Should we be surprised when our teens reject the church and even God? After all, adolescence is the time in life when everything becomes fodder for personal rebellion.

"for we walk by faith, not by sight---" 2 Corinthians 5:7

As teens search for their identity as individuals, they are bound to cast aside everything their parents know and believe, so they can form their own set of beliefs and values.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:29

The funny thing is, often, the things teens jettison from their lives, they tend to take back up as their own later in adulthood.

"And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate." Luke 15:21-24

However, in this particular day and age, there are other unfortunate complications afoot that make it more likely than ever that teens will reject the church of their parents and even the God of their parents.

"But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’ ” Luke 15:32

A survey done by the Barna Group in 2019 found that more than 13% of all teens now associate themselves with atheism, which is twice as many as the general teen population.

That’s a 6% increase, almost double, from previous surveys.

“…I seem to find more solace in the absence of a god.” --Nicole Daniels, teen atheist

Barna’s survey also found that more than 25% of teens, from the 8th-grade through the senior year in high school, declined out of hand becoming involved in church or religion.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23

Such activity was just not for them. There were also those who still believed in God but did not want to participate any longer in church. 1

“There are many who love Jesus, but not the church.” --Barna Group

Some of the reasons teens surveyed gave for their rejection of the church and God of their parents included: 2

  1. Unanswered prayer at a particularly painful time in life.
  2. Inability to understand how a good and loving God would allow such evil in the world.
  3. The existence of so many political and social issues the Bible says is sin.
  4. The scariness of God is such a harsh and judging God.
  5. The lack of a real connection with the church and receiving scant validation from it.
  6. Competition for attention and time with things going on in the world.
  7. “It’s complicated.”

"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

According to the Barna survey, more than 60% of churched teens these days fall away from the faith and leave the church after high school.

"Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:3

One of the most glaring reasons such teens gave was that while their youth groups at church entertained them with games and pizza, little substantive or significant time was spent building up their faith. 3

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20

A growing enticement to dabble in witchcraft-related activities, following horoscopes and psychic experiences led more than 75% of all teens to engage in such practices despite their professed beliefs. 3

“twentysomethings continue to be the most spiritually independent and resistant age group in America.” --Barna, 2020

1 “Meet Those Who ‘Love Jesus but Not the Church,” Barna Group, 2017.
2 “Being Religious is No Longer a Trend for Teens, Research Says,” Isabella Lacsina, Los Angeles Times, 2019.
3 “Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years,” Barna Group, 2006.

"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

(This article is the third in a series of articles about rebellious teens and what parents can do when their teens reject the church, and even God Himself. To read the second article of the series, "What is a Christian Parent to Do with a Rebellious Teen," click here)