Part of the problem may be the "What you win them with, you win them to" dilemma. Kids weaned on pizza and programs during their adolescence suddenly face early adulthood, and while some church college programs attempt continuity with youth ministry culture, when it works, it only seems to delay the exodus another few years.
Here is some data on why young people are leaving:
• Wanted a break from church: 27%
• Found church members judgmental or hypocritical: 26%
• Moved to college: 25%
• Tied up with work: 23%
• Moved too far away from home church: 22%
• Too busy: 22%
• Felt disconnected to people at church: 20%
• Disagreed with church's stance on political/social issues: 18%
• Spent more time with friends outside church: 17%
• Only went before to please others: 17%
That's actually a wide array of reasoning. It speaks to the failure of the church to captivate, the failure of church communities to operate redemptively, and the pull of the culture of work and "personal life."
The reasons they come back are eye opening, however:
Young adults return out of obedience to God. Almost half of those aged 18 to 35 cited that reason. Today’s younger generation is sometimes viewed as rebellious or shunning God. While rebellion certainly applies to some, a large segment of young adults are returning for spiritual reasons.
In my limited but growing experience, I am finding this to be true. I will be damned if I'm going to give my community the same dog and pony church show that tempted them to leave in the first place.