Recently, 20-year-old Bailey, a student at a local college, heard her professor of comparative religion tell the class, "The Christian faith uses terms like sanctification, justification, and propitiation. But church members have no idea what these terms mean."

Bailey raised her hand and said, "Professor, they do in my church."

A few days later, this same prof, who seems to be making a career of misrepresenting believers, told the class, "There are 66 books in the Christian Bible. But only the professionals can name them all."

Bailey said, "Sir, in my church, even the children can name the books of the Bible."

I'm a member of Bailey's church and she's right. Our pastor, in fact, is nearing the end of a series of Sunday morning sermons in which he preached one message per book of the Bible. Next Sunday, he preaches on Hebrews.

Bailey demonstrates why not everyone raised in the church strays or drops out altogether when they reach young adulthood.

A stat often quoted from Lifeway Research -- the study was done in 2007, so it's slightly dated -- says 2/3 of all young adults raised in the church will stop attending services between the ages of 18 and 22. Most will never return.

In the study, asked about their withdrawal, dropouts said they were too busy, churches too irrelevant, Christians too judgmental, leaders too hypocritical, and denominations too political.

I suspect the dropouts omitted one huge factor for their non-attendance in church: the heart is a rebel. The temptation to renege on life's commitments -- even those we feel strongest about -- is continually present, not always complicated, and ever a concern for even the most faithful of believers.

I'm not challenging the statistics. However, I know a great many people who emerged from the church's youth program into full adulthood without missing a Sunday of worship and Bible study.

From all I know and have observed, here is why they stayed.

Five reasons why many young people raised in the church never drop out:


Now, those with a personal relationship with a particular church or youth group or student minister cannot be counted on to stay.

Only those who have internalized the gospel message, who have settled once and for all that Jesus Christ is alive and within them and that He hears their prayers and is intimately concerned about the minutest details of their lives, only these can be counted on to hang tough through these difficult years of transition and growth.

I recall reading years ago where Dick Van Dyke told how his children, then in their teens, had become active in a thriving church youth program. However, when their student minister left, the program fell apart and the kids dropped out. Van Dyke asked, with good reason, "What good did that youth minister do? He won the kids only to himself. When he left, they did too."

Those who know the Lord personally are more likely to stay.


Young adults like Bailey who grow up with strong roots in the doctrines of the Bible cannot be easily pulled off course by errant professors or pleasure-seeking friends.

This "solid foundation" is no mystery and does not have to be complicated. It's simply the result of discipling young believers, teaching them, in the words of our Lord, "to observe all the things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20).

And this, we must point out, is the most basic assignment of any church, a part of the very Great Commission itself. The church which converts youngsters to Christ without discipling them is disobeying its Lord's instructions.