One Reason Why Your Church is Losing Its Youth: Look at How (Gracelessly!) You Treat One Another

Just as I was posting Dave’s most recent article on “preserving your pastor,” my friend Melodee posted a link to this article on Facebook and I was struck by how much the two overlapped:

Reaching Our Young People

The article makes many excellent points about why young people “de-church in droves” (60 to 85 percent of our youth leave the church once they are 18 years old) and why even those who remain in church have “serious doubts about what the Bible says about Jesus.”

But the quote that struck me the hardest was from a pastor’s son. Listen to the echoes of (the opposite of!) John 17:20-23 (what Francis Schaeffer called “the final apologetic”) in what this young man reports about relationships in the church. Is our unity  showing the world that the Father sent the Son and that the Father loves them? Far from it!

“Beginning around the age of eleven, Matt writes, “I would read about Jesus, and how he treated people, then I’d look at Christians, and the two just didn’t match up.” Matt goes on to say: “Sometimes we’d go by the church to surprise my dad in the middle of a work day, and there’d be someone in his office yelling at him for changing the carpet, or not using the choir robes. We would receive threatening anonymous letters at our house . . . certain church members would interrupt the service to call meetings. They wanted to edit sermon content. They hated the music. They controlled the finances. They cursed. They slandered. They schemed.”

Not wanting to “end up looking like those people,” Matt said “[he] washed [his] hands of the church.” And who can blame him?

Oh. Oh. Oh. Rev. Dr. Philip Ryken was right:

“The Devil has many other plans for running your church, all of them equally insidious. He wants you to get so distracted by internal disputes that you hardly have time to go out and meet people with the Gospel.”

May it STOP being so. Please, God, please cause us to stop being so duplicitous and sinful in our relationships in the church. Please help us to preserve our pastors and redeem our conflicts for your glory—confessing, confronting, forgiving one another “just as in Christ we have been forgiven” (Col. 3:13).

And may our youth see authentic faith in and dependence on Christ alone! May we actually live as the Church. One family. One body. With One Head. Loving one another so that we will show ourselves to be disciples of Jesus (John 13:35).

Tara B.


About Tara Barthel

Tara Barthel has served as a Christian mediator for over twenty years. She also maintains her license to practice law in the state of Illinois, formerly focused on high net worth (charitable) estate planning. Tara teaches conflict engagement at the college level and speaks internationally on the topics of redeeming conflict, trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Tara continues to write for publication and occasionally accepts Christian mediation, arbitration, and conflicted organization cases. In addition, she is healing from her recent sexual assault (in 2014) and her trauma-filled childhood (9/10 ACES). Tara is the author of the peacemaking women’s video series "Living the Gospel in Relationships,” the ASL-translated women’s video series "Becoming Who You Already Are," and the co-author of the books "Peacemaking Women" and "Redeeming Church Conflicts.” Tara also enjoys teaching young adults Philosophy of Theology and Rhetoric. Tara earned her law degree, with honors, and her M.B.A. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She also holds a B.A. in Psychology, summa cum laude, from Augustana College (Illinois). Currently working towards her second Master’s degree, Tara has been married to her husband, Fred, for over twenty-five years and they have two daughters and a very friendly Golden Retriever. To learn more about Tara Klena Barthel, please visit her website: or her public facebook page @tarabarthel.
This entry was posted in Authentic Relationships in the Church, Biblical peacemaking in the church, Conflicts involving church leaders, Conflicts with our youth pastor. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to One Reason Why Your Church is Losing Its Youth: Look at How (Gracelessly!) You Treat One Another

  1. Reblogged this on iconobaptist and commented:
    John 17 tells us Jesus wanted our love to confirm to others that the Father really did send the Son to be the Saviour of the world. May it be so, Lord! May we bring You joy by loving one another!!!

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