CNLP 004: Why Young Adults Are Walking Away from the Church & What You Can Do About It—An Interview with Kara Powell

You want kids to follow Christ.

You want your kids to follow Christ.

And yet between 40-50% of students who are active in the church in their senior year of high school will drift away from the church as young adults.


Kara Powell’s decade long research project sheds light—and hope—on a growing problem for parents and church leaders.

Welcome to Episode 4  of the podcast.


Guest Links: Kara Powell

Find and follow Dr. Kara Powell here:

Kara on Twitter

Kara on Facebook

The Fuller Youth Institute

Links Mentioned in This Episode

The links and resources mentioned in this episode include:

Sticky Faith by Kara Powell and Chap Clark

The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family by Kara Powell

Sticky Faith, Youth Worker Edition by Kara Powell, Brad M. Griffin and Cheryl E. Crawford

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Kara’s interview was full of great advice from the unique perspective of an academic, church leader and even as a mom.

While there’s so much you could do after listening to Kara, here are 3 things you can begin this week:

1. Provide opportunities for adults to connect with kids and teens. Create services teens love to attend. Get them involved. Get kids and teens serving together. Think about how to ensure kids have more than just other kids at work in their lives.

2. Talk to your kids about your own faith journey with your kids. Don’t just interview your kids about what they’re learning or how they’re growing spiritually, talk about how you’re learning and growing. It helps your kids see that you are in a relationship with God. You don’t need to be more spiritual than you already are. Just share the spirituality you already have. It helps kids develop their own faith.

3. Create a place for young people to express doubts. Don’t dismiss faith questions that kids have, even if they bother you. Don’t trivialize their questions. Get comfortable saying “I don’t know but…” It is not doubt that is toxic to young people’s faith. It’s unexpressed doubt. Create space where kids and teens can express their doubts. What’s critical is not that young people get all the answers (sometimes there are no answers), but that they stay engaged in the conversation.

Quotes to Share from Kara


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Let’s Have Lunch In Washington DC or Indianapolis || Orange Tour 2014

I’m going to be in Washington D.C. this Thursday, October 9 and Friday October 10th, and in Indianapolis on Thursday October 16 and Friday October 17th for the 2014 Orange Tour.

I’ll be giving some keynotes and doing some breakouts on parenting, leadership and the church, and hosting a lunch for senior leaders each Friday of the Tour Stop. I’d love to hang out. Sign up below!

2014 Orange Tour

Have lunch with Carey: Register for the Washington DC Orange Tour Stop

Have lunch with Carey: Register for the Indianapolis Orange Tour Stop


Next Episode: Craig Jutila

Sometimes leadership makes you hard to live with. Ever felt that in your family?

Craig Jutila, a ministry leader at one of American’s largest churches, went home one day to find his wife had written “I hate my husband” in her journal.

Craig talks honestly and openly about how he had to learn how to lead and live differently, saving his marriage and his future as a leader.

Craig is a sought after speaker, author and he blogs here.

If you want to make your marriage or personal life better, don’t miss Episode 005. It goes live Tuesday, October 14th 2014.

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Got a question? Leave a comment.


  1. Chuck on January 7, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    One semester later: This podcast has seriously affected my pedagogy.

    I got myself revved up by listening to it again before classes started. It left fresh wounds…. It’s so full of reminders of the need for GRACE. So seriously on the mark.

    And each and every one of my lecture courses this semester got a first day mini-sermon on “Two Words”. I leave it to the readership to ponder what those two words are.

    Still stings. Still resonates.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Love this Chuck. Love it.

      • Chuck on January 7, 2015 at 5:49 pm

        A private homage to Community….

        in the last of the “first day” lectures the other day, I got a pleasant surprise, My last lecture on Monday was effectively Part 2 of a two-semester course. Two of the people (out of 5) that I connected last term in a small group study format, from different lecture sections were seated in the front row side by side grinning as I talked about unexpressed doubt. (Ever have those times where you must absolutely hold back the tears but really don’t want to?)

        I seriously had to look away or I would have totally lost it

        (Both of these girls are Christians, so I know they get it. Made me all the more proud of them…)

        To God be the glory.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on January 7, 2015 at 6:00 pm

          Chuck. Awe-some. So encouraged. Fighting back tears here too.

  2. Chuck on October 14, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    “It’s not doubt….it’s UNEXPRESSED doubt…” Major ouch. That was a kick in the teeth. I seriously was in tears at that point. Direct hit. That scores a bullseye in so many areas!! My son is still in diapers (19 months), so I’ll be watching for this down the road (not quite yet….) But….
    The reason that comment owned me (as you like saying) is because of my line of work.
    As a college professor in a tough subject, I see kids every day that just don’t get the subject material. While they’re nice, respectful, etc., some of them are just too afraid (literally) to ask questions or get the tutoring, or come by the office to get the help they need. And it crushes them in the long run.
    This issue among students has been studied, and the #1 reason kids don’t speak up (in class, or in the office) when they don’t understand the material, is the fear of being wrong. They know they don’t understand, but they’re too afraid to admit it, or too afraid for others to SEE that they don’t understand it. And that moves me to the core.
    If that’s not a parable for the dangers of unexpressed doubt, I don’t know what is.

    • Chuck on October 15, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      Afterthought: Because I was so torpedoed by that quote, I e-mailed it to everyone in all my classes, and asked for their direct feedback on what they thought it meant to them…. We shall see what they say.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on October 16, 2014 at 6:27 am

        Chuck…thanks for sharing this. You’re in a great place in the front lines. I appreciate your heart for students. Here’s to being a place where people can talk…openly and honestly…about anything. Thanks for sharing the message too. Share the findings as you are able to with us. I’d love to hear more.

        • Chuck on October 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm

          UPDATE: I posted that quote last week to over 150 students in 5 classes. Responses have been few so far (maybe half a dozen) and most have been “correct” but I began to wonder, even doubt, if it spoke to anyone personally.
          A few days after the posting I got an e-mail from a student who was having “a lot of trouble” with the class, and repeatedly apologized for being “lost” (his words, not mine). I assured him that he had absolutely nothing to apologize for and that he was to be commended for realizing he needed help, and “expressing his doubt” (per the quote…). I asked him if he’d thought anything about the quote itself since its posting.
          His response silenced me.
          “Yes I [saw the Powell quote] and found it very fitting. This is my first problem I’ve had yet in college (I am a freshman) and I didn’t know how the interaction between students and teachers would be. I’m sure I’ll have problems with other courses, in the future, and this helps settle my fears….”
          Doesn’t this go hand-in-hand with what Kara was sharing about how young people need balance between the do’s and dont’s — the lists — and grace?? They need to know those “to do lists” but they also need to know that God is BIGGER than those lists and bigger than the mistakes they make when they don’t follow the lists to the letter.
          I get that this is about maturation and the college experience. I do. But this is a perfect picture of how this same age group approaches God. The entire conversation right around “the quote” is talking about exactly that.
          I shared this whole thing with some folks in my family, and proceeded to describe how this experience had re-ignited my passion for education and college ministry….
          With a flamethrower.
          Thanks to you, to Kara Powell, and the podcast for being the vector for that.

          • Carey Nieuwhof on October 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm

            Chuck…love this. Love your passion and that it’s reignited! Amazing. So thankful students get to have a prof like you!

  3. chad on October 9, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    “if you’re not reaching teenagers, good luck reaching unchurched people.” thank you for this gem! i wish more senior leaders in the church could grasp this truth, or be willing to consider the implications when they ignore the youth in their churches.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 10, 2014 at 9:55 am

      It’s a great litmus test for me Chad. Thanks!

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