By Kaylyn S. Jones
Petera Wedderburn, 16, loves going to church. The Vance High School junior is a regular at Freedom House church in North Charlotte. The church’s youth ministry and programs appeal to Wedderburn. Also, her family has always put an emphasis on attendance and participation.
“I enjoy attending church because the people at my church are nonjudgmental and I also enjoy the environment and diversity,” she said. “I have been attending church since I was very young. I was bought up in the church.” Once Wedderburn turns 18, however, polls suggest she’ll be in the church-going minority.
According to a Gallup Organization study, 51 percent of Americans born before 1946 attend church on a regular basis compared to 29 percent of people born between 1977 and 1994. According to an ABC News poll, 28 percent of adults age 18-30 attend church at least once a week.
“Two out of three young adults reported attending church at least twice a month through the age 16.” Audrey Barrick wrote in The Christian Post in 2007, citing a study by LifeWay Research. “The percentage drops sharply at ages 17, 18, and 19, with only 31 percent attending at age 19. Attendance remains low through age 22 and rises slowly afterward.”
As a young adult Wedderburn said she decided to continue without prodding from her parents. “I was given the choice to choose and was never forced to be a Christian so it’s something that I will continue to practice as I grow older,” Wedderburn maintains. “You can never forget where you came from.”
Why do young people opt out of church once they’re old enough to decide for themselves? Lack of entertainment, value, and peer pressure is often cited as reasons. At Vance High, teens contend that “it’s boring” or “services are too long” and admit they don’t understand what is being taught during service.
“The service should be more appealing to youth and offer life groups for teenagers, like my church,” said Nadiya Little, a junior who attends Freedom House. “The preacher should also break down the word more so that the youth can have a better understanding.”
Sacrifice of Praise Ministries, First Lady Lorraine Hamilton said it’s up to congregations to offer programs and events that will attract the youth. “The church should present more activities for the youth to get them involved,” she said.
Said Pastor Brad Mullins of Spring Hill Church: ” Teenagers may think church is irrelevant to them, and it is our fault. We need to change our method of church, and present church in a way that engages young adults and teens. We need to help them understand church is relevant to them.”