Sleeping in on Sundays: Why I left the church in college

churchIf I’m being really honest, I don’t understand churches. And sometimes, even worse, I don’t like them.

I grew up hearing the sermon statistic that 60% of Christian young adults will leave the church after they graduate college, but I never thought I’d be a part of that number until one day I woke up in college and was.

Growing up as a ministry person’s kid (no fun acronym or support group like for Missionary Kids or Pastor’s Kids sadly), my relationship with the church was often a rocky road during high school, peppered by painful experiences with people who were unkind and theology that was untrue.  It was a really dramatic, raw time in my life and unfortunately the church situation never got better.

I left for college with an internal suitcase packed with cynicism and anger towards the church, which admittedly was strange baggage to bring to a Christian, mandatory chapel-ed college. Not the Church aka the body of Christ, I would clarify to my friends in college, but the organization of church. Lowercase “c.” I didn’t figure I was leaving the church when technically, it left me first. In college, I made little to no effort to try to find church again.

Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, grace continues to abound in my life.  I’m happy to say the anger has left my heart, thanks to many people &  churches that despite my best efforts, pulled me in closer. When I lived in Dallas for a summer, the Village Church was and continues to be the example of how the Church does church right. Also, Passion City Church in Atlanta has been a constant source of spiritual nourishment to me (I’d encourage you to check out both churches’ podcasts–great stuff.) Even in Nashville, I on & off again attended an incredible church before we moved away.

But really… I’m nervous to trust a church again.

I have many questions.

Why can’t my spiritual fellowship come from other places or people? Must they be organized to a certain time slot at a certain location? Does the Church have to be stuck at church? If the purpose of our lives is to bring honor & glory to God, for Him to increase & us to decrease, why are we so stuck on the American church model? Couldn’t church happen at any time and any place if the total presence of God is with us at all times? And why are there so many damn building projects (why are we so focused on temporary aesthetics when there’s real work to be done?)?

This is where I am, a Christian young adult part of the 60%. I’m searching for the answers to those questions and remaining hopeful that, like my peers who have found their home in a church, I will find my place too.

Don’t give up on me. My story is to be continued.

5 thoughts on “Sleeping in on Sundays: Why I left the church in college

  1. Kelsy, dearest, you’ve put my thoughts down on paper. I’ve been (and am?) a part of the 60% too. The rhetoric of the church frightens me, and I’m coldly skeptical of any sermon or lesson to which I’m subjected. Balance is hard to achieve without dipping too far into cynicism or blind acceptance, and it’s something I struggle with every day. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  2. Great post! I see why it took longer to write than others. I think you’re right – church SHOULD happen whenever and wherever, and that’s called community. And formal church is frustrating in almost literally every way because it so seldom reflects that community from which we derive life. I honestly would be right exactly there with you if my story had been a little different – I had an awesome church growing up, and by awesome I mean Scriptural first and completely communal. It was the Church being the Church and just calling the church house its home. When I moved to Cleveland, not a single church I visited reflected this model. I would have given up, what with the building projects (amen) and topical sermon series and the “It’s all about YOU (the members)” atmosphere. But I knew that good church existed, so I kept looking. I new I had found my home when I stumbled upon a medium sized congregation who met in an unassuming little coffee shop, where the Word was preached only and everyone stayed after service to ask how my day was. THIS is why I believe that church is important: when done “right,” it’s only making that necessary gathering of believers an intentional, regular occurrence. It’s not about the praise band, even when the light show says “Look at me!” It’s not about the pastor’s witty illustration, even when he pauses for a laugh. It’s about involving yourself in a community of believers, the big “C” Church, in a way that holds you accountable to the commitment. Maybe it doesn’t sound authentic, and maybe your experiences with Sunday mornings haven’t been, but I hope for you that you will find a church home that allows you to be.

    • Yes! This is all I want and more. Great comment Julianna–I’m so glad you found a home community. I want what you’ve found! I also want to basically frame this comment.

  3. Bethany, I’m so glad you relate! You’re so right about balance–it can be tricky (especially for former Kairos scholars who were basically taught to critically examine everything.) It’s easy to find the logical flaw or falsehood, but difficult to remember that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Pastors and ministry leaders need to be taken down from the pedestals of perfection we so often put them on.

  4. Now imagine a woman with an MDiv with a specialization in Biblical languages (preaching degree) and what heart ache she experienced within the church and how even she is looking for that sweet gathering of Christians and not finding it in church!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s