You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church
By David Kinnaman
Reviewed by Clint Walker
A few years ago, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons penned an insightful book entitled unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why it Matters. The book was a groundbreaking study on adults who graduated high school after the beginning of the new Millennium, often either called Millennials or Mosaics by generational theorists. Specifically, unChristian focused on the large amount of unchurched young adults, and the barriers that kept them from being receptive to the church.
Now, in the next book in the series, You Lost Me, Kinnaman takes the next step in his study of these emerging adults. You Lost Me explores how Christian young adults are becoming disaffected with the church. Specifically, Kinnaman discusses the reasons Mosaics have for distancing themselves from worshipping congregations, the ways that they have of taking space from involvement in traditional church organizations, and ideas to reach this generation that is leaving the church en masse. You Lost Me challenges believers to take time to understand the millennial generation, and find ways to reach them with the truth and the grace of God.
The first part of this book discusses who the “church dropouts” are, and why they are dropping out. Kinnaman points out that youth involvement in churches remains relatively strong, but that many people are leaving home after high school and never returning to the church. He correctly notes that this has happened in generations past as well, but believes that this generation does not have the foundation of family and cultural structures that will eventually lead them back into the fellowship of a worshipping Christian community.
You Lost Me categorized dropouts into three broad categories: exiles (actively Christian but have problems with church institutions), dropouts (people who love Jesus, but don’t make space in their lives for church), and prodigals (young adults who have made a conscious commitment to reject the faith they were raised in). Kinnaman makes a point that not everyone leaves churches for the same reason, and that we need to remember that “every story matters”, and that we should not be eager to lump all people disaffected by institutional Christianity together.
The second third of the book shares some issues that nudge people out of the doors of the church. Almost all of the issues that the author describes tend to revolve around an antipathy toward church communities claiming any sort of moral, personal or institutional authority.
I was a little concerned, as I am with all books coming out of the Barna Group, that perhaps the book and the study too easily categorized people into groups and gave those people labels. This, in my opinion, can defeat the purpose of challenging everyone to get to know each individual’s story.
All in all though, I thought that this book offered some poignant analysis. Much of it, if taken seriously, will be helpful for congregations that are eager to reach out to younger believers and keep them as a part of their church family. For pastors and church leaders eager to move their congregation toward reaching emerging generations, some of the statistics and insights in the book will be helpful in convincing their congregation to make some intelligent, healthy changes in what their churches do and how they function. And as a person in the age group that this book describes, I can see and hear examples of friends that mirror some of the descriptions in this book as well. You Lost Me is a book I will return to more than once as I attempt to explain people my age to family and fellow church members that just do not understand them.