Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Already Gone

Already Gone cover

Already Gone:
Why your kids will quit church and
what you can do to stop it
by Ken Ham & Britt Beemer

Trade Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Master Books
First Released: 2009

Source: Borrowed from my dad

Back Cover Description:
If you look around in your church today, two-thirds of the young people who are sitting among us have already left in their hearts; soon they will be gone for good.

This is the alarming conclusion from a study Answers in Genesis commissioned from America's Research Group, led by respected researcher Britt Beemer. The results may unnerve you - they may shake long-held assumptions to the core-but these results need to be taken seriously by the church. Already Gone reveals:

*Why America's churches have lost an entire generation of believers

*The views of 1,000 twenty-somethings, solidly raised in the church but no longer attending-and their reasons why

*Relevant statistical data effectively teamed with powerful apologetics

The study found that we are losing our kids in elementary, middle school, and high school rather than college, and the Sunday school syndrome is contributing to the epidemic, rather than helping alleviate it. This is an alarming wake-up call for the church, showing how our programs and our children are paying the price. Though the statistics reveal a huge disconnect taking place between our children and their church experience, Already Gone shows how to fight back for our families, our churches, and our world. We can make a difference today that will affect the statistics of tomorrow in a positive and Christ-focused way!

Already Gone was an easy-to-read and -understand book which delved into three surveys which show (among other things) why people are leaving the church, what draws teens to church, and what adults that stayed found most helpful toward growing in their faith. The answers will probably surprise you.

Britt Beemer led the America's Research Group survey and helped explain what the numbers meant. All of the ARG survey questions and answers were in the back of the book. These range from the person's level of activity as a teen, why they went to church as a teen, what caused them to leave the church, what specifically caused them to doubt if they doubted the Bible, what they miss about church (if they miss it), if they plan on ever coming back and why.

There's a surprising percentage of 20-somethings that left, believe the Bible, miss worshiping God, and may return one day. Their reasons for leaving were (obviously) different than the similar percentage that left, no longer believe the Bible, and never intend to return to church.

The authors concluded that we need to actively invite that first group back to church and make them feel welcome (among other things). Also, that we do need to teach our kids the Bible but we also need to give them the answers to the "hard questions" they'll face about the truth and relevance of the Bible. A large section of the book was spent talking about the need to give our kids answers about the accuracy and authority of the Bible.

The book also included some black-and-white pictures and Bible verses that supported the conclusions the authors came to on how to deal with the problem. And there's a lot more in the survey questions than I summarized. I'd recommend this quick read to youth pastors and Christian parents.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

[From page 24] The Barna research is showing that religious activity in the teen years does not translate into spiritual commitment as individuals move into their 20s and 30s (and our own research, you are about discover, will illuminate you with reasons as to why this occurs).

Most of them are pulling away from the church, are spending less time alone studying their Bibles, are giving very little financially to Christian causes, are ceasing to volunteer for church activities, and are turning their backs on Christian media such as magazines, radio, and television. What does this look like numerically for today's 20-somethings?

*61% of today's young adults...were regular church attendees [as a teen but] are now "spiritually disengaged." They are not actively attending church, praying, or reading their Bibles.

*20% of those who were spiritually active during high school are maintaining a similar level of commitment.

*19%...were never reached by the Christian community [as teens], and they are still disconnected from the Church or any other Christian activities.

[From page 32] Many parents will fork out big bucks to send these students to Christian colleges, hoping to protect them in their faith. But the fact is, they're already gone. They were lost while still in the fold. They were disengaged while they were still sitting in the pews. They were preparing their exit while they were faithfully attending youth groups and Sunday schools.

....This topic regarding when we begin to lose our kids is where the [ARG] study began to get very interesting and very illuminating. For example:

[Of] those who no longer believe that all of the accounts and stories in the Bible are true:

*39.8% first had doubts in middle school
*43.7% first had their doubts in high school
*10.6% had their first doubts during college

[From page 41] When [individuals in the ARG survey were] asked, "Does the Bible contain errors?" sadly, Sunday school made no difference. (About 39 percent of each group [those who regularly attended Sunday school and those who didn't] said yes to this question.) When asked, "Do you believe you are saved and will go to heaven upon death?" there was almost no statistical difference--which really is disconcerting.

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