You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith

David Kinnaman’s most recent book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… And Rethinking Faith (Baker Books) begins with bad news: “Millions of young adults leave active involvement in church as they exit their teen years.” But the good news is that many of the teens who give up on the church, aren’t necessarily walking away from Jesus. Many of them are simply looking for more meaningful ways to follow Jesus in contemporary culture.

The Barna Group has been criticized of late for supposedly being “alarmist” and for using a flawed research methodology. Most of the criticism has come from a few, Christian, social scientists. I think much of the criticism is overstated. What is so refreshing about You Lost Me is that it doesn’t rely solely on Barna statistics. It pulls from a variety of sources and notes the shortcomings of all research. Kinnaman writes: “I want to provide here a nuanced, data-driven assessment of young adults’ faith journeys. In our evidence gathering, interviews, and data analysis, the Barna team’s goal is to construct the most accurate picture we can of cultural reality, because the church is called to be the church in the real world. In this research, we have done our best to uncover the facts and the truth of the dropout problem, and this book is the compilation of our best thinking on the subject thus far—but it is hardly the final answer.”

I have read much of and have benefitted greatly from the recent sociological research on the religious attitudes of late adolescents and emerging adults from leading sociologists such as Jeffrey Arnett, Chap Clark, Tim Clydesdale, Donna Freitas, Christian Smith, and Robert Wuthnow. Kinnaman’s findings affirm and support much of what is found among leading social scientists. My hope is that You Lost Me is received as a welcomed addition to that conversation. It is as good and as thorough as anything else I have read concerning young adult spirituality.

You Lost Me is clear and compelling. It is thoughtful and balanced. It should be read by everyone concerned for the church; pastors, parents, educators, even students will benefit from Kinnaman’s wisdom. He rightly identifies the church “dropout problem” as a “disciple-making” problem, explaining, “The church is not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ in a rapidly changing culture.” You Lost Me not only identifies the reasons why many young adults stop attending church but it also provides disciples-making suggestions for how to get them back. The book also features a collection of fifty “ideas for passing on a flourishing, deep-rooted faith.” CPYU president Walt Mueller and I are among the contributors.

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Watch a video about You Lost Me here.