Saturday, March 17

You Lost Me by David Kinnaman


Churches across America have noticed an alarming trend: young adults leaving the church. Where are they going? Why are they leaving? David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group and co-author of the book UnChristian, seeks an answer. Kinnaman and the Barna Group performed a study of young adults to figure out what is causing this exodus.

Most of You Lost Me is an analysis of the results of this study. While suggestions and commentary are offered, the first focus of the book is find an answer. Kinnaman hopes the results in his book can provoke discussions and possible changes.

One of his key points early in the book is that our world tends to think in terms of mass production. Unfortunately, this mindset has seeped into the church. Kinnaman writes, “…disciples cannot be mass-produced. Disciples are handmade, one relationship at a time.” While You Lost Me looks at an entire generation, Kinnaman doesn’t lose sight of the fact that there is no one right answer. As he continually writes throughout the book, “Every story matters.”

There are some terms important to understand in Kinnaman’s book. The term Mosaic (first introduced in UnChristian) refers to Millennials, or those ages 18-29. Then, he breaks those who were ‘lost’ by the church into three groups for the purpose of the book. Nomads: those who do not engage in the church but still call themselves Christians. Prodigals, those who lose their faith. Exiles, those who still have their faith but they don’t know how to resolve tension between the church and culture.

After describing the three groups of ‘lost’ Mosaics in more detail, he spends a large part of the book looking at why they feel disconnected from the church.  Reasons include overprotectiveness, the perception that the church is anti-science, and that it is repressive and behind the times (Kinnaman specifically focuses on the church’s teachings about sexuality).

Throughout, Kinnaman offers his commentary, noting where the church can better help Mosaics, but also pointing out things that worry him about Mosaics. In the chapter on exclusivity he writes, “Many young people are redefining their ethical decisions by what seems fair, rather than by an outside standard of right and wrong. How can the church, which flies the flag of God’s unchanging moral standards, deal with such a shift?”

The end of the book features fifty ideas on how to interact with Mosaics, gathered from a variety of people.

Being in the age group discussed, I found it easy to understand, and even relate at times, to what Kinnaman was writing. He is honest and obviously has a passion for understanding and helping those of my generation. He isn’t afraid to criticize that what needs criticizing, whether it’s the church or the generation. Data, primarily presented in tables, is easy to understand and is well deconstructed.

Some elements of Kinnaman’s research do seem a little odd and out of place though. On page 48 writes about alienation and feelings of disconnect. He mentions things such as a rise in freelancing among Mosaics, the rise of social media, and hesitant approaches to marriage. However, he also includes, “The average young adult has worked for his or her current employer for 3 years, compared to 10 years among older adults.” He offers this sentence with no breakdown or analysis. My reaction is, “Duh.” A 21 year old generally isn’t old enough to work for the same employer for more than a few years. If in fifteen or twenty years this trend persists in my generation, it may be more important to look at, but as is this piece of information doesn’t feel supported. When “older adults” were 18-29 how many years had they worked for one employer? My guess would be the number would be less than ten, likely closer to 3-5. There were a few similar pieces of data like this throughout the book which caused me to pause. However, these were rare.

You Lost Me is a strong look into the lives of Mosaics, especially those removed from the church and can be a strong resource for churches. Youth pastors, or any other church staff members who regularly engage with youth would particularly find this book useful. Parents may also benefit from reading this book.

4/5 stars

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