Book Review: “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith” by David Kinnaman and Aly Hawkins
By Don R Barbera
Proselytizing for Professionals
As a researcher, I’ve found the Barna Group to be highly professional and focused on making sure the minutiae often lost by others receives attention. Although the latest book from Barna Group president, David Kinnaman, receives the same attention it’s appeal is limited defined by its focus on evangelism and “discipleship.”
For churches, pastors or even parents, Kinnaman’s new book, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith,” holds some interesting ideas to connect with the younger generation and foster discipleship. It might be interesting reading for those thoroughly steeped in religious mysticism and evangelical Christian tradition that hope to slow the leak of young Christians from the church, but for the informational reader or researcher, it holds little of interest.
“You Lost Me” is primarily a book about recruiting that seeks explain and mend generational fences by pointing out changes in today’s society that affect a younger society’s views of Christianity. The information presented may be news for those sheltered within the evangelical faith community, but most of it is nearly common knowledge. Although a bit “preachy,” considering the target audience it may ring a bell with conservative Christians trying to understand losses in young membership and what to do about it.
Research from hundreds of interviews contribute to the book’ best segment, reading what young Christians had to say about the church and its practices. Kinnaman’s previous book, “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… and Why it Matters, contains much of the same information, but presented in a different fashion. In that book Kinnaman reveals Christianity’s public relations problem and uncovers the opinions of the 18-29 age group. “You Lost Me” is the follow-up to the views revealed in that book.
Other research lists proselytizing among the things young Christians find out of date and bothersome, but “You Lost Me” is a blueprint promoting recruiting and how to do it. To be fair, there are other ideas in the book such as creating two-way communications between church generations to bring about better understanding between generations. Still, recruitment is the book’s main focus.
Religious research is one of my specialties and one of my favorite resources for information on current religious events and trends is the Barna Research Group. There are many others, but what distinguishes Barna from many is a willingness to let the “chips fall where they may” for the most part. Publication of the group’s research often meets opposition from fellow evangelical groups that apparently believe keeping unfavorable or questionable information quiet as a better policy.
Except for a select group, there is little of merit to recommend the book as it does not address the main problems facing the Christian church in general such as relevance of religion in today’s scientific world. Neither does it address the problems of the much quoted Bible compared to the very real world in which potential recruits dwell. Falling back on scripture is not a valid choice for many that seek spirituality, but evade organized religion. Whether Kinnaman’s ideas will appeal to those that escaped the church is doubtful. For those teetering on the edge, it may be enough to bring them back or finish the job of pushing them into the first group.
If you are a Christian and concerned about the continuing loss of adherents, this book might give you a few ideas about bringing people back to the church or it could forever make you persona non grata at any social gathering. “You Lost Me” is the first book I read electronically and I’m sorry I paid $9.99 for the download, but it could have been worse, as the hardcopy version cost three dollars more plus shipping.