80% Catholic Youth Leave the Church (and how to fix it)

Why do youth leave the Church? 80% of Catholics are no longer Catholic by the time they turn 23. This is an American stat. I don’t know what the numbers look like in Europe. I cannot imagine that they are any better. Youth are leaving the Catholic Church.


I was reading Kevin Cotter’s review of Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell over at the Focus blog. He lists some alarming statistics. Here are four notable stats:

  1. Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing (p. 24).
  2. 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics (p. 25).
  3. Nearly 80 percent of cradle Catholics are no longer Catholic by the age of 23 (p. 33).
  4. In the early 21st century, among Americans raised Catholic, becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult (p. 35).

What if I told you, “Only 20% of the students that graduate from University XYZ acquire employment.” You would think that this must be a pretty lame university. In fact, it’s accreditation should probably be re-investigated.

Well that is exactly what’s happening in the Catholic Church in the United States. Only 20% of Catholics that go through our system later apply that faith to their lives when they reach the age of 23. The other 80% drop out.

Why Do Youth Leave the Church?

Youth leave the Church because they have not encountered Christ and His love. Period. That’s the answer. Being Christian entails the passionate desire to be with God forever. That’s what the Christian desires more than anything else. God. To be with the One that loves you more than any other.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Does your Church feel like a community of love? If not, we need to begin there. Young people are looking for love. They look to sexual experimentation, political movements, drugs, and cause groups.

How can we invite them to reinvestigate Jesus as the God of love?

Jesus did not say, “Go ye out into the all the world. Be bitter. Complain about politics. Keep a public scorecard on the mistakes of the bishops. Talk about how hard it is to have lots of children and obey the divine precepts. In doing so, you will draw all men to me.”

Saint Paul reminds us: “do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

Be kind. Show love. Bring others to God (try for seven in your lifetime and convert the globe).

Question: Do you know young people who have left the Catholic Church? What are their reasons? What has been your response? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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