This should not surprise us, but it should alarm us. Millennials, 18-24 year olds, are not only leaving churches in record numbers, but they are also losing their faith too. The Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, just released a shocking study on these young people.
Many Christians think young people are leaving churches for other religions and that is just not true. Young people are leaving their faith behind and quickly becoming the generation of “unaffiliated”.
Daniel Cox, the Public Religion Research Institute’s research director said,
“These younger unaffiliated adults are very nonreligious. “They demonstrate much lower levels of religiosity than we see in the general population,” including participation in religious rituals or worship services.
The hard numbers:
- 1 in 4 young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion
- 25% say religion is unimportant
- 1 in 4 Millennials said that they attend religious services at least once a week
- Among Catholics, whites were twice as likely as Hispanics to say they are no longer affiliated with the church
- 37% say that they never pray
- Fewer than half (40%) say that religion is either very important or most important thing in their life
- 45% who attend or attended a religiously affiliated college reported attending worship services once a week compared with just 13% attending or attended a private college
- 6-in-10 (62%) Millennials also believe that present-day Christianity is “judgmental.”
The crucial bit of information within this data is that within the “unaffiliated group”, 55% identified with a religious group when they were younger. Meaning, we are seeing a growing segment of younger people not only leaving their church, but also losing their affiliation with their faith.
The study also found that Catholics are losing the highest number of childhood believers, with about 8%. White mainline Protestant adherents lost 5%. For those who reported a change in their childhood and young adulthood religious affiliation was the unaffiliated, which moved from 11% to 25%.
Compared with other generations, Millennials do not have a bright future ahead for religious faith and worship attendance. Denominations and churches must act quickly, but decisively to change their strategies. Instead of pumping money into dying churches, denominations must support growing churches.
Pastors and churches must understand that Millennials are a values based generation. That means, they will affiliate with causes that embody their conviction for ethical causes. They care about the oppression of peoples, injustice of poverty, and have compassion for the lowly. Churches must see their outreach as a missional outreach to their community. By embodying the Gospel message, churches must share the salvation of Christ and Jesus’ mission to uplift the oppressed. If 62% of Millennials believe that Christianity is judgmental, then we churches and believers have a lot of work to do to change.