Countless Christian parents and church leaders suffer the constant pain of lost contact with their prodigals. Back in 2007, research from Tear Fund showed 16 million people have stopped attending church – the lost generation. Findings from new research released today gives in depth insights from people who have reconnected and from church leaders about the causes and possible solutions.
A panel of 16 national church leaders has come together to reflect on the data from research carried out by Connect4Life for the wider church to address this problem. The list of commentators includes Bishop Graham Cray (Fresh Expressions), Michael Harvey (Back To Church Sunday originator) and Debbie Thrower (TV Presenter), with other leading figures from denominations and youth ministries.
Each of the panel has looked at the data to consider 5 core issues:
1) The nature and process of initial connection to God within different denominations
2) How denominations /churches can combat pressures and causes for disconnection
3) What can be done to win back those who have disconnected
4) How a person who is reconnecting might be different to what they were before
5) What churches can do to reintegrate those reconnecting
“The insights from this panel have sparked a debate leading to action for every Christian to reconnect with disconnected friends and family. This could be a real catalyst to build on events like ‘Back To Church Sunday’, ‘Big Welcome’ so we see a lost generation recovered,” said Olaf Fogwill, CEO of Connect4Life. Jim Currin, Evangelism Secretary for Churches Together adds: “I think the findings will be very helpful for the wider church.’
Some of the findings are disturbing at a time when church attendance has fallen so greatly:
- 47% of those disconnecting did so aged 40+, whereas only 39% did so in their teens
- 62% felt they had disconnected from church rather than from God
- 77% left through an offence given by leadership and 70% through hurts received from church
- 54% disconnected suddenly (the others disconnecting gradually – does anyone care or notice?)
- 70% felt that the church did not show understanding to them
- Over 60% felt that leaders didn’t show understanding and had distanced themselves from them
- 38% still felt ‘rooted in God’ but 83% said their faith underwent changes, 85% changing their view of church.
The views of reconnecting people often were at variance with those of the church leaders in matters of pastoral care, cause and solution. Those reconnecting were unwilling to take up where they had left off (75%).
Leaders recognised that their congregations are made up of people who are at different stages of connection: the majority felt that over 50% of their church was connected, but three quarters of the leaders felt that up to 10% of their church was currently disconnecting. 
Connection means different things within different denominations, whether it be to God or to a church denomination. It is telling that 70% of people who reconnect did so to a different church, 75% to a church with a different leader, and it seems that reconnectors often change denomination to fit a changed theology. Leaders recognise inherent weaknesses in preventing disconnection and the considerable challenge of helping people reconnect – one leader even encourages some to explore other denominations!
The results and articles can be accessed via the web: www.connect4life.org.uk/survey . This contains links to other resources for reaching the disconnected, a prayer forum, discussion board and free resources. For more information, see website or contact Olaf Fogwill, 07767 804333/07982 476560.