It would be remiss to discuss Kinnaman’s book without noting one of the largest criticisms Barna, and thus Kinnaman, have received: debate on the urgency of their research results. Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson of Baylor University, for example, have blasted some of Barna’s findings as “false alarms,” noting that some of their studies headlining the news were misleading—including one which claimed young people under 30 are deserting the church ‘in droves' (Johnson, Byron & Rodney Stark, Religion and the Bad News Bearers: The widely reported decline in women’s church attendance is implausible. Wall Street Journal Online, Aug. 8 2011).

Since Kinnaman’s book is written under the postulation that there is in fact a crisis in the church, what should we make of these criticisms to Barna’s research? After reading the book, I don’t feel Kinnaman is screaming fire into a crowded building. The point Stark and Johnson want to make is that even if young Christians are leaving the church, this is nothing new. Historically, Christian youth have left the church for a period of time, yet after marriage and children they have often returned. This is a valid point, and I would be more concerned if Kinnaman spent a lot of time lingering on the stats. However, Kinnaman repeatedly stresses that his focus is on the individuals behind the numbers:

"All things considered, a young Christian has about 1:9 odds of losing his or her faith entirely. While this is a rare outcome, it is a very high number when you think about the estimated five million 18-to-29-year-old exChristians encompassed by that statistic... Is that what we want for young people—to have years of religious education, experiences, and relationships, only to turn away once they can decide for themselves? Of course not.”

You Lost Me is an excellent commentary on the twenty-something generation within the church, and an essential tool for anyone hoping to effectively reach a generation of earnest but skeptical young people.

Kelly Givens is an Editor at the Salem Web Network. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and enjoys reading, writing and spending time in the great outdoors.

Publication date: June 29, 2012