Legacy churches more likely to have religiously unaffiliated kids

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There was an interesting news story last week that suggested parents from mainline Protestant churches are more likely to have children who claim no religious affiliation than do evangelical parents.

The story fit my personal journey growing up in a Lutheran home.

According to the study conducted by Pew Research Center, 80% of evangelicals surveyed had a teenage child who shared their religious identification; 81% of Catholic respondents reported the same.

However, mainline Protestant respondents who had a teenage child who identified as mainline Protestant was 55% — far lower than the evangelical and Catholic samples, the Christian Post reported.

Further, among the three Christian groups, mainline Protestants had the highest percentage of teenage children who identified as religiously unaffiliated, at 24%. For evangelicals, that number was 12% and 15% for Catholics.

I grew up in a Lutheran home and attended church every Sunday. However, the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was rarely the focus of any teaching inside the sanctuary or in a Sunday School classroom.

The classes were summaries of major Bible stories with no application to present day living. Confirmation classes centered on following a litany of rules. ALL prayers were recited from a book, which made it very difficult for children to learn to pray because they didn’t know “the right words” to use in approaching God in the right posture or mindset.

So, based on my experience, children growing up in legacy churches are far less equipped to enjoy a close, personal relationship with Jesus than their evangelical peers. For them, church is not an opportunity to encounter the living Christ, but it is seen only as a cumbersome and boring weekly duty.

If those kids are like me, they run as far from church as quickly as they could the moment they reach an age that allows them to leave.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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