Home > Queensland Synod News > Lutheran church in Finland starts charting reasons why people leave

Lutheran church in Finland starts charting reasons why people leave

The number of people leaving Finland’s majority Lutheran church has increased sharply in recent years, and many of them are young adults who feel the church lacks relevance, a new study has found.

More than 33 000 people left the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland in 2005, about 70 per cent of them in the 20 to 39 year old age range. Many of the people in this age range said they were leaving the church because it had little or no relevance to their lives, while older people who left the church said they did so because they had experienced personal disappointment with the institution.

"The disappointments show the parishioners to have quite human expectations towards the church and its employees. Church workers are expected to be easily approachable, personal, warm and trustworthy," said Kati Niemela who compiled the study on behalf of the denomination’s Research Institute.

"There should also be a natural possibility for church members to give feedback from their negative experiences, to tell about their disappointments and to get a reply," Niemela told Ecumenical News International.

A total of 83 per cent of Finns, or 4.36 million people, belonged to the Lutheran church at the end of 2005, out of a total population of 5.2 million people.

One reason given for the sharp increase in the number of people leaving the church has been a new law on religious freedom which came into force in 2003 and which makes it easier to give up church membership. Since then, about 0.6 – 0.8 per cent of the church’s members have resigned each year.

Those in the 20 to 39 age group who left the church cited reasons such as intolerance, prevalent conservative and inegalitarian views while some, though fewer in number, spoke of perceptions of the church being too liberal, permissive or spiritually trendy.

About a fifth of all respondents who left said they had been disappointed in the way the church handled a personally significant situation, such as the funeral services of relatives.

(c) Ecumenical News International