“A few years ago (May 12, 2015) the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life released the findings from its latest study. As expected, this release brought about a flurry of blog posts focused mainly on the decline of Millennials in the church. If you follow my blog you know my thoughts on that one, but if you are unfamiliar, feel free to read the article End the Millennial Postmortem.
As my husband and I look towards church planting and we are praying about how to best reach the current generations, I felt compelled to re-read and re-share these thoughts (originally shared 2 years ago).
I purposely steered clear of reading the study until the buzz died down and I could read without other voices in my head telling me what to see. I wanted to see for myself this abject decline of the church and the overwhelming gap left by Millennials who have chosen to walk away from organized religion in the form of “church.” And, as everyone warned, I saw it.
I saw that for Evangelical Protestants and Mainline Protestants only 16/17% of their population was made up of 18-29 year olds. I saw that these percentages matched those of the Catholic church and the Jehovah’s Witness.
But I saw something more disturbing than that.
I saw that those were the ONLY religions were showing the lowest percentages. In contrast, 34% of Buddhist were in the 18-29 age group, 34% of Hindus, and a whopping 44% of Muslims (almost half, think about that!). The only other category that could even come close to competing with those was the new religion of “Unaffiliated” which, for the first time in Pew history, hit a high of 35%.
What’s going on?!?
It’s not that suddenly 18-29 year olds don’t associate with religion. 44% of the Muslims surveyed were Millennials!
It’s not that 18-29 year olds don’t believe in God. Of all the survey respondents who identified as Unaffiliated or “religious nones” only 3.1 % identified themselves as atheist.
I think it’s simply that they are… Unaffiliated.
The religion that has seen the biggest drop? Christianity. And the area with fastest growth? Unaffiliated.
That word just makes me sad. If you look up the definition for “unaffiliated” you’ll read things like, “not associated with another or others” and “not connected” and ” not a part of.” I think if we look at the multiple studies that have been done on why there’s been a decline in the attendance of 18-29 year olds in church, they put it this way; “We don’t belong.” There’s a sense that there simply is not place for them any more.
They had a place a kids in the children’s department and they had a place as youth in the youth department but as high-school graduates, they are met with a way of worship with which they are unfamiliar, a group of people they have little to no relationship with, and a myriad of other opportunities outside the church building walls that are screaming, “You BELONG Here!”
And in the words of one of the most noted Millennial bloggers, their generation is “struggling to find a faith community in which we feel we belong.”
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