Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts


Why do so many young adults (18 to 22) leave the church, and what will it take to bring them back? This important question is examined and duly answered in Essential Church?, a follow-up to Thom S. Rainer’s best-selling Simple Church cowritten this time with his son, research expert Sam Rainer.

The book is based on a study of one-thousand so-called "church dropouts" who were interviewed about why they left. Their answers are quite surprising, having less to do with "losing their...

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Essential Church?

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Why do so many young adults (18 to 22) leave the church, and what will it take to bring them back? This important question is examined and duly answered in Essential Church?, a follow-up to Thom S. Rainer’s best-selling Simple Church cowritten this time with his son, research expert Sam Rainer.

The book is based on a study of one-thousand so-called "church dropouts" who were interviewed about why they left. Their answers are quite surprising, having less to do with "losing their religion" and more about the desire for a community that isn’t made stale by simply maintaining the status quo.

In turn, the Rainers offer churches four concrete solutions toward making their worship community an essential part these young people’s lives again:

 Simplify - develop a clear structure and process for making disciples.

Deepen - provide strong biblical teaching and preaching.

Expect - let members know the need for commitment to the congregation.

Multiply - emphasize evangelism, outward focus, and starting new churches.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805443929
  • Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Pages: 259
  • Sales rank: 812,950
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the largest Christian resource companies worldwide, and the best-selling coauthor of Simple Church. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons and live in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sam S. Rainer is a senior pastor, writer, and the president and CEO of Rainer Research. He also blogs and writes a column for Outreach magazine and lives with his wife, Erin, in Floyds Knobs, Indiana.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introducing the Essential Church     1
Why People Leave the Nonessential Church
My Faith Is Not My Parents' Faith     25
Looking for a Different Kind of Community     45
That's Life! It Changes     69
A New Spin on Hypocrisy     91
All Eyes on the Main Man     111
How Essential Churches Close the Back Door
The Essential Church and the Back Door     137
Simplify: Getting the Structure Right     159
Deepen: Getting the Content Right     181
Expect: Getting the Attitude Right     201
Multiply: Getting the Action Right     221
Conclusion: Building an Essential Church: A Case Study     241
About the Authors     255
Notes     257
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 4, 2009

    Rainer, Thom S. and Sam S. Rainer, III, Essential Church, Nashville, TN: B and H Publishing Group 2008, 259pp.

    Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He has earned his Masters and Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he served as a dean for twelve years. He has also authored and coauthored several books. His son Sam Rainer is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Murray, KY. He also heads the Rainer Research Group, formerly held by his father. Sam holds a BS in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina and an MA in Missiology from Southern Seminary. He is currently working on his PhD in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.
    The Essential Church has two parts and ten chapters. It begins with an introduction describing what an essential church is and how it pertains to the essentials of one life. Their contention found on page three suggests, "More than two-thirds of churchgoing young adults drop out of church between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two," and the top ten reasons why they drop out. In addition, they suggest that these youth are likely to remain in the church if the church is essential in their lives in spite of those ten reasons. The essential church has four components: simplify, deepen, expect and multiply which they suggest will transform the dismal state of the nonessential church's decline. This dismal context represents a massive decline of conversions, losing the influence of the culture, 'floundering' and losing a generation. The book identifies seven 'sins' that the nonessential church is guilty of. They are issues in doctrine, evangelism, relevance, outward ministries, personal conflicts, stagnancies and biblical literacy. The first part is entitled, Why People Leave the Nonessential Church, which focuses more on the people who leave, however, some indirect detail of what the church is doing wrong. Based upon a survey conducted by a LifeWay research, they list a series of interviews that establishes and supports each of the top ten reasons for young adult dropouts. According to the survey, the number one reason these youth leave the church is that they simply desire to take a break from church. Other issues involve hypocrisy, college, work, family, incohesiveness, views and belief, friends and impressiveness. In the first part, the writers have determined that people stay in the church because of a deep biblical foundation. They stay in churches that are relevant; who engage them, have a lively worship experience, with mission effort and basically, the church is essential to the lives of its people. Part two is entitled, "How Essential Churches Close the Back Door." The contention is that people enter into the front doors and metaphorically speaking, there is a back door that they exit unnoticed, never to return. They begin this effort by showing distinctions between the essential and non-essential churches. Addressing issues like the ministry's inward focus and their antidote. Suggesting that the church simplify its structure, deepen its content, the expectations of attitude and multiplying the right action plan to be an essential church.

    The authors main thesis of the book is that the church is losing the present generation of young adults ages eighteen to twenty-two out of what they have term the 'back door.' The door as they have called it represents an escape route that is available for those youth to replace the areas the church once provided. Their remedy, the Essential Church, is a restructured institution that includes some ba

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2008

    Recommended Reading

    Dr. Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer III statistically, scripturally, and sympathetically share a shocking evaluation of the situation in many church sanctuaries across the United States of America in Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts. They saliently and sagely show how we can reverse trends and see a revival of the work of the Lord. I sincerely recommend it! Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor, teacher, mentor, writer, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice

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