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Disaffiliated Youth: Implications

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This conversation is centered around implications for churches from a recent study on disaffiliation.

To download this summary, click here.

Introduction: The study found in the book Going, Going, Gone discovers reasons young people choose to disassociate themselves from the organized church. This interview moves into implications for pastoral ministry.


Young people do care about and are interested in God and conversations around faith and spiritual formation.

Only 14% of the US population describe themselves as atheist or agnostic.

What we are about as churches is still very relevant for people today. But we need to look at what it is that people need in their seeking that is not getting filled by institutional religion and ask ourselves if there are things that we can do differently.

We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Opportunities to make a difference:

  1. Every human person desires to be known and to be loved. Do we know the young people in our congregation—really know them? Would we miss them if they were gone?
  2. In order to know someone, we have to listen to them (generous listening).
  3. How do we create communities of dialogue, not monologue?

Religious disaffiliation is on a super-accelerated growth rate. We may feel fear because of that. This research helps church leaders get past those fears, understand what’s at play, realize it’s not their fault, and look for ways to do things better.

Thought Starters:

  • What do I know about each young person in my church?
  • Do I listen generously?
  • Do the young people in my church feel safe asking questions?


  • Search for information on generous listening by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, professor of integrative medicine
  • Faith Talk by Dr. Bob McCarty

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