by Karen Stiller
Even now, years later in order to spell it correctly, I have to look up the the word hemorrhaging each and every time I write it.
But that was the least of the worries around “Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults Are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church,” a report commissioned by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable and sponsored by the EFC, Great Commission Foundation, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, Stronger Together 2011 and Youth for Christ Canada.
In September, 2012, I wrote the Faith Today cover story on the report that helped us understand youth in relationship to the Church as engagers, fence sitters, wanderers or rejecters.
In our own family, I think we have three of the four represented. Our daughter graduates from high school this year. I know from Hemorrhaging Faith that this is a fragile time for her faith journey. She is in what the report called a “transition time.”
Will she stay engaged in the Church as she launches out on her own?
A lot depends on what kind of church she finds: will she be able to have her gifts both used and appreciated? Will she be able to express her doubts, misgivings and big questions about the issues of the day, particularly around things like sexual ethics? Will it be intergenerational?
And a lot depends on what she has experienced so far in our home and in our church.
Hemorrhaging Faith identified four major reasons why youth find their church worthwhile and stay in or return to it. These “drivers” to church involvement are spiritually engaged parents, experiences of God, vibrant community, and empowering teaching and beliefs. Each driver has its opposite: a “barrier” identified as a factor that keeps youth away. They are spiritually disengaged parents, lack of experiences of God, stagnant community, and restrictive teaching and beliefs.
We have another child who comes home from time at summer camp each year as a revitalized “engager.” No surprise there according to Hemorrhaging Faith. Experiences like Christian camp and mission trips nourish the faith of young people in a powerful way. But as friends and foe alike wear our son down during the year, he moves closer to being a seasonal “wanderer.” We are thankful camp is just weeks away.
On Thursday, June 16 at 12:00 noon EST we are hosting a free webinar on what we learned from “Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults Are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church.”
We will be joined by Rick Hiemstra, the EFC’s director of research; Sid Koop, executive director of Truth Matters; and Dave Overholt, adjunct professor at Tyndale University College and Seminary. All three participated in the original Hemorrhaging Faith project.
We will find out how Canadian churches responded, how parents reacted, and what has changed in the Canadian scene since then. And hopefully we will be joined by you!
Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Subscribe here.