christian parent needs to read this book.
on November 5, 2011
Reading the book, Already Gone, is like getting punched in the gut by Mike Tyson. Nauseating! Generations of children have been dwelt a severe blow by the enemy of their souls. And parents, pastors, and churches alike have sat back and watched children as they've been pummeled by the world and the temptations of Satan. Authors, Ken Hamm of Answers in Genesis and Britt Beemer of America's Research Group surveyed 1,000 young adults (20-29) who grew up in conservatively sound bible believing churches, who have left the church. The survey findings are not only shocking, but they also run contrary to popular belief on why children are leaving the church.
The survey found those children who are more actively involved in church actually leave the church at higher rates than those who just attended Sunday morning service. In the chapter labeled Sunday School Syndrome the authors make this startling claim: "Sunday School is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children." (38). Contrary to popular belief, it would seem from the research children who are more active in church seem to leave the church at higher rates. Why is this? The authors proceed to offer their thesis on why this is happening, coming to the conclusion that major "renovation" needs to take place in the Sunday school/children-youth program structure.
Another startling find is most children are "departing" the faith at a much earlier age than most parents and churches realize. The preconceived notion by most is the church is losing their children during their time in college. But the survey results paint a much different picture than our preconceived notions. Of the 60% of children (after 18) who will leave the faith either permanently or for a season of their lives, only 10% of those left their faith during their time in college. An astounding 40% had their first doubts in Middle school and 44% in High school. We are loosing our children much earlier than we thought.
The authors do a wonderful job connecting the dots of the survey results. When the dots are connected, an interesting picture is formed. We are generally losing our children because most of them have serious doubts about the authority of scripture. When a child begins to question the infallibility and sufficiency of the Word, they begin to question and ultimately leave behind their faith. As Ken Hamm put it, "Our foundation is the Word of God. We need to defend the Word of God as one of our top priorities as Christians. If we are to give a strategic and effective response to the wave of souls who are leaving the church, these issues must be addressed." (107)
My generation was surveyed and highlighted in this book. And being part of this generation who is witnessing first hand many leaving the church as unprecedented rates, I implore parents and pastors alike to read this book. Already Gone not only gives us reliable data to chew on, but also tons of biblical resources to help parents and churches train their children up on the foundation of God's Word. This too, is a must read for every youth worker and children's church volunteer. I'll leave you with this thought: One day, every one of our children are going to stand before Christ and give an account for their lives, without us by their side. Prepare them for that day, I beg you.''
I thank New Leaf Publishing Group for providing me a review copy of the book, and I heartily recommend Already Gone.
Raising Godly Children Ministries
on November 2, 2010
The authors look past the superficial answers, and in this startling study get to the root of the problem of why young adults are leaving the church. The study is focused on young adults who have fully left the church as former regular church going Christians. By the time they get into college they are already gone. With Ham's knowledge of scripture, especially his devotion to Genesis, and Beemer, who makes a living studying human behavior and attitudes, statistically we get a shocking discovery of what's happening to our children. The information from the study could eventually be categorized even further. The book is separated into two parts, where Part 1 covers the epidemic and Part 2, the solutions (which I found to be sparse) and defending our faith. The appendices contain a sampling of the survey and resources.
So what are the findings? The church and the teachers are not doing their job. We are losing them in Sunday school, and the thing is, their survey concentrated on conservative christian churches. Though, they point out that the father is the most important teacher, and we tend to rely too much on school/church teachers. It stems from the belief in biblical error, especially what is found in the book of Genesis. The kids see the hypocrisy and the compromising teaching of the bible, so they see the church as irrelevant. There are positive findings though: these young adults are open to coming back, which gives an opportunity for the "church" to become relevant again. The bottom line is it's up to the parents, especially the father to teach the uncompromised truth.
Wish you well
on September 23, 2012
Do you go to church?
If not, have you ever gone to church in the past?
If that is the case, when and why did you stop?
There is an epidemic today of people who grew up in church but over the years have stopped going. Maybe you are one of them; maybe you know some of them. Either way, there is a reason for this epidemic and it needs to be uncovered and addressed head-on before it spreads to the point of no return.
In Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, Ken Ham and Britt Beemer along with Todd Hillard scientifically research this issue and share not only the results but also dig deep into how to get to the heart of it and stop it.
Ken Ham and Britt Beemer also later teamed up for research, writing, and planning in Already Compromised, which I have reviewed as well. Please check out that review when you get a chance.
The Introduction to Already Gone briefly highlights the fact that Europe has overall become a land of abandoned and repurposed church buildings. Throughout the rest of the book we are reminded of how close America is to doing the same.
But the church isn't a building, right?
It is the Body of Christ...the people of Christ...right?
Yes, this is very true. (See Colossians 1:24 & Ephesians 5:29-30) But the place where that body congregates to learn, grow, fellowship together and encourage one another is suffering from a severe, quickly progressing epidemic. As Ham states regarding his and his family's move from Australia to America to be missionaries to America:
"The Bible calls the Church the 'Body of Christ.' Today, over 25 years after our move, the statistics prove that His body is bleeding profusely. The next generation of believers is draining from the churches, and it causes me great personal and professional concern. I've sat in the grand, but vacant churches of Europe. I know where this is headed. Where Europe is today spiritually, America will be tomorrow---and for the same reasons, if the Church does not recognize where the foundational problem lies and address it."
Ham enlisted Britt Beemer of America's Research Group to create, facilitate, and analyze a qualified study that would help to unearth the problem(s). To discover who was leaving, why they were, and what could be done to reverse the trend, the study focused on those who said they had attended church very frequently growing up but rarely if ever do now.
Is that YOU? Do you know that person?
Let me just say...you may think you know the answers to the why's and when's and who's, but I think you will be surprised to read what the statistical research unveiled. Such as:
- Many begin to leave as early as elementary and middle school (not just later in college).
- Sunday School is actually currently more harmful than helpful, not for lack of good intention...you really need to read the book for the in-depth explanation of that!
- Music style and amount is NOT the main reason they leave, nor what they say they miss most (and these were people from age 20-30 answering the surveys)---legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and boredom were highly scored as reasons but poor music was very low.
- They miss worshiping God and they miss the pastor's teaching more than most other reasons given (again, including music).
- Many of them are still firm believers in God and His Word and most say that they don't attend because church is not relevant to them in that they do not feel closer to God there nor is it practical to them.
Those are just some of the results...the tip of the iceberg, really. You need to read this book to glean so much more from it. Excellent research with VERY practical application offered from it. I identified with much of what the results revealed.
Yes, I am one of those who left the church and came back!
Again, you may be, too...or at the very least you most likely know someone who is.
Ultimately, all in all, Ham and Beemer uncovered that, "Central to this study was the issue of belief. You simply can't explain the behavior without understanding the beliefs behind the behaviors. 'Belief' is invisible." but through intense, well-developed and executed studies like this one, belief and lack-thereof becomes tangible. At least it did for me.
Ham and Beemer help us recognize that we need to do a better job as parents, pastors, and believers in God to help people of all ages realize that "The Bible is not some 'pie in the sky' philosophical book. It's a real book that is really connected to the real world...God's Word stands by itself and doesn't need defending---that is true---but, practically, in this culture we are talking about answering the skeptical questions to uphold the Word and proclaim why we can believe in the Bible's life-giving historical and scientific authority."
According to Ham and Beemer, "We don't need a remodel; we need a complete renovation. We don't need a Band-Aid; we need radical surgery. It's time for a revolution; it's time for a new Reformation in the Church---to call the Church back to the authority of the Word of God, beginning in Genesis."
So, are you intrigued?
Are you uneasy because of the statement that
"your kids will quit church"?
Please don't let my review be the last you read of the study and revelations of this book, Already Gone.