Review of “You Lost Me” – Chapter 1August 13, 2013
Overview of the Chapter: Kinnaman says at the beginning of the Chapter that he has two purposes: To define the dropout problem and To interpret the urgency of this problem. He begins this process by outlining his own credentials for attempting this study. At Barna Research group, they conduct over 30,000 interviews, seeking to answer many of the today’s most pressing questions. As he was doing this during the 2000’s, he focused on those who didn’t go to church. This resulted in the book “unChristian” which was published in 2012. Doing the research for that book, Kinnaman was amazed more at the answers given by Christians about the church than the unChristian. He concluded that many Christians of the Millennial generation see the church as too political, hypocritical and out of touch with reality. In this chapter, he draws three conclusions:
1. Modern teens are following Christ, but as soon as they leave home, they leave their churches behind as well.
2. There are different kinds of dropouts.
3. The problem for many of them is a discipleship problem. These teens were not discipled properly enough to stay involved in the church.
Kinnaman’s research finds that 4 out of 5 adults say they attended some kind of church instruction as a child or teen. Yet, when today’s teens reach the age group of 19-29, 59% of them stop attending church. This is true of both Catholics and Protestants. Not only do they stop attending church, but they doubt many of the things about Jesus: Whether he did miracles, whether he was God, whether he was raised from the dead, if he sinned etc. Their conclusion is that the majority of twenty-somethings are “Missing in Action” from the Faith. Not only do they doubt the church, but they also doubt God and even if there is a God.
They also identify a number of different types of dropouts.
1. Nomads: These are the ones who still believe strongly in God but struggle with the Church.
2. Prodigals: These ones have no involvement with Church and don’t want to have a relationship with God either.
3. Exiles: These ones still believe but are torn between the church and the culture they enjoy.
According to this chapter, the Prodigals are the least numerous. This underscores the biblical idea that we are to “train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they won’t depart from it”.
Kinnaman also describes a group that doesn’t drop out. Those who stay with church (about 42%) may be more passionate than their seniors about their faith. They spend hours in worship, get involved in missions in a more “hands-on” way and volunteer in the church and the community.
He also points out the tremendous dichotomies existing within the average Millennial (which he also calls Mosaics). They want to do everything themselves, but they also want to be mentored. They want to call their own shots, but they also need help. They also are less inclined to full-time Christian ministry, desiring to serve God in other professions. But the church often does not prepare them to serve in those venues (at least according to Kinnaman). He also points out that they need to learn how to accept “wisdom”…as opposed to knowledge, which Millennials have huge access to because of the Internet.
The Value of this Chapter: Kinnaman is very careful not to lay blame on anyone or any institution in particular. As a researcher, he is careful not to over-interpret the data (or misinterpret it…but that comes later). He is very balanced in his viewpoint on what is happening. He warns the reader not to ignore this problem. There are those who would say “nothing to see here; move along” as if the dropouts are always here and they always return. Kinnaman says that is not happening. One reason for this is the relative later age at which people are marrying. The older one marries, the less one thinks about what they’re going to teach their children about faith. Millennials do not think about what they’re going to teach their children, because they don’t have any. On the other side of the ledger, he sees people who make too much of these findings, who say “Christianity will be gone in one generation”. That too he rejects. This chapter is good for defining the problem.
My Criticism of the Chapter: Though this will come out even more later, he tends to use representative examples that are two-dimensional. The young people he uses as focal points are not as typical as Kinnaman likes to suggest. In philosophical terms, they are straw men. For instance, he mentions several of the kids who struggled to fit into their youth groups and then decided when they had a choice to jettison church. Notice that we don’t paint education with that brush. Kids always have trouble fitting into school, yet we don’t see that as the school’s problem. It is an endemic problem of that age group. Throughout this book, Kinnaman tells stories about teens that seem dramatic and not representative of the Millennials I know. I wish he had used more down-to-earth examples more.
My Personal Takeaway from this chapter: It helped me to see the different types of dropouts so I can identify them as I talk with Millennials.