Why Even Middle Aged Married with Children Christians Are Leaving Church Not Just Unmarried Singles | 40 Somethings
You already know, if you are a Christian over 30, or maybe mid 20s, that churches ignore you in favor of catering to those already married with children.
Churches are nauseatingly obsessed with marriage, parenting, and the nuclear family.
However, it takes some married Christians longer to catch on to this; they tend to be blind to it – specifically, the married with kids couples who don’t start to notice the idolization of the family by Christians and churches until their own kids grow up and move out of the house. It is at that point they no longer fit the target demographic of most churches.
These sorts of Christians (middle aged married, with older kids) say they didn’t realize until they got into their 40s and 50s and their kids moved out how little most churches care about, or minister to, people who aren’t married with kids at home.
Read more about it here (among other reasons why middle aged adults are dropping out of church):
Here is an excerpt from part of that page (please click the link above to read the rest):
Is it possible to spiritually “outgrow” a local congregation?
It is not only possible, it happens more often than you’d think. One trend I saw in my poll of those over 40 was that a notable percentage of those who’d changed churches or decreased their level of “official” involvement at their present congregation did so because they’d grown past what the church offered.
I’ve met precious few church leaders who believe that anyone could “outgrow” their congregation. Think about it.
When was the last time you heard a church leader explain the departure of a long-time member who’s chosen a different faith community in glowing terms?*
“Ken and Julie have left our beloved Baptist church to join Messiah Lutheran because they believe God has called them there, and frankly, we don’t have much to offer them beyond great preaching, the opportunity to help out at Awanas, and Ken’s role as a deacon, which is basically a building caretaker.
They’ll be able to grow much deeper there because they’re going to become Stephen Ministers at the church and use their gifts of encouragement and service in a much more meaningful way.
Too, their new church has a great history of spiritual formation-oriented small groups, and we are praying they find rich growth and deeper connection with God in their new congregation just up the street. May God bless you, Ken and Julie. We love you and are grateful for the time we’ve had with you in this church.”
…Those over 40 grew up in what was dubbed as the Me Generation. The questions of selfishness are legit and need to be answered. But as I’ve already pointed out (Link): here [In Defense of Church Hoppers], many who leave churches have valid and important reasons for doing so.
What I’m hearing from those who’ve responded to my survey is that growth has often taken them out of churches where they’ve grown weary of passivity (all meaningful ministry is reserved for paid staff, or limited by gender/racial beliefs held by the leadership team) or the constant requests for time and money to support the ego-driven “vision” of a leader. I believe both of those reasons are markers of growth in a leaver, not a sign of selfishness.
A few excerpts about her survey of over 40 Christian adults who stop going to church:
- Nearly 84% of respondents reported they were married, 10% said they were single (never married), and nearly 6% told me they were separated or divorced.
- Since I am a rank amateur when it comes to knowing how to best query demographic data, I do wonder if the way I worded question about marital status may have confused respondents. Those figures don’t entirely make sense to me.
…I did hear sadness, burnout, anger and a deep desire for true community. I also heard people drawing boundary lines around their limited time and energy.
And I heard a very strong distaste for the institutional insistence on lockstep theology and ideological uniformity among members.
If one popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, I would characterize most of the less-involved group’s answers to the survey’s “why” question as coming from a longing to gain (or regain) spiritual sanity rather than engaging in an axe-grinding habit:
- [said one respondent]
… As I’ve grown older, I find my needs have changed.
I don’t need a weekly barrage of long, multi-point sermons going over and over the same basic areas of scripture and doctrine while avoiding large chunks of the Bible.
I need something to the point that I will consider and chew on over the week. I don’t just want to be immersed in the church, I want to live out my faith in the community, and that takes time that previously I might have spent at other church activities.
Being part of a triple decker sandwich generation: youngest offspring finishing university and marrying (and moving); downsizing; health issues (self and hubby); caregiving aging parents (and helping them move); supporting parents as they die . . . challenging to have predictable time to commit to church involvement.
Burn out, kids grown, felt a bit suffocated in the rather non-porous church bubble, doubts.
…Sunday School is geared for “newbies” who have almost no understanding of Scripture or the church. Events designed to get people to “plug into community” are “child-centric” (Easter Egg hunts, Fall Festivals bouncy houses, face painting, games/rides, VBS, etc.)
…Captial Campaign every 3 yrs to build new structures & keep things “fresh” and “new” and attractional to younger families w/ kids; etc.
… Tired of the way church is run and the failure to address some of the real life issues. Also, my wife and I left for 6 months and no one noticed.
But they did call to ask me to teach Sunday school. I agreed and went back.
We then realized that after being gone for 6 months (and not giving during that time) no one realized we have been gone, including people we sat next to each week.
We wondered why we kept attending.
(Link): 40+ Case Study: Jeanette
- Sarah Bessey, a gifted thirty-something writer, noted in her post last week at Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog that as she was pulling together research for an upcoming book, she discovered how many midlife women felt marginalized by church and culture alike. She noted that the church often mirrors culture in way that cause pain for those of a certain age:
- Sadly, perhaps we need to admit that we don’t honor age in our churches either, particularly for women. Once a woman reaches a certain age or if a woman is not considered beautiful or outgoing or charming, she often disappears in the eyes of her community.
(Link): 40+ And The Church / Regret
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