young adults leaving church article 1

More later, but here’s a link my sis emailed me. CNN reports on the results of a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study recently released, finding that, among other things…

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.

More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found. Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent.

One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.

“In the past, certain religions had a real holding power, where people from one generation to the next would stay,” said Penn State University sociologist Roger Finke, who consulted in the survey planning. “Right now, there is a dropping confidence in organized religion, especially in the traditional religious forms.”

The CNN story is here: Survey: Americans Switching Faiths, Dropping Out

The Pew Forum study main page, with interactive features, is here: US Religious Landscape Survey

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

8 thoughts on “young adults leaving church article 1

  1. I thought the fact that the non-denominational evangelical groups that were growing had a high number of former protestants in their ranks says a lot. I had previously heard that the so called “evangelical” churches tended to have a high number of folks that had “converted” in other organizations. Odd isn’t it?

  2. The age range was 18-29. I’m 25 not married and no kids. People have for many years returned to church when they have kids. If many are having kids later is the age range skewed too low? Does this say anything about the prolonging of adolescence?

  3. Rick: I think the NY Times article addressed that finding in the portion I quoted from BU’s Stephen Prothero in one respect–personalization of the experience. One discouraging thing about the growth of independent evangelical churches in the report (and I’ve seen this elsewhere too I think) is that most or all of the growth is accounted for from disaffected mainline Protestants or Catholics. So, it would seem there’s little growth in those churches from converting non-Christian people. They are picking up the ones still given to faith who are disconnecting from the denominations of their youth. That’s helpful to know, but it doesn’t necessarily tell us we’ve found the solution to diminishing numbers in the form of independent evangelical churches.

    For this and other reasons I should probably devote a whole post to, I don’t find the evangelical church growth to be quite the panacea its sometimes thought to be. It might be, but there are reasons to be hesitant in crowning it just yet.

  4. Katie:

    Interesting thoughts re: having kids at later ages and prolonged adolescence. One thing that people have been seeing is that the kid factor is less and less effective at bringing people back to church the way it was just a couple of decades ago.

    But if you are correct about the kid factor skewing our interpretation and presentation of the data, I think the critique still holds, and is probably reinforced strongly, that the Church doesn’t know what to do with young adults, and single young adults in particular.

  5. They also say that this generation (I’m 28 so I’m barely in that grouping)is a generation of action & experience. They not only want to hear about Jesus but want to experience Jesus in new ways. Apparently, the non-denominational-denomination churches have figured out a way to create experiences.

    The other thing I hear a lot from those of other backgrounds or UM backgrounds that have left is that UM is a lot about politics of the church and it turns them away.

  6. Good points, Mindy. I think there is definitely something to the comment that church who seem to be doing well “have figured out a way to create experiences.” At the same time, your experience anecdotally aligns with my suspicion about nondenominational church growth being more about taking in disaffected mainline Protestants than about converting nonChristians.

    As I recall, Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way community in Philly, is a former UM, so the story goes, who was put off by the amount of money spent to replace a window and left the denomination to eventually become one of the leading “new monastics” in US Christianity.

    On the other hand, often times the new places have their own politics; it’s just a different brand or style, or we are at more of a distance from it that in our previous church.

  7. Okay..where to jump in…???

    Bishop Willimon has always offered the insight that it is not the churches job to meet the “needs” of a culture of consumerism which makes me hesitant about the “personalized experience” of many Non-denominations. I however am completely convinced that we have missed the boat in our efforts to communicate with our culture. The Methodist church has soooo much to offer our world that cannot be summed up in “open hearts, open minds, open doors”. (So What?) How will the fact that your hearts, doors, and minds are open make a difference in my families life? Communicating with the culture is only a part of the system wide problems we face, but there is certainly a gap between how we do it and how the more successful churches are doing it.

    So that I am not just tearing down… here are a few suggested slogans:-)

    Methodism: We were not born yesterday, and we won’t treat you like you were.


    Methodism: You will grow more from experiencing grace than you ever did through condemnation.

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