For years I have noticed that the churches I have been a part of have regularly been losing their children sometime around upper high school and especially after high school graduation. It was so noticeable in recent years that I pointed it out to church staff and questioned some of the activities and teaching directed toward the youth. Needless to say that didn’t go over well.
My older two children left Sunday School as middle schoolers but not to leave the church. They both independently at a certain point pointed out that the Sunday School was nothing more than the same stories over and over and they weren’t learning anything. My daughter was also bothered by the rude way the Sunday School children treated the teacher. Both my children found jobs in the church that took the place of Sunday School for them. Either doing the sound, working with the baby nursery, or playing instruments for the service took the place of the typical insipid Sunday School material. They both loved their Sunday School teachers but not the lesson material. Presently we are worshiping in churches where we can worship together as a family with more serious Bible study.
Well here is more research to point the problems we found even better than I could to others.
Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis has written a book called Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it.
This book looks at the way the church is losing their youth and why. The idea of Sunday School isn’t lost but we need to look seriously at what is being taught. Our children deserve more than watered-downed, warmed over “milk”; they need the “meat” of the Scripture or they will never grow. Imagine feeding your children just a diluted bottle until they are teens!
“Because of the way in which they’ve been educated,” Ham said, teens come to believe “that what they are taught in school is reality, but the church teaches stories and morality and relationship. Bible teaching is not real in the sense of real history.”
Over 40% in the survey had decided to leave the church by the end of middle and elementary school, and another 40+ % by the end of high school. These people–now young adults—were already having doubts about Christianity through elementary, middle, and high school. It wasn’t in college where most of them were lost—it was before that.
The second chapter in the book is one of the most shocking—we call it the “Sunday School Syndrome.” We found that those that went to Sunday school regularly as kids were worse off than those who didn’t—that Sunday school overall has been detrimental to a child’s spiritual health! Now we don’t advocate eradicating Sunday schools, but do advocate radical changes for teachers and the curricula. But you can’t deny the statistics—they are overwhelming. For instance, those who went to Sunday school were more like to defend abortion and pre-marital sex than those who didn’t attend Sunday school …
The results are shocking:
- Those who faithfully attend Sunday School are more likely to leave the church than those who do not.
- Those who regularly attend Sunday School are more likely to believe that the Bible is less true.
- Those who regularly attend Sunday School are actually more likely to defend that abortion and gay marriage should be legal.
- Those who regularly attend Sunday School are actually more likely to defend premarital sex.
Below are two different interviews with Ken Ham concerning this issue.