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Dropout is a key word in today's evangelical churches concerning teenagers and young adults. The quote often sounds like this: "86% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation, never to return." The problem with that statement (and others around that number) is that it's not true. But that doesn't mean there is no reason for concern.

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LifeWay Research data shows that about 70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out—but don't miss the details. Of those who left, almost two-thirds return and currently attend church (in the timeframe of our study). Also, that dropout rate is from all Protestant churches—evangelical and mainline.


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In most cases, our surveys show a lack of intentionality in dropping out. Eighty percent of young people who dropped out of church said they did not plan to do so during high school. It's not that most rejected the church. Our teenagers aren't primarily leaving because they have significant disagreements with their theological upbringing or out of some sense of rebellion. For the most part, they simply lose track of the church and stop seeing it as important to their life.

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Between 17 and 19 is where the drop takes place. Our study was of those who attended regularly for at least a year in high school—so our sample is not representative of all teens and young adults, but clearly something is happening in that age range.

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2. Have a home with committed Christian parents. According to the USC study I referenced earlier, 74% of married couples who were both evangelicals also had kids who were evangelical. I was raised by a single mom who loved the Lord and I'm so thankful for those who do, but parents (together) make a significant statistical impact.

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