Why Are We Losing Our Young People? A Millennial Litany

Just a little input. I was raised in the Adventist church, and attended her schools through academy (high school). As of today, more than 75% of the ‘kids’ I attended school with have left the church - some of them now atheist. After receiving my degree from an Adventist school, and working for her as a pastor and a summer camp director, I too have also left the church.
When raising my children I noticed that the “because I said so” reasoning never worked. So I had to either create some really big stories, or just flat out tell the truth. This is where the church has chosen wrong, and chased out most, not all, of the youth. The say, quite simply, this is the way it is, period. When the youth (or anyone else for that matter) pose a legitimate question pointing out the holes in their theology - and their ‘Christian Living’ - they are either given a ‘big story’ complete with hermeneutical references (and their credentials as listed on their business cards), or flat out told “that’s the way it is” (because I said so). How many of you would stick around?
As far as the GYC, I am not a fan, but I will refrain from my opinions, other than to say that from what I see the GYC is pretty good at making little Adventists. The only problem with that, that I can see, is that the world doesn’t need more Adventists, the world needs more people who want to live like Christ so that others can see Him, not a fancy, elite, exclusive, and over-educated denomination.
As always, just my perspective, and I wish to provoke thought, not anger. God bless, and forgive me if I offend.


@kevindpaulson, you didn’t finish my sentence. I said that “the world doesn’t need more Adventists, the world needs more people who want to live like Christ so that others can see Him, not a fancy, elite, exclusive, and over-educated denomination.” And I’m not sure I completely understand what ‘Last Generation Theology’ is, so I don’t know whether to be flattered or not, so forgive me. But I must point out that my lifetime in the Adventist church has shown me that by a large majority, Adventists believe that theirs is the only church that was ever inspired by God.

There are millions upon millions of people around the world who are living like Christ. Many of them may have never even heard His name, yet they bring mercy and love to the unloved and cast aside. And most of them are not encumbered by the trappings of the SDA church and its policies. When I was a child I wondered why the church would spend so much money on the buildings where they “worshiped”, when the object of their worship was born in a stable and had “…no place to lay His head…”; but now I understand. It is not for the purpose of worship, or healing, or fellowship, or any of those other noble statements they put forth (to make a nice place for God to join us…), it is simply because they want to be seen. ‘We are a church!’, ‘we are a recognized denomination, not a cult!’, ‘we have arrived!’.

In my opinion, the worst thing that ever happened to the SDA movement is when it became no longer a movement. Then they just sat down and said, ‘alright God, we got this now’…

That about cover it?

This generation sees past the pomp and circumstance. Those who remain will only tough it out until they are personally wounded or shunned, and then they will be gone too. Some will try to take it and run with it, but the white hairs will not allow it - and the church will die with them. We are hearing the agonal breaths of a church that used to be effective, used to love people, used to follow Jesus. Now they follow themselves. Can’t go far that way, and the younger generation knows it.

Once again, these are my views, not looking for followers, just shaking the tree to see people think for themselves. God Bless!

@pagophilus - so, the young people that are not involved with GYC are superficial? I disagree. If they were superficial, they would enjoy the superficial church, and stick around. Yes, the church is the superficial one in this equation, superficial because it is all about the church, and self-perpetuation of the church, not about Jesus. If it were about Jesus, would we not join Paul in saying (about the so-called ‘millennial twist’ on the gospel some are describing here) “praise the Lord, Christ is being preached!”?

Final edit before I drop the mic…

@Cassie The internet? Really? The internet is a tool, no more than a library or a wrench. The reason religious types find it offensive or threatening is because a tech-savvy ‘millennial’ sitting in the congregation on any given Sabbath morning can google the pastor’s topic, research it, cross-reference it with several commentaries - including the SDA commentary - and see if the speaker has really done their homework, or if they’re just blowing smoke to fill the plate. Unfortunately there’s been a lot of smoke blowing in the last few decades - and a lot of in your face, I’ll do and say what I want attitudes - and it is now starting to hit the fan.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the reason the young people are leaving the church is the same reason most visitors and new ‘converts’ leave - because you really don’t want them there unless they think like you. Most of our young people that grew up in the church did so watching how people act at church every week, and how they act on the way home. There is a hypocrisy so deep some of them even got lost in it, and now they’re not even sure if God exists anymore, but the people they are watching surely can’t be following Him - if He is love and they are, well, not.

Or you could look at it another way - sure to reflect in the current events in the greater organization. They’re just jumping ship before the whole thing sinks.

@mtskeels9496 Yeah, you’re right. They don’t have a thing to complain about. After all, we spent the first 18 or so months of their lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next 16+ years telling them to sit down and shut up. We expect them to think for themselves, and when they do we tell them they’re wrong. But in fact, that relationship with Jesus that we’ve been telling them they want, that personal, intimate relationship with their Savior, that is subjective. It’s theirs, and theirs alone. And none of us can tell them it’s wrong. I’d leave too. In fact, I did.

They could be better off, it’s often easier to find God with the Gentiles of the world than in the sanctuary with the saints.

And it’s a good thing that the SDA church never tolerates open minds or different thinking - or questioning those who have thought before - if they did, well they wouldn’t have the leadership they have now that is bold enough to call themselves “…God’s highest authority on earth…”. Sounds peculiarly like a certain religious leader the SDA’s have been demonizing for about 150 years…

That’s it, I’m out. Done beating a dead horse. Won’t be a church for them to leave much longer, at this rate, so it’s kind of a moot point.

I got a little riled there, and I apologize. There’s a bit of a zealot in me yet, even though I know I’m only saved by association with Him. Forgive me, but somebody needs to say it. I’ll be the target, they can’t run me out :slight_smile:

God bless!



Over the weekend more than 100 children lost their lives in Aleppo, Syria, one of the worst of times there while the Adventists were discussing whether gender discrimination will prevail. And those who call themselves the “highest authority” are making plans to dissolve the very organizations/unions that carry out the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a diversity of voices. Makes my heart sad.


Well done. Love this litany.

1 Like

You might be on to something… Methinks, however, your assessment refers to both ends of the spectrum. If LGT is requiring more work, harder efforts, ultimately perfection - it belittles Christ’s “it is finnished”. That is as much a dumbing down of the gospel, as is the extreme, where modern forms become more important than content.


Jus tyesterday evening, “Week of Prayer” : The youth was the maiority - those out of a secular environment, also having had the desire : “O Lord, teach us how to pray ! - O you faithful longime members , teach us how to approach the Allmighty” Reading : Babsi, commentary : Claudia. - - Our little church was - full.
And we all offered our prayers also paraphrasing the Lords Prayer - really a mission statement !! A “Creed” !!!

Yes, and we loose : "Always the same since my childhood, not one new word, what should I do or learn here for me - myself - , what`s that all for my everday life ? All the week long ?

No questions leading further to understanding the problems. Just statements.

1 Like

Bottom line: Author thinks we are loosing young people, because his theological positions are not accepted by church leaders. He forgot, that PEOPLE (which are yelling “Why are we losing young people?” in his article) elected those leaders

The typical SDA. Answer. Would. Be go read Steps To Christ, while. The real answer would be to relate the steps Christ took to us, The Gospel according to John, Romans 3-5, Hebrews. The list is endless, but few published by Adventist presses these days. TZ. p.s. should be a reply to bic


The essence of LGT is that a “generation will reach a level of character development unequaled in Christian history, copying perfectly in their lives what God did in Christ.” This basically is the infantile level, coated in religious tones, of mental growth and development stage where children early in life strive to please their parents and will do anything towards completion of this goal. Then they go to the next level of mental development. I only bring this up because the majority of those young people who attend the GYC will eventually enter into the next level of mental maturity and will shed their allegiance to LGT as their need for supervision and guidance becomes internalized and will no longer require external approval. Guilt would now play a secondary role and the essence of LGT will diminish if not be exterminated completely, never to haunt their souls. Take the example of the author of LGT himself, M. L. Andreason who himself before his death made things right with his church. Had he been perfect, would he have entered into rapproachment with his church?


One answer, I suggest, is right there in the graphic: the Internet.

Anyone who chooses can compare various online sources to what the church officially says and draw their own conclusions far more easily than in decades past.

People are far more sophisticated at far younger ages than in the past. If young Adventists are interested in learning about their church from many different angles, they can do so in a few weeks, or months, online, and know far more about it than their parents, in many cases.

Another answer, I suggest, is in the developmental process itself, which is difficult enough to navigate with adequate support.

If a young person has negative sanctions imposed for asking the innocent and obvious questions that occur in the normal course of development, they can lash out or withdraw, but the relationship to the church, and perhaps the family, is compromised.

Not only is the church losing its young people, but by my observation, it is creating huge conflicts in them that will take years, or decades to come to terms with, if they ever do.

Disappearing to sort things out is about the healthiest option they have available, in many cases, it seems to me.

And it especially seems that way to me now that the SDA adults are digging trenches and arming for Glacier View on steroids.

The fallout for families and children will be grim.


There has been a saying for years concerning kids knowing it all.
IT usually goes something like; move out and get a job quick while you still know it all.
We used to laugh at kids with that attitude and ourselves when we occasionally took that attitude growing up ourselves.
However, in church related matters it didn’t usually show up as an issue until the last couple decades. Now everybody is an activist. Dealing with young Pastors I have seen a raft load who went to Seminary not as much to work in a field where they had a heartfelt call and empathy to work with the poor or be missionaries but more as a “I have a degree now you have to pay attention to me.” attitude. If you look at the authors questions and answers there isnt an empirical one among them. All subjective/illogical and unverifiable[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:11836”]
LEADER: May we continue to discriminate against women without theological foundation for the sake of unity.
Talk about an entire piece based on strawmen! And people here debate it!

1 Like

This is the first time i have read the Spectrum. I am intrigued by the many perspectives shared. However, I am surprised that some of the comments shared are cutting and on the edge of being hurtful, Although the stream and side eddies of conversation have raised up many issues, I must confine myself to one response and look at sharing my thoughts in subsequent entries. The question, “Why are we losing our young people” is an interesting one. The many views shared show deep concern over the growing exodus of our young from the SDA chruch. The many reasons put forward are legitimate and issue from hearts that are breaking because of the loss of beautiful young people. I wonder if we would be willing to re-word the question a bit to read - “Are our young people giving up Jesus?” It is possible to be born, live and die in the SDA church and not really know or love Jesus. If we only try to address the question suggested in this string of conversations then we quite easily place the blame on how and who run our church. But if we try to address my question, we essentially have to place the blame at our own doorsteps first. Do I truly love and follow Jesus as His disciple? Do I reflect His love and see others as He sees them? Have I begun to live the abundant life that He has promised to every believer? Is He the centre of my life or just one among other priorities? Is the “power of the gospel” operative in my life or does it just consist of mere words? If we are not living the “abundant life” how can we attract the young to join us? The other side of this group of questions is another group of questions - Will God’s plan of salvation fail if the church leadership fails to run it in the best possible way? Did Salvation history come to a standstill during the wicked reign of may of Israel’s kings or even during the dark ages? the obvious answer is no. Hence, it is my sincere opinion that we need to model a Christianity where Christ is the centre and circumference of our lives. Our lives must attract the young to experience Christ for themselves and discover in Him the answer to all their questions. I, my family and my church community must love others into eternal life through relationships that are righteous, just, merciful and self-sacrificial. The young leave the church community because they find that what is claimed hardly exist. I left the church because I felt that the church was filled with people who did not live the sermons they preached. However, when I met and fell in love with Jesus, I came back to the church. I am here because of Him and because I believe that it is God’s end-time church. I am a lay person but believe it is my church and support it in every possible way and know that my life will make a difference if I continue to allow the Holy 'Spirit to continue His work of transformation. I am happy to be used in which ever way God wants to use me. Let us pray and encourage each other as we join our Lord in loving and leading the communities and workplaces to experience and desire Jesus.


Based on the last GC session, it’s Young-Earth Creationism and Calvinistic Headship theology.


Thank you again Tom! I always enjoy your posts.
I have lurked long enough and now am participating due to the SDA smuggling expose in Argentina.

You have nailed it. That is what turns many off and is a main cause of defection.

Here is a recent example:

Having moved for work to a new city (in Europe), I decided to give the local SDA church a try. It is “big” for Europe , where you do not often find Adventist congregations.
As I heard the preaching, a familiar sensation like lead in my stomach together with bile started up again. I had heard this same sermon, in similar words, preached in South America and the USA.
…and it always causes the same reaction.
It was the thankyou-God-that-I-am-not-like-this-publican sermon. It was a tad bit more discrete than what I had heard before, but nonetheless it was almost a verbatim reproduction of the Gospel story. Only that it was not one person but a whole congregation thanking that God they were Adventists (instead of Pharisee).
Having heard it so often, with so many variations and self-adulation, I left halfway through. Fortunately the next weekend I found a non-denominational group that studies the Bible. Imagine my surprise when that first sermon was about pride and the Pharisee’s prayer!!!


I am no longer young, but I was young when I began my long, slow journey toward the door. Sola_scriptura captures it well for me.

Honestly, what I love about Adventism is the people and community, present even in congregations that have (for me) truly awful theology. But wooo the sermons and the tolerance of crazy things and the ever present righteousness Olympics, I just couldn’t.

The women’s ordination thing probably was what solidified it for me, but it was honestly an expression of what was already there for me.


Sadly, today’s Millennial generation will be exiting right behind you.