You Lost Me | Notes & Review

Posted on October 22, 2011


Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… And Rethinking Faith. Baker Books, 2011. (254 pages)

You Lost Me, Explained

You Lost Me, is about young insiders. At its heart are the irreverent, blunt, and often painful personal stories of young Christians–or other young adults who once thought of themselves as Christians–who have left the church and sometimes the faith. (11)

A generation of young Christians believes that the churches in which they were raised are not safe and hospitable places to express doubts. …Whether or not that conclusion is fair, it is true that the Christian community does not well understand the new and not-so-new concerns, struggles, and mindsets of young dropouts… (11)

You Lost Me seeks to explain the next generation’s cultural context and examine the question How can we follow Jesus — and help young people faithfully follow Jesus — in a dramatically changing culture? (12)

I believe that, within the stories of young people wrestling with faith, the church as a whole can find fresh and revitalizing answers. Let’s call it “reverse mentoring,” because we, the established Christian generation, have a lot to learn from the emerging generation. (12)

As we begin, recognize that we have both individual responsibility and institutional opportunity. …Implication: we have to reexamine the substance of our relationships and the shape of our institutions. (13)

Given this multitude of viewpoints, I can almost guarantee that some of what we will discover together will make you feel threatened, overwhelmed, and perhaps even a little guilty. My aim is to provoke new thinking and new action in the critical process of the spiritual development of the next generation. As a faith community, we need a whole new mind to see that the way we develop young people’s faith — the way we have been teaching them to engage the world as disciples of Christ — is inadequate for the issues, concerns, and sensibilities of the world we ask them to change for God. (15)

Part 1 Dropouts

1. Faith, Interrupted

  1. Teen church engagement remains robust, but many of the enthusiastic teens so common in North American churches are not growing up to be faithful young adult disciples of Christ.
  2. There are different kinds of dropouts, as well as faithful young adults who never drop out at all. We need to take care not to lump an entire generation together, because every story of disconnection requires a personal, tailor-made response.
  3. The dropout problem is, at its core, a faith-development problem; to use religious language, it’s a disciple-making problem. The church is not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture.

The conclusion: after significant exposure to Christianity as teenagers and children, many young adults, whether raised Catholic or Protestant, are MIA from the pews and from active commitment to Christ during their twenties. (25)

…most young Christians are struggling less with their faith in Christ than with their experience of church. (27)

The next generation is caught between two possible destinies — one moored by the power and depth of the Jesus-centered gospel and one anchored to a cheap, Americanized version of the historic faith that will snap at the slightest puff of wind. (28)

There are three central arenas where these gaps are in evidence — and where the church has God-given opportunities to rethink our approach to disciple making.

  1. Relationships. Many young people feel that older adults don’t understand their doubts and concerns, a prerequisite to rich mentoring friendships. …The next generation are consummate collage artists, able to blend a diverse set of relationships, ideas, and aspirations. This includes awareness of global issues as well as maintaining relationships with people across generations, religions, sexual orientations, and ethnic backgrounds. How can the Christian community understand and learn from the empathy and energy of the next generation, while also cultivating their quest for truth? (29)
  2. Vocation. Can the Christian community summon the courage to prepare a new generation of professionals to be excellent in their calling and craft, yet humble and faithful where God has asked them to serve? Can the Christian community relearn to esteem and make space for art, music, play, design, and (dare I say it) joy?
  3. Wisdom. How can the Christian community help young Christians live wisely in a culture of mental, emotional, and spiritual distraction?

A person sets his or her moral and spiritual foundations early in life, usually before age thirteen, yet the teen and young adult years are a significant period of experimentation, of testing the limits and reality of those foundations. In other words, even though the childhood and early adolescent years are the time during which spiritual and moral compasses are calibrated, the experimental and experiential decade from high school to the late twenties is the time when a young person’s spiritual trajectory is confirmed and clarified. (31)

Together we could lovingly challenge the church from within to repent and become truly Christian again. (34)

We need a new mind to focus on apprenticeship in the way of Jesus. (35)

2. Access, Alienation, Authority

I think this next generation is not just slightly different from the past. I believe they are discontinuously different than anything we have seen before. – Bob Buford

In this chapter I argue that the next generation is so different because our culture is discontinuously different. (38)

The next generation is living in a new technological, social, and spiritual reality; this reality can be summed up in three words: access, alienation, and authority.

ACCESS. Simply put, technology is fueling the rapid pace of change and the disconnection between the past and the future. (41) Will the Christian community connect meaningfully with the generation growing up in this context? (57)

ALIENATION. We might think of alienation as very high levels of isolation from family, community, and institutions. (44) Will the Christian community cultivate a presence-centered approach to developing young people, bringing us out of our isolation and alienating pragmatism? (57)

AUTHORITY. Let’s call this skepticism of authority — new questions about who to believe and why. (50) Will the Christian community see skepticism of authority as an opportunity or as a threat? (57)

3. Nomads and Prodigals

NOMADS. Frequently nomads among the Mosaic generation say that leaving church was less an intentional choice and more of a “slow fade,” a period of increasing detachment that took many months or years. For some, faith was never very deep; they were “in the building” but never really committed to following Christ. (63)

Here are some characteristics of the nomadic mindset:

  • They still describe themselves as Christians.
  • They believe that personal involvement in a Christian community is optional.
  • The importance of faith has faded.
  • Most are not angry or hostile toward Christianity.
  • Many are spiritual experimentalists.

PRODIGALS. …young people who leave their childhood or teen faith entirely. This includes those who deconvert (including atheists, agnostics, and “nones,” those who say they have no religious affiliation) and those who switch to another faith. …Prodigals’ views of Christians and churches are all over the map, largely dependent on how positive or negative their experiences were. …one of the identity-shaping characteristics of prodigals is that they say they are no longer Christian.

  • They feel varying levels of resentment toward Christians and Christianity.
  • They have disavowed returning to church.
  • They have moved on from Christianity.
  • Their regrets, if they have them, usually center on their parents.
  • They feel as if they have broken out of constraints.

4. Exiles

…let’s define exiles as those who grew up in the church and are now physically or emotionally disconnected in some way, but who also remain energized to pursue God-honoring lives. They feel the loss, in many ways, of the familiar church environment in which they once found meaning, identity, and purpose. They feel lost, yet hopeful. (75)

…many of today’s exiles…feel isolated and alienated from the Christian community — caught between the church as it is and what they believe it is called to be. (77)

  • Exiles are not inclined toward being separate from “the world.”
  • They are skeptical of institutions but are not wholly disengaged from them.
  • Young exiles sense God moving “outside the walls of the church.”
  • They are not disillusioned with tradition; they are frustrated with slick or shallow expressions of religion.
  • Exiles express a mix of concern and optimism for their peers.
  • They have not found faith to be instructive to their calling or gifts.
  • They struggle when other Christians question their motives.

A film isn’t Christian just because it has inserted the gospel message in there somehow. A film can point to Christ when it honestly portrays our human condition and invites us to experience something about redemption that each of us needs. – Justin

It is not my intention to defend their vies or activities, a handful of which I can’t, in good conscience, endorse. Instead, through their stories, I hope to focus our attention on the larger exile phenomenon these young adults represent. (84)

The challenge for the Christian community is how to respond to the growing number of exiles. …Will we listen and take to heart their prophetic critiques of the church’s posture toward our increasingly pluralistic society? Will we change our structures, guided by the unchanging truths of Scripture, to nurture their gifts and unique calling into a world deeply loved by, yet in many ways hostile to, God? (87)

Part 2 Disconnections

Once I heard present-day leader Jack Hayford observe that the younger generation needs the older generation to help them identify the voice of God, just as Samuel needed Eli to help him know God was calling him. Hayford also observed that helping in this way requires that we recognize, as Eli did, that God is speaking to the younger generation. (94)

5. Overprotective

HELICOPTER CULTURE. …our culture’s obsession with safety has shaped two generations of Boomer and Buster parents who are deeply risk-averse when it comes to their kids. (97)

Is it possible that our cultural fixation on safety and protectiveness has also had a profound effect on the church’s ability to disciple the next generation of Christians? Are we preparing them for a life of risk, adventure, and service to God — a God who asks that they lay down their lives for his kingdom? Or are we churning out safe, compliant Christian kids who are either chomping at the bit to get free or huddling in the basement playing World of Warcraft for hours on end, terrified to step out of doors? (97)

Here are some of the criticisms that young Christians and former Christians level at the church:

  • Christians demonize everything outside of the church.
  • Christians are afraid of pop culture, especially its movies and music.
  • Christians maintain a false separate of sacred and secular.
  • Christians do not want to deal with the complexity or reality of the world.

Could it be that the growing desire for mainstream influence among the younger generation is the work of God — preparing them to bring restoration and renewal to our culture? (103)

An overprotected generation has been sold the lie that “Christian living” means material blessing, automatic protection, and bulletproof safety. (105)

The Risks of Parenting | …no Christian parent earns a reward in heaven for coaching his or her kids to live long and secure lives. (106)

The Risks of Cultural Influence | They want to be culture makers, not culture avoiders. (107)

Christ-followers contend with two opposing temptations. Cultural withdrawal and Cultural accomodation.

6. Shallow

After more than a decade and a half of research into American faith, I believe that the Christian church in the United States has a shallow faith problem because we have a discipleship problem. (120)

A second way our communities of faith contribute to shallow faith is by failing to provide meaningful rituals — or, when rituals exist, failing to provide a clear sense of their meaning and importance. (122)

In our research, we find clear evidence that many parents and churches have expectations of young people that are much too low or much to driven by cultural ideas of success. (123)

7. Antiscience

Dialogue, creative problem solving, living with questions and with ambiguity, group brainstorming, the opportunity to contribute — these are highly valued by the next generation. To the extent that we in the Christian community insist that young adults should just accept our “right” answers, we perpetuate a needless schism between science and faith. (135)

…most students who are likely to experience loss of faith do so before college; they begin to feel disconnected from their faith or from the church even before high school ends. (140)

I believe that people of faith have a responsibility and an opportunity to speak positively and prophetically to issues of science, rather than responding out of hostility or ignorance. (143)

What if churches made a concerted effort to identify scientific and mathematical inclinations in young people (as well as other skills and gifts), and then connected young believers with older Christians who are living out their faith in related careers? (144)

They are taught how to think well, not simply what to think. (145) [VIA: The problem (and please forgive my audaciously chauvinistic inquiry) is the question, Do Boomer and Buster Christians understand what it means to think well?]

8. Repressive

Let’s get right to it. Sexuality is one of the greatest expressions of God’s creativity and of his intention for human flourishing. It is also confounding and confusing to teenagers and young adults on their spiritual journeys. (149)

There is a big difference between frank, nurturing talk about sex and self-centered bragging. (159)

Much of the abstinence messaging, however well-intended, capitulates to culturally cultivated individualism: sex is about me. (159)

Neither traditionalism nor individualism is working — nor are they biblical. …We need to rediscover the relational narrative of sexuality. (160)

…we have a great opportunity to help the next generation live a new narrative of sexual life — the relational narrative We can begin by doing two things — making sex everybody’s business and making sex God’s business. (161)

…the purpose is thriving relationships, not sexual repression. (164)

Perhaps, with some level of optimism, we might describe young Christians as fertile ground for grace. (164)

9. Exclusive

“No compromise!” has been the slogan of the Western church, but it does not make sense to the next generation, for whom negotiation and cooperation are facts of life. (172)

…young people start with the basic assumption that everyone belongs and they have a hard time understanding spiritual communities that feel like insider-only clubs. (174)

Passionate, mission-driven exiles seem to share the conviction that the North American church has somehow lost its heart for the very kinds of people Jesus sought out during his earthly ministry — the oppressed, the poor, and the physically, emotionally, and socially crippled. (179)

Exclusion lacks love; the wrong kind of tolerance lacks courage. (180)

10. Doubtless

Is the Christian community capable of holding doubt and faithfulness in tension, welcoming hard questions even as we press together toward answers? (187)

We might consider shifting away from a focus on “experts” toward a more relational approach. (188)

I believe unexpressed doubt is one of the most powerful destroyers of faith. (192)

I think faith communities have not done a good job creating environments and experiences where students can process their doubts. Our posture toward students and young adults should be more Socratic, more process-oriented, more willing to live with their questions and seek answers together. …Dealing with doubt is a fully relational task. (194)

Part 3 Reconnections

11. What’s Old is New

…allow me to share three things I have learned from studying the next generation:

  1. the church needs to reconsider how we make disciples
  2. we need to rediscover Christian calling and vocation
  3. we need to reprioritize wisdom over information as we seek to know God

…the Christian community needs a new mind — a new way of thinking, a new way of relating, a new vision of our role in the world — to pass on the faith to this and future generations. (202)

RETHINKING RELATIONSHIPS. Original assumption: The church exists to prepare the next generation to fulfill God’s purposes. New thinking: The church is a partnership of generations fulfilling God’s purposes in their time.

Flourishing intergenerational relationships should distinguish the church from other cultural institutions. (203)

  • Over protective → Discernment | We cast out fear by discerning our times and embracing the risks of cultural engagement.
  • Shallow Apprenticeship | We leave shallow faith behind by apprenticing young people in the fine art of following Christ.
  • Antiscience → Stewardship | We respond to today’s scientific culture by stewarding young people’s gifts and intellect.
  • Repressive → Relational | We live by a relational sexual ethic that rejects traditionalist and individualist narratives of sex.
  • Exclusion → Embrace | We demonstrate the exclusive nature of Christ by rekindling our empathy for the “other.”
  • Doubting → Doing | We faithfully work through our doubts by doing acts of service with and for others.

For me, frankly, the most heartbreaking aspect of our findings is the utter lack of clarity that many young people have regarding what God is asking them to do with their lives. (207)

12. Fifty Ideas to Find a Generation

  1. First, Be Honest
  2. Confess
  3. Increase Your Expectations
  4. Preach a Better Gospel
  5. Hand-Craft Disciples
  6. Recover Imagination
  7. Recognize Giftedness
  8. Invite Participation
  9. Take Risks
  10. Re-center on Jesus
  11. Don’t Overreact
  12. Be a Rebel–Get Married
  13. Take a Gap Year
  14. Take Education Seriously
  15. Interpret Culture
  16. Find the Family of God
  17. Find Calling in the Marketplace
  18. Strengthen Family Ties
  19. Think Christianly about Media
  20. Avoid “Proxy Wars”
  21. Refuse a Religious Veneer
  22. Travel as a Family
  23. Be Present
  24. Be Intentionally Intergenerational
  25. Disciple Like Jesus
  26. Make Connections
  27. Release Your Successors
  28. Meet a Need
  29. Reclaim Hope
  30. Seek Diversity
  31. Use Time Wisely
  32. Be Nonpartisan but Not Apolitical
  33. Tell On Yourself
  34. Be Like Jesus
  35. Embrace the Radical Gospel
  36. Don’t Condescend
  37. Have Faith in the Next Generation
  38. Support a Student
  39. Give Them What They Want
  40. Be the Right Kind of Mentor
  41. Catalyze Innovation
  42. Un-market the Gospel
  43. Lift Up the God of Justice
  44. Take a Note from the Amish
  45. Reason Clearly
  46. Avoid False Ultimatums
  47. Make Distinctions That Matter
  48. Give Honest Answers to Honest Questions
  49. Don’t Fear Doubt
  50. Share Power

— VIA —

Here are my selected charts and data points from the book: You Lost Me, David Kinnaman – Tables and charts