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Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts Hardcover – September 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the largest Christian resource companies worldwide, and the best-selling coauthor of Simple Church. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons and live in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sam S. Rainer is a senior pastor, writer, and the president and CEO of Rainer Research. He also blogs and writes a column for Outreach magazine and lives with his wife, Erin, in Floyds Knobs, Indiana.

From AudioFile

Erik Synnestvedt's precise delivery enhances the authors' examination of the relationship between young adults and the Christian church. Part One examines the reasons that more than two-thirds of young adults 18-22 years old nationwide leave the church. Part Two spells out how the church could be more relevant to young adults in today's world and includes suggestions on how to bring them back to the fold. With lightly accented enunciation and attention to detail Synnestvedt discusses how churches need to return to a clear, simple structure, preach sermons with strong biblical teaching, have an evangelistic outreach worldwide and within the community, and commit to and support their congregations. This call to church relevance should be required listening for all pastors. G.D.W. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Books (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805443924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805443929
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Potter on October 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading quite a lot of statistically based books lately. This is usually not my cup of tea, but the research helps me to understand trends in such a way as to be better at leading my congregation. As you might have guessed, Thom and Sam are related. Thom Rainer is the president and of LifeWay Christian Resources, the co-author of Simple Church, and the author of several other books, many of which are based on statistical research. His eldest son, Sam, is the senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, and the president and CEO of the Rainer Group.

These statisticians have written a book that examines the trend of church drop-outs. What their research shows is that the American church is in decline, and the largest group of people dropping out of church is young adults aged 18 to 22. Seventy percent of this age group are dropping out of church while only 30% are staying. Consequently the conclusions they draw and the suggestions they make are aimed at what churches can do to stem the tide of back door users in this age group. Even so, the material can be applied across age brackets when church leaders are trying to invigorate their churches.

The book is divided into two sections: Part 1, dedicated to the research itself explaining "why people are leaving the nonessential church"; and part 2, relating "how essential churches close the back door." The dire picture that the statistics paints is one that causes the first part of the book to seem rather on the negative side.

What we are exposed to in part one is the stark reality that the American church is in decline.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Laurence T. Baxter VINE VOICE on September 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
More than two-thirds of young adults between the ages of 18-22 leave the church - that's a disturbingly high figure. In this follow-up to the popular book "Simple Church", the Rainers spoke to those who left, the dechurched. What reasons did they give for leaving?

Top Ten Reasons Church Dropouts Stopped Attending Church

1. Simply wanted a break from church.
2. Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.
3. Moved to college and stopped attending church.
4. Work responsibilities prevented me from attending.
5. Moved too far away from the church to continue attending.
6. Became too busy though still wanted to attend.
7. Didn't feel connected to the people in my church.
8. Disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues.
9. Chose to spend more time with friends outside the church.
10.Was only going to church to please others.

The premise of Essential Church is that the reason they leave boils down to this... "Churchgoing students drop out of the church because it is not essential to their lives."

Part 1: Why People Leave the Nonessential Church
Chapter 1: My Faith is Not My Parents' Faith
Chapter 2: Looking for a different kind of community
Chapter 3: That's Life!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Trevin Wax on March 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In 2001, with my first year of Romanian mission work behind me, I returned home for the summer to discover that my youth group friends had disappeared from the church. Only a small handful of the group was now in the college class. The more I tried to connect with old friends, the more I realized that though many were still in town, most of them were no longer in church anywhere.

Apparently, the problem I noticed in 2001 has only grown. Many churches today are waking up to the fact that a generation of young people is missing from the church. The twenty-something crowd has largely disappeared, and most churches know neither why they have left nor what they can do to get them back.

The statistics show that two-thirds of churchgoing young adults drop out between the ages of 18 and 22. These numbers serve as an indictment against the methods and training common to most children and youth ministries. The numbers also indicate an abdication of responsibility on the part of parents to raise their children to value the church.

This sad phenomenon is described in detail in Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts(Broadman & Holman, 2008) by Thom and Sam Rainer. In Essential Church, the Rainers (father and son) tell us the reasons young people give for leaving church and what the church must do to win them back.

In the first part of the book, the authors show why young people leave what they call the "nonessential church." In the second part, they show four qualities present in churches that retain their young people through the college years.

I appreciate the way in which Thom and Sam Rainer can share stastics and give advice without emphasizing formulas over substance. Again and again, they say that theirs is not a formula for "success.
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