Fewer Younger Folks Are Religious-- But Those Fewer That Are May Be More Loyal


A shout out to GBOD's Director of Best Practices, Deb Smith. You go, Deb!

This morning, Deb found links to a news report suggesting that younger adults who are religious may actually be more loyal to their faith communities than some recent research had seemed to present.

But she didn't stop there. She tracked that report to another it was based on.

Then she tracked that report to the actual research both were based on. 

Then she looked at that research to determine whether it was valid before passing it on to the staff.

That's exactly what a good researcher does-- and what we all should do when we hear about "a new statistic" that claims one thing or another about the church-- or anything else for that matter.

Like I said-- You go, Deb!

So here are the reports:


And here is the peer-reviewed research paper it was based on:

And here's the gist. Yes, there are far fewer younger persons who are religiously affiliated. But that's not as much because this "generation" cares less about religion per se. It's because it was likely that they were never affiliated in the first place because they were raised by parents who quit being affiliated and grew up around fewer people who were. What the research finds is that the status of non-affiliated or dis-affiliated at this point has more to do with whether you were raised as part of a religious community than any "cohort effects" per se. 

So it's just not the case that "Gen-Y" or "the Millenials" care less about religion than previous generations do. For those who are affiliated, their affiliation is as strong or stronger than some previous generations. The deal is that because we've had this major "uptick" in dis-affiliation, beginning in the 1960s-- we've created a generational, and therefore a nearly geometric upsurge in non-affiliation in every age cohort since.

This isn't cause for panic-- but adaptation.  What it means is that primary evangelization and basic formation in the way of Jesus-- not only for the "young," but also for a good number of aging "baby boomers"-- is more important now than ever. 

This is no time for "dumbing down." It's a time for "boning up" on what matters most-- and for making sure we say it, transmit it, and live it compellingly.

And not just for the young. 

But for the world around us-- people of every age and station in life.

It's not that the sky is falling. It's that the environment has changed. 

It's no longer "glorious summer." But neither is it the winter of our discontent. Or if it is winter-- it's late winter.

Time to get out there and get the land ready for some new planting!

Who's with me?

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards