Church Dropouts: Faces Of Young Adults Ages 18-22

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Research about young adults leaving the church, by Ed Stetzer. More here:
http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/mainpage/0%2C1701%2CM%25253D200767%2C00.html

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Church Dropouts: Faces Of Young Adults Ages 18-22

  1. 1. Faces of Young Adults ages 18-22: The Effect of Church Dropouts Spring 2007
  2. 2. Report Contents <ul><li>Methodology & Terminology 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction 5 </li></ul><ul><li>Key Findings 6 </li></ul><ul><li>Young Adult Church Attendance 7 </li></ul><ul><li>Church Involvement 12 </li></ul><ul><li>Views of their Church 22 </li></ul><ul><li>Impressions of Church Members 28 </li></ul><ul><li>Current Status of Young Adults 32 </li></ul>
  3. 3. Methodology <ul><li>Survey of Young Adults ages 18-30 in April-May 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Sample size of 1,023 provides 95% confidence that sampling error does not exceed + 3.1% </li></ul><ul><li>Eligible respondents attended a Protestant church regularly (twice a month or more) for at least a year in high school </li></ul><ul><li>The web survey utilized a representative national panel of Americans </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Panels have been utilized by research firms such as the Gallup Organization and National Family Opinion (NFO) for over 60 years </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Online panels have been heavily utilized by Gallup, NFO, Harris Interactive and others for over 10 years </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Panels facilitate accurate sampling and high response rates and ensure that emerging generations without telephone landlines are included </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Terminology <ul><li>Dropouts – Church “Dropouts” are defined as those who “stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.” Note: Since 35% of dropouts ages 23-30 have returned to attending church twice a month, some do indicate church activity between ages 18-22. </li></ul><ul><li>Statistically Significant – If this population were randomly surveyed over and over, the noted difference in responses would be repeated almost every time (in technical terms: the difference cannot be attributed to random variation alone). Note: the fact that statistical significance is detected does not always mean that practical significance is present. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Introduction <ul><li>Three distinct groups of 18-22 year olds exist based on their church attendance history: </li></ul><ul><li>Those who have never attended church regularly (“unchurched” – not addressed in this study) </li></ul><ul><li>Those who have consistently attended church regularly (“stayed”) </li></ul><ul><li>Those who attended regularly for at least a year in high school, but stopped attending for at least a year between ages 18-22 (“dropouts”) </li></ul><ul><li>Although large differences between these groups are expected, the detailed description of those who stayed and dropouts have equally large strategic implications for churches seeking to reach them </li></ul>
  6. 6. Key Findings <ul><li>Among 18-22 year olds, those who stayed in church are very different compared to those who dropped out: </li></ul><ul><li>Current church involvement (majority involved vs. few have returned) </li></ul><ul><li>Views of their church (large majority positive vs. one third positive) </li></ul><ul><li>Impressions of church members (caring and welcoming vs. judgmental and hypocritical) </li></ul><ul><li>Influence from others (large majority have positive influencers vs. half have positive influencers) </li></ul><ul><li>These divergent characteristics may include both: </li></ul><ul><li>Contributors to the decision to drop out, and </li></ul><ul><li>Results of the decision to drop out </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Young Adult Church Attendance </li></ul><ul><li>Note: Since 35% of dropouts ages 23-30 have returned to attending church twice a month, some do indicate church attendance between ages 18-22 despite dropping out for at least a year </li></ul>
  8. 8. Only one out of seven dropouts indicate twice-a-month attendance at a given age between 19 and 22 Q1a. At which of the following ages did you regularly attend church (by “regularly attend,” we mean attend at least twice a month for three or more months)? Base: Current Age >= Age asked about (n ranges from =1,023 at age 18 to 785 at age 22) Age 20 marks the largest difference between dropouts and those who stay *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant
  9. 9. By age 23, the percent of dropouts attending again twice a month is growing, but it is declining among those who stayed Q1a. At which of the following ages did you regularly attend church (by “regularly attend,” we mean attend at least twice a month for three or more months)? Base: Current Age >= Age asked about (n ranges from =732 at age 23 to 465 at age 26) *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant
  10. 10. More than one quarter of current attendees (29%) began attending their current church in preschool Q1c. At what age did you begin attending your current church? Base: S5=Currently attending (n=783) More of those who stayed in church started to attend this church after grade school More dropouts who attend today found their current church after Age 22 *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant
  11. 11. Frequent church switchers are not common among young adults Q1b. How many different churches have you regularly attended since becoming a teenager (since turning 13)? Base: All (n=1,023) Number of different churches attended regularly since turning 13 *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant
  12. 12. <ul><li>Church Involvement Between Ages 18-22 </li></ul><ul><li>Note: Since 35% of dropouts ages 23-30 have returned to attending church twice a month, some do indicate church involvement between ages 18-22 despite dropping out for at least a year </li></ul>
  13. 13. Attendance and participation between ages 18-22 Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) The effect of two thirds of young adults dropping out of church for at least a year between ages 18-22 is seen in how they characterize their participation over this 5 year span <ul><li>Among ALL young adults : </li></ul><ul><li>I attended worship services regularly (half the number prior to 18) 42% </li></ul><ul><li>I attended a small group, Sunday school, or discipleship class 27% </li></ul><ul><li>I participated in service projects through church 31% </li></ul><ul><li>I consistently gave financially to the church 36% </li></ul><ul><li>I participated in mission trips 19% </li></ul><ul><li>Among Dropouts, ages 18-22 compared to prior to age 18, </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer indicate participation: </li></ul><ul><li>In worship services (20% vs. 84%) and small groups (14% vs. 63%) </li></ul><ul><li>In service projects through church (17% vs. 47%) </li></ul><ul><li>In consistently giving financially to the church (22% vs. 38%) </li></ul><ul><li>In mission trips (11% vs. 25%) </li></ul>
  14. 14. Friends and responsibility at church between ages 18-22 Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) <ul><li>Among ALL young adults : </li></ul><ul><li>I had regular responsibilities at church 27% </li></ul><ul><li>I held a leadership position in my activities at church 20% </li></ul><ul><li>Among ALL young adults : </li></ul><ul><li>My group of friends respected peers who attended church 48% </li></ul>The majority of ALL young adults indicate they lack positive peer pressure to attend church between ages 18-22 <ul><li>Among Dropouts, ages 18-22 compared to prior to age 18 : </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer indicate: </li></ul><ul><li>Friends respected peers who attended church (37% vs. 53%) </li></ul><ul><li>I had regular responsibilities at church (13% vs. 31%) </li></ul><ul><li>I held a leadership position in their activities at church (11% vs. 21%) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Personal desires and disciplines related to church between ages 18-22 Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) <ul><li>Among ALL young adults : </li></ul><ul><li>I had a strong personal belief system in place 65% </li></ul><ul><li>I spent regular time in prayer privately 57% </li></ul><ul><li>I wanted the church to help guide my decisions in everyday life 47% </li></ul><ul><li>I spent regular time reading the Bible privately 41% </li></ul><ul><li>Among Dropouts, ages 18-22 compared to prior to age 18 : </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer indicate they: </li></ul><ul><li>Had a strong belief system in place (56% vs. 67%) </li></ul><ul><li>Wanted the church to help guide their decisions in everyday life (30% vs. 46%) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Family and Adult Influences between ages 18-22 Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) <ul><li>Among ALL young adults : </li></ul><ul><li>Parents or family members attended church regularly 60% </li></ul><ul><li>My parents or family members genuinely liked church 64% </li></ul><ul><li>My parents or family members provided spiritual guidance 56% </li></ul><ul><li>An adult spend time with me regularly to help me grow spiritually 27% </li></ul><ul><li>Among Dropouts, ages 18-22 compared to prior to age 18 : </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer indicate: </li></ul><ul><li>Parents or family attended church regularly (49% vs. 72%) </li></ul><ul><li>Parents or family genuinely liked church (54% vs. 67%) </li></ul><ul><li>Parents or family provided spiritual guidance (45% vs. 59%) </li></ul><ul><li>An adult spent time with them regularly to help them grow spiritually (17% vs. 35%) </li></ul>
  17. 17. A wide church activity gap exists between dropouts and those who stay in church between ages 18-22 Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) <ul><li>Since few have returned to church activities, the activity gap confirms that dropouts must be sought outside the church </li></ul><ul><li>Those who stayed in church compared to those who dropped out: </li></ul><ul><li>ATTENDANCE : 63% more of those who stay characterize this period as at time that they regularly attended worship services (83% vs. 20%) </li></ul><ul><li>DESIRE : 48% more of those who stay indicate they wanted the church to help guide their decisions in everyday life (78% vs. 30%) </li></ul><ul><li>FINANCES : 42% more of those who stay indicate they gave financially to the church (64% vs. 22%) </li></ul><ul><li>PARTICIPATION : 39% more of those who stay indicate they participated in services projects through church (56% vs. 17%) </li></ul><ul><li>RESPONSIBILITY : 38% more of those who stay indicate they have regular responsibilities at church (51% vs. 13%) </li></ul>
  18. 18. Because few dropouts return by age 22, dropouts indicate little participation compared to those who stayed Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) *All differences in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” are statistically significant
  19. 19. Compared to those who stay in church, half as many dropouts indicate they receive positive peer pressure to attend Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) *All differences in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” are statistically significant
  20. 20. Dropouts indicate they practice spiritual disciplines much less than those who stay in church Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) *All differences in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” are statistically significant
  21. 21. Half of dropouts say they received spiritual guidance and a real example from their family between ages 18-22 Q6b. Please indicate whether each of the following statements applies to your life prior to turning 18 and whether it applies to your life through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) *All differences in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” are statistically significant Activity of family members and adults between ages 18-22*
  22. 22. <ul><li>Views of their Church Between Ages 18-22 </li></ul>
  23. 23. Less than half of ALL young adults view their church positively between ages 18-22 <ul><li>Worship viewed by ALL young adults Agree * </li></ul><ul><li>The pastor’s sermons were engaging 48% </li></ul><ul><li>The pastor’s sermons were relevant to my life 48% </li></ul><ul><li>The worship style was appealing to me 47% </li></ul>* Selected a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale in which “1” = Strongly Disagree and “5” = Strongly Agree <ul><li>Perspective viewed by ALL young adults Agree * </li></ul><ul><li>I agreed with beliefs taught in my church 53% </li></ul><ul><li>My church was important in my life 45% </li></ul><ul><li>I agreed with my church’s political perspective 42% </li></ul>Q7. Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements about the church you attended as they pertain to your perceptions prior to turning 18 and whether they apply to your perceptions through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) Clearly ministry to young adults ages 18-22 is a post-modern environment – only half agree with the church’s beliefs Beliefs relate to satisfaction in worship – among those who agree with the beliefs taught in their church, 76% find the worship style appealing Compared to prior to age 18, 26% fewer dropouts agreed with their church’s beliefs (40% vs. 66%)
  24. 24. Less than half of ALL young adults view their church positively between ages 18-22 * Selected a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale in which “1” = Strongly Disagree and “5” = Strongly Agree <ul><li>Atmosphere viewed by ALL young adults Agree * </li></ul><ul><li>My church was a welcoming environment for people in my life stage 47% </li></ul><ul><li>Other people like me attended the church 44% </li></ul><ul><li>I felt “at home” at church 41% </li></ul><ul><li>My church offered appealing activities or small group studies for people in my life stage 40% </li></ul><ul><li>My church was a source of support during personal crises 39% </li></ul>Q7. Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements about the church you attended as they pertain to your perceptions prior to turning 18 and whether they apply to your perceptions through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) <ul><li>Among Dropouts, ages 18-22 compared to prior to age 18 : </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer dropouts indicate their church: </li></ul><ul><li>Was a welcoming environment for their life stage (34% vs. 54%) </li></ul><ul><li>Had other people like me attending (31% vs. 54%) </li></ul><ul><li>Felt “at home” (27% vs. 50%) </li></ul><ul><li>Offered appealing activities for their life stage (29% vs. 54%) </li></ul><ul><li>Was a source of support during personal crises (26% vs. 41%) </li></ul>
  25. 25. A wide church perspective gap exists between dropouts and those who stay in church between ages 18-22 <ul><li>This perception gap reveals the difficulty in attracting church dropouts back to church </li></ul><ul><li>Those who stayed in church compared to those who dropped out: </li></ul><ul><li>IMPORTANCE : 50% more of those who stay agree* that the church was important in their life during these years (78% vs. 28%) </li></ul><ul><li>WELCOMING : 42% more of those who stay agree* that they felt “at home” at church (69% vs. 27%) </li></ul><ul><li>WORSHIP : 41% more of those who stay agree* the worship style was appealing to them (74% vs. 33%) </li></ul><ul><li>RELEVANCE : 39% more of those who stay agree* the pastor’s sermons were relevant to their life (73% vs. 34%) </li></ul>Q7. Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements about the church you attended as they pertain to your perceptions prior to turning 18 and whether they apply to your perceptions through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023) * Selected a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale in which “1” = Strongly Disagree and “5” = Strongly Agree
  26. 26. Divergent views of their church’s beliefs and worship between ages 18-22 *Selected a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale in which “1” = Strongly Disagree and “5” = Strongly Agree. All differences in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” are statistically significant Q7. Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements about the church you attended as they pertain to your perceptions prior to turning 18 and whether they apply to your perceptions through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023)
  27. 27. Divergent views of the atmosphere at their church between ages 18-22 *Selected a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale in which “1” = Strongly Disagree and “5” = Strongly Agree. All differences in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” are statistically significant Q7. Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements about the church you attended as they pertain to your perceptions prior to turning 18 and whether they apply to your perceptions through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,023)
  28. 28. <ul><li>Impressions of Church Members Between Ages 18-22 </li></ul>
  29. 29. Among ALL young adults, only half have positive impressions of church members in general between ages 18-22 <ul><li>Impressions of church members in general between ages 18-22 </li></ul><ul><li>51% Caring </li></ul><ul><li>48% Welcoming (made me feel like part of the church) </li></ul><ul><li>48% Politically conservative 34% Insincere </li></ul><ul><li>43% Authentic/Real 33% Inspirational (like role models) </li></ul><ul><li>42% Judgmental 18% Legalistic </li></ul><ul><li>37% Cliquish 15% Lenient </li></ul><ul><li>36% Hypocritical 15% Politically liberal </li></ul><ul><li>35% Disapproving of those who didn’t meet their expectations regarding jobs, school, marriage, etc. </li></ul>Q8. Please indicate which of the following statements describe your impression of church members in general prior to turning 18 and which statements describe your impression through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,004)
  30. 30. Dropouts and those who stayed tend to have opposite impressions of church members between ages 18-22 Q8. Please indicate which of the following statements describe your impression of church members in general prior to turning 18 and which statements describe your impression through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,004) *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant
  31. 31. Dropouts and those who stayed tend to have opposite impressions of church members between ages 18-22 Q8. Please indicate which of the following statements describe your impression of church members in general prior to turning 18 and which statements describe your impression through ages 18-22. Base: All (n=1,004) *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant
  32. 32. <ul><li>Current Status of Young Adults Ages 18-30 </li></ul>
  33. 33. Two thirds of ALL young adults who attended a Protestant church for at least a year in high school currently consider themselves Christian Q11. Which of the following statements best describes your current beliefs about God? Base: All (n=1,023)
  34. 34. Those who stayed in church through ages 18-22 are much more likely to have a strong faith in God today Q11. Which of the following statements best describes your current beliefs about God? Base: All (n=1,023) *All differences in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” are statistically significant
  35. 35. Current Marital Status Q15. What is your current marital status? Base: All (n=1,023) *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant
  36. 36. Current Living Situation Q17. Please indicate your current living situation Base: All (n=1,023) Current living situation among young adults ages 18-30 *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant Note: Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding
  37. 37. Current Parent Status Q17b. Are you a parent? Base: All (n=1,023) Young adults ages 18-30 who are parents* *Difference in percentages between “dropouts” and those who “stayed” is statistically significant

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