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Already Gone

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Already Gone: Why You Kids will Quit Church and What You Can Do About It by Ken Ham and Britt Reemer

A recent study was conducted regarding the decline of churches in Great Britain. As of 2003, a mere 2.5% of the population attended an evangelical church. Many of the houses of worship in metropolitan areas have been converted into restaurants, theaters, and pubs. What happened? Is this abandonment we are witnessing in Great Britain a foreshadowing of things to come here in the United States?

Here in America, Barna Research Group has done similar research regarding those who are in their 20’s. Their study revealed that a whopping 61% of those in their 20’s who were involved in church during their teen years are now disengaged from any congregation.


Answers in Genesis commissioned a study conducted by America’s Research Group to answer that very question. The research sample was 1,000 people between the ages of 20-29 who do not attend church. Of that group, the study discovered that 95% had been regular church attendees during their elementary and middle school years; 55% had been active during their high school years; and 11% had remained involved through college.

Of that same sample, 39.8% admitted to developing doubts about faith in middle school; 43.7% admitted to developing doubts in high school; and 10.6% admitted the same during their collegiate experience. What does that mean? According to Ham, these adults didn’t begin to doubt in college, they simply departed by college. Though they were in church on a regular basis, their hearts and minds were already in the process of checking out.

Admittedly, this is fascinating research, which begs the question, “How did it all unravel?” Ham devotes the lion’s share of the book to the following three observations. These observations are his explanation of what went wrong.

1. Sunday School is the leading source of the failure rate. In fact, according to Ham, Sunday School programs in America are doing more harm than good, actually contributing to the dropout rate. According to the research interviews, those who responded stated that Sunday School had no measureable impact on their beliefs. Sunday School was, in their experience, a place where moral values were taught and inspiring stories were shared, but to the exclusion of Bible teaching that helped equip them to answer the question, “Why?”

2. The second contributor to the failure rate was parents, who delegated spiritual teaching to the volunteers of the church. The respondents to the survey shared that faith was seldom discussed at home, and that the high majority of spiritual influence came from those who instructed them at church.

3. The final source cited was that the Bible was made irrelevant to their lives. In their church experiences, the Bible lessons were disconnected from the real world, lacking any form of integration of faith in life and leading to hypocrisy.

Pretty strong words, to say the least. But Ham doesn’t finish with his evaluation. He concludes the book by sharing two solutions for churches to implement to help reverse the trend in America.

Solution 1: Introducing teaching curricula for children and youth that is heavy in apologetics. Apologetics is basically a defense of a belief. What Ham is suggesting is that churches must move beyond the “what” of the Scripture towards the “why” of the Scripture. It is no longer enough for students to know the point of fact information of the biblical accounts. Teachers must be equipped to help students understand what the real world implications are of the Bible. In the past, we have usually waited until people reached their adult years to delve into these processes, but Ham suggests we must begin early. To his point is the stunning claim from Barna Research Group that by the age of 13, a student’s world view is completely formed and developed (for more information, read Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, by George Barna).

Solution 2: Live the Gospel. Children and teenagers need living models to provide examples as to how one animates the gospel of Jesus. Teaching Bible lessons without the practical application of how the gospel works in real time creates a sense of irrelevance, not unlike the claim of a high school math student who shrugs and says, “I don’t know why I have to learn this…I’ll never use this information again in my life.” Parents and teachers alike must provide practical applications and model those values in a discernable way.

Already Gone is a fairly quick read. I think it serves its intended purpose of providing a wake-up call to parents and church leaders who wonder why those in their 20’s no longer participate in the life of the church. I agree with Ham’s broad brush strokes, but struggle with some of the particulars he presents. For example, Ham hinges all of the doubts the departed possess on the failure of the church to regularly teach a literal seven day creation. All things hinge on this one thing. So if you can push past the soap box and the subtle marketing for Answers in Genesis, you will find this a useful resource.

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