Culture and Church in Crisis

by Ken Ham
Featured in Answers Magazine

In 2002 the Barna Research Group found that up to 70% of all students who regularly attend church in high school will leave the church. But the “why” question was basically left unanswered.

An alarming number of young adults who once faithfully attended church have stopped. Why? A recent poll commissioned by Answers in Genesis reveals the main reasons.

A family sits in a church whose foundation is being smashed by a wrecking ball. Dad and Mom listen intently to the pastor while their three teenagers could not care less. The foundation of the church has cracked, and the crack has spread to a nearby home. Through the home’s windows, you see the same family now separated into three different rooms. Two teenage boys sit in their bedroom experimenting with drugs and looking at a pornographic website. Their sister is in her room reading information on how to get an abortion. The parents are watching television, oblivious to their children’s activities.

These jarring scenes are depicted in the soon-to-open Creation Museum.1 Sadly, they are not limited to this exhibit; they are based on real-life situations which occur every day in our increasingly secularized culture.

In 2002 the Barna Research Group found that up to 70% of all students who regularly attend church in high school will leave the church after they leave home.2 But the “why” question was basically left unanswered.

To help church leaders better understand and properly address this dire situation, Answers in Genesis (AiG) commissioned a follow-up poll to expand upon the findings of the Barna study. Britt Beemer of the respected America’s Research Group (ARG) conducted a major scientific poll, phoning 26,000 households nationwide,3 to identify 1,000 Americans ages 20–29, who faithfully attended an evangelical church at one time but no longer regularly attend any church. This group answered dozens of questions about education, religion, creation, evolution, and moral issues.

Surprisingly, a substantial percentage of the young adults surveyed said they started to doubt the Bible as early as fourth grade. It is interesting also to note that—based on information from the Nehemiah Institute4 and the Beemer/ARG poll—the percentage of students from Christian homes who attend public schools is close to 89%. Moreover, more than three-quarters of those surveyed in the Beemer/ARG poll remember being taught the concept of millions of years.

These 20-somethings once faithfully attended church. What made them stop?

While most said they still believe that the Bible is God’s Word, they also said that the idea that the earth is billions of years old was one thing that caused them to doubt the Bible. Also, one of the main reasons they left church is because they thought it was irrelevant and boring.

Although many of their pastors and youth pastors may have taught great spiritual and moral truths from the Bible, most of these pastors (from the experience of AiG speakers) don’t attempt to defend the historicity of Genesis or a young earth. In fact, most Christian leaders today have never really studied, much less taught, the geological, biological, astronomical, or anthropological history of the earth according to the Bible. Instead, they concentrate on “spiritual lessons.”

Most students in today’s church learn about the “real” things of science—things that can be physically analyzed and touched (i.e., fossils, rocks, etc.)—from an evolutionary framework. It’s no wonder, then, that these students believe that the Bible’s history is wrong, thus leading many of them to conclude that the Bible is irrelevant and untrustworthy.

Based on the Beemer/ARG survey, and through our in-person speaking events worldwide, it is obvious to me that the age-of-the-earth issue has had a major impact on how most young people approach Scripture. They believe the Bible has errors and that it, therefore, is not the absolute authority. Is it any wonder they manufacture their own rules—including that premarital sex is okay—and eventually leave the church?

The crumbling foundation of the church takes a devastating toll on future generations. Therefore, churches must reclaim the historical truth found in Genesis and apply the Bible’s authority to every area of life. If we do, the next generation can also lay hold on its absolute truth and be guided by that truth.

Young People in the Church ... Going, Going, Gone?

Statistics show that up to 70% of young people are leaving the church and few believe in absolute truth.2 But what exactly do today’s young people believe about moral issues, and what is causing them to leave the church? Answers in Genesis set out to find these answers through a poll conducted by America’s Research Group last September.

This scientific poll was based on 1,000 Americans in their 20s who regularly attended an evangelical church during high school but no longer do. Here are just a few of the questions and responses:

  1. Do you believe all the accounts/stories in the Bible are true/accurate?

    No: 43.5%
    Yes: 38.3%
    Don’t Know: 18.2%

  2. Do you believe in creation as stated in the Bible or in evolution?

    Biblical creation: 71.8%
    Evolution: 28.2%

  3. Do you believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old?

    No: 57.1%
    Don’t Know: 22.4%
    Yes: 20.5%

  4. Have secular science dates of the earth being 6 billion years old caused you to doubt the Bible?

    Yes: 46.4%
    No: 42.4%
    Don’t Know: 11.2%

  5. At what age did you begin to really question content in the Bible?

    High school years: 45.7%
    Grades 7–9: 29.3%
    Grades 4–6: 12.8%
    Early college: 11.2%
    Grades K–3: 1.0%

  6. Should abortion continue to be legal in most instances?

    No: 48.8%
    Yes: 38.0%
    Don’t Know: 13.2%

  7. Is premarital sex okay?

    Yes: 51.7%
    No: 43.5%
    Don’t Know: 4.8%

Also see the full results of the AiG/America’s Research Group Poll.

Related Downloads

AiG/America’s Research Group Poll

PDF Download

Answers Magazine

January – March 2007


  2. Barna, George, The State of the Church: 2002, Issachar Resources, Ventura, California, p. 110, 2002.
  3. Beemer, Britt, Why They Abandon the Church, America’s Research Group, Charleston, South Carolina, 2006.
  4. Nehemiah Institute study, 1988–2006.


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