5 Reasons Students Leave Their Faith

One of the most daunting tasks of a Student Pastor is to make sure their students continue their faith after high school. The stats are not hard to find, but I’m too lazy to look them up. But they’re there. And it’s staggering. Calling it an epidemic is not out of place. So the obvious question is why?

Why do students leave their faith after high school? These opinions have been formed after numerous conversations with Student Pastors and leaders all over the country ranging from academia to full-time ministry.


1. Bad Student Ministry


Dodgeball is great, but students need more…

One of the main reasons students leave their faith is BAD STUDENT MINISTRY. This has many many forms but here are a couple examples: a lack of biblical foundation, no mission, vision, or direction, and most importantly, no discipleship. Students need intentional relationships and purposeful times of worship and when all we give them are games and pizza, we should not surprised when they stop following God. Discipleship is one of the best ways to combat students abandonment. Investing in students lives and guiding them as they grow in Christ is the best way to insure their continued development after high school.

2. Bad Student Pastors
Sometimes bad student pastors go hand-in-hand with bad student ministry, but not always. What does a bad student pastor look like? Unorganization, lack of passion or conviction, and inconsistency are three major characteristics you would find. When Student Pastors leave a church and take another job, I believe this devastates a students walk with God. In my opinion, exactly 89.5% of Student Pastors leave their church improperly and unnecessarily. This causes hurt, frustration, and bitterness with their students which carries over into them leaving their faith after high school. Instead of being called to a community or people, they “feel” called to a church or job which changes their perspective and pereception. If you are called to a community or people, you tend to look past issues that could easily distract you otherwise. If you are called to a church, minor issues can seem like MAJOR issues and cause you to leave. This also has to do with Student Pastors looking at Student Ministry as a stepping stone into a Senior Pastor position. Go into Student Ministry for the students, not for your own professional advancement. Because when you do, you leave a wake of destruction in your path that sometimes last a lifetime.

3. Student Ministry Looks Nothing Like Sunday Morning Ministries


This is a frustrating topic but we have to be intentional in what we do…

This paralleles our first point but touches not so much on “paradigm” but “practicum” instead. One reason a student leaves their faith is because they struggle with the transition from Student Ministry to adult ministry in the church. Whethter its through the lack of a college-age small group, or the strangeness and coldness of a Sunday morning church service, adult ministry becomes foreign to them mainly because they are not familiar with their elements of service. Which brings us to these questions: What does your Student Ministry worship look like? Are you preparing in-depth messages or do you skim the surface each week? Are you spiritually challenging your students? Do you offer baptism and Communion? What about tithing and offering? As Student Pastors, we have to understand these elements loosely make up the majority of churches, so we have to someway incorporate these themes into our services so our students are not shell-shocked after they graduate. Which leads us to the next one…


4. Sick of Church

No matter how hard we try or how intenional we may be, some students are simply sick of church and want a break. Some have been forced to go to church for 18 years and they may grow tired of the whole ordeal. These students are experiencing true freedom for the first time and want to make decisions like this on their own. It is important to direct these students to a christian organization on campus’ like Campus Crusade for Christ or something like that so they somehow stay connected to a Christian body. It may also help to give these students a recommended list of churches for them to check out in their new area. A simple call to your local district office should provide you with churches in and around your city.


5. Lack of True Discipleship

This encompasses all the points above and is the MAIN reason students leave their faith after they graduate. Students who abandon their faith have never truly experienced true discipleship in their life. Their faith is not tangible giving them nothing to hold on too. There is no depth, it’s not personal, and totally dependent on other people. They have no accountability and because no one has ever invested in them, they have never invested in someone else (which is a major component of discipleship!).
These are but a few reasons students leave their faith after high school. Of course there will be outliers, but this seems to be the general consensus.
What are your thoughts? What has your experience been? Do you agree with the 5 points above? Do you have anything to add?

About Chase Smith

I am the Student Ministries and Worship Arts Pastor at Trinity Wesleyan Church. I have the best job in the world with help from the best wife in the world serving the best students in the world all praising the best God in the world.

Posted on August 7, 2012, in Leadership, Ministry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Great post. I particularly like #5. I think the reason most students fail to continue in their faith journey after high school is because of the lack of authentic spiritual relationships. Discipleship is the key.

  2. Really? This is the kind of information you want to put out there? It is poorly written, misspellings all over, lack of rigor in use of data. It is one person’s opinion, who, in all possibility, demonstrates poor student ministry. This kind of resourcing should drive youth ministers away from Youth Ministry Today. Please put out quality, well documented and supported help for us! Too many opinions abound.

    • Tim thank you for your input. It is my goal to become a better writer, something I hope this blog helps me do. Granted, this post lacked serious proofreading, but let’s not deviate from the fact that students are abandoning their faith at an alarming rate after high school. This post was to evaluate this issue from a Student Ministry prospective. Thanks for reading!

      • Chase,
        This concern is real, but the medium clouds the impact of the message.
        How serious is the abandonment? We can’t tell from the article. The bugger about this issue is that youth leaving the church upon graduation is not new. What is new, is that many are not returning upon marriage and starting families. There has been a delay in identifying this trend, because of the normal (not good, but normal) gap after high school and returning in mid-20s. What is a “alarming” rate? That word does not communicate anything useful, it is an emotional word without substance. Again, I agree with the concern, but the article did not ‘evaluate’ it.
        I am glad you replied and also hope this is not offensive, it is not meant to be. I just think we can all benefit, and especially the students we serve, with clear supported opinions and articulate interactions.
        Tim <

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