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Reviving the Church: How to Get Young People in the Pews

Reviving the Church: How to Get Young People in the Pews

Only 54 percent of Christians aged 18–35 attend church once a month or more. Meanwhile, Christianity is rapidly declining in the American population, especially in the younger generations.

The secularization of society is evident wherever we turn, and it will only worsen as young people continue to turn away from Christianity. To survive, the church needs to continue through the generations and get young people back in the pews.

I’m among this group of young Christians with skepticism toward church, though I do currently attend. And for a long time, I didn’t attend as a result of many valid reservations, many of which are echoed in research on young people.

So, if the church is the body of Christians, why are nearly half of young Christians not at church?


Within this 18–35 demographic, young people say that the main element missing from their church is social and community opportunities. Young people want to attend with friends and family, they want support and social groups, and they want mentors.

In an increasingly lonely world, it’s no wonder the youth want community and some sense of belonging at their church. The churches around me that attract young people are ones who intentionally foster a community for this crowd. Whether it’s opportunities specifically for them or even connecting young people with each other, there’s a community of peers. Beyond this, the most vibrant community of young Christians I know of intentionally hosts events with each other. Whether it’s board game night or a spontaneous outing for cheap appetizers, there’s plenty of opportunity for connection.

Young people want to be involved and integrated with the church. They like being included by helping out with planning, events, and other church activities. Put simply, young people want to be part of the church community.


The other common items young people say are missing from their church broadly fall under the category of outreach. The younger generations are interested in helping the needy and concerned about oppression.

Outside the church, there’s pressure for everybody to become an activist for some cause, so it’s not a stretch that young people want to be involved in charity and social engagement within the church.

Indeed, part of the purpose of the church is to care for the sick, poor, and needy. Rather than letting the youth get caught up with social justice activism, churches can redirect them toward outreach that actually improves people’s lives and the world.

Sound Theology

A major reason people attend church is to learn about the Bible, but these days, it seems that many pastors or church leaders don’t ascribe to everything in the Bible. For example, one study reports that only 37 percent of Christian pastors in the U.S. have a biblical worldview. If a majority of pastors don’t have a biblical worldview, it’s no wonder that church attendance is dropping: A key reason to attend church is now gone.

Churches need to rise to the occasion and boldly proclaim the truth of the Bible. The truth is in short supply these days, and churches should be one place people can turn to for it. Young people are surrounded by lies in culture. This means churches have an opportunity to give the youth something they can’t find anywhere else.

In America, the church has declining cultural influence, and many churches are loath to speak on cultural issues for fear of offending part of the congregation or, perhaps, losing tax-exempt status.

The Bible has plenty to say on culture and lifestyle. People are steeped in culture every day, and with how corrupt culture has become, the church has plenty to comment on. This is a way to connect with what people experience each day in their lives and show what Christian living looks like.

What Young People Don’t Want

There are many churches attempting to bring young generations back into the church, so what separates successful strategies from unsuccessful ones? Are there any misplaced efforts?

In what may be a surprise, young people aren’t concerned with a church being trendy or modern, according to a study from Christianity Today of 250 churches. In this study, factors such as a hip pastor or a church’s location, size, denomination, and facility were not as important as is often thought.

Another factor that was also relatively unimportant for a church’s draw to young people was worship style. Of course, many young people prefer contemporary worship. But many young people also prefer liturgical services. I can personally attest to this as I find contemporary worship music less than enjoyable, a preference that is so strong that I won’t regularly attend a church that plays contemporary worship music.

Reviving the Church

Young people may be turning away from Christianity, and those who are Christian often don’t attend church. But they’re not without their reasons for non-attendance.

With some intentional effort, every church can start getting young people in the pews. The idea that “If you build it, they’ll come” is too simplistic. We have to first build something people actually want to come for. Then, we have to invite people to come.

Perhaps it’s time for another revival. Many churches have slept for long enough, and the younger generations have been absent from these churches for too long. Let’s focus on biblically grounded sermons, community, and outreach. This is what the church is built for, and it’s time to fulfill this calling.

Image credit: Flickr-Tim Wilson, CC BY 2.0



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  • Avatar
    December 2, 2022, 7:37 pm

    Great piece!

  • Avatar
    Laban Ayiro
    December 3, 2022, 12:14 am

    Meaningful thoughts

  • Avatar
    Maria Terry
    December 3, 2022, 12:27 am

    Young people have their churches, they are Social Services organizations/therapists/psychiatrists and they are just and Uber time suck and financial drain. Also those orgs never suggest to clients to b/c involved in other orgs, the create and desire dependency. Their churches are social media, etc. heck, I’d probably go back to church but no one believes and follows the Teaching, the RC used to teach birth control was sinful but even church members wanted the sex without the consequences and not practicing self control. The conservative Christian’s while mostly monogamous at the time used birth control pills(abortifacients). But they pointed fingers at the hippies. Then their commitments weren’t ideal, so they demanded divorces and annulments. They lived in sun prior to marriage as well. Then they try to raise children to believe how sacred sex is but it’s all a facade..they boinking every chance they can. They were like, who’s the Church to TELL me right from wrong. Ok, people, reap what you sow. Next came more formal abortions and they didn’t like that until maybe their teenage daughter got pregnant then they’d force her into one. Because they know what’s best. Humans are insane! Few have true self control, few have Knowledge and can form a logical argument. Not, even the Church seems to be altering its stance. I mean, why not, no one listens anyway. Why go to Church if your not even going to try to adhere to the teachings or practice the Sacraments? The parents ain’t been to Confession in decades but, “oh, they going to force/coerce a child into a dark room and say what a bad kid they are”. The kid doesn’t even comprehend it-yet and you’re a hypocrite! They don’t even invite the priest to dinner, they barely know him except at Church/School. They’ll ALL go to Communion but NOT ones confessed a sin to a priest in decades: picking n choosing what to follow! They suggest these things for deeper reasons! The Lutherans (LCMS) and Catholics are pretty much the same thing; they differ only on semantics, transsubstatiation v real presence(it’s the same thing/they define the same way) but one can marry and the other remains chase…I think they should just merge but what do I know…I’m not certain I care for this papa.

    • Avatar
      Tionico@Maria Terry
      December 3, 2022, 7:08 am

      I know hundreds who follow Christ, but not one of them is as you describe.Perhaps you have some penchant for finding the sort you describe. Find a congregation where God’s Word is faithfully taught, and (as Peter puts it in his letters) how to walk such that your "conversation before men" will be such as to draw others into a relationship with the same Jesus they know and follow.

  • Avatar
    December 3, 2022, 12:28 am

    Discipleship based upon a full orbed Biblical worldview is essential. That is where the mentors can be so effective. In addition, get the kids out of the govt controlled K-12 indoctrination institutions and into a Biblical worldview homeschool or Christian school program. It’s extremely difficult to convert a fully indoctrinated cultural Marxist into a Biblical worldview Christian

    • Avatar
      young person@Richard
      December 3, 2022, 3:33 am

      Jacques Ellul >>>>>

      • Avatar
        Richard@young person
        December 6, 2022, 1:23 am

        young person,
        There are many Biblical worldview sources and Jacques Ellul appears to be one of them. I have his book on Propaganda but haven’t read it yet. Once the distractions of social and mainstream media are left behind I firmly believe the Holy Spirit will guide a believer to those sources. Summit Ministries would be an excellent start.

  • Avatar
    Bill Carson
    December 3, 2022, 12:38 pm

    What is unclear in this article (among other dubious claims and assertions) is what the author means by "The Bible has plenty to say on culture and lifestyle." The Bible, despite what some may claim otherwise, doesn’t provide cogent, modern recommendations for moral practices within a contemporary community, or the way people may live in the future. For example, the values associated with patriarchy (i.e. "wives submit to your husbands" Ephesians 5:24) is not a philosophy that many girls or women find liberating. As such, a book written many hundred of years ago is a reliable text for historical conjecture, but not for modern insight into today’s complex ethical quandaries. Unfortunately what is true, however, is the way tv preachers, rabbis. ministers or priests interpret text to suit their own narrow intepretations of "correct behavior." This is a form of energetic ignorance. Further, many young people eschew religious tradition and ritual because of the emphasis on conformity and passivity without dialogue. For example, most "believers" have no clue what they are saying as they mouth the prayers or invocations of their religious traditions. Blind obedience to faith, or a religious institution, does not work with a generation of people who expect more than empty platitudes about people who may live a different "lifestyle." Othodoxy kills creativity and openess. In this respect, putting automatons in a building to "fill the pews" is an authoritarian response to a changing world.


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