Thursday, September 21, 2006

Twentysomethings Aren't Going to Church

Iowa's greatest theologian Josh Malone posted the following clip from Scot McKnight's blog regarding a recent Barna survey showing that people in the "twentysomething" age group are attending church much less than older generations. This is not really a suprise to me because even at Parkview in recent years our median age as a congregation has been going up and I think this is in part because it's been harder to get young people commited to a church. To read Josh's thoughts and enter into the conversation go here.

- - - -

The research shows that, compared to older adults, twentysomethings have significantly lower levels of church attendance, time spent alone studying and reading the Bible, volunteering to help churches, donations to churches, Sunday school and small group involvement, and use of Christian media (including television, radio and magazines).

In fact, the most potent data regarding disengagement is that a majority of twentysomethings – 61% of today’s young adults – had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying). Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences. Another one-fifth of teens (19%) were never significantly reached by a Christian community of faith during their teens and have remained disconnected from the Christian faith.

Loyalty to congregations is one of the casualties of young adulthood: twentysomethings were nearly 70% more likely than older adults to strongly assert that if they “cannot find a local church that will help them become more like Christ, then they will find people and groups that will, and connect with them instead of a local church.” They are also significantly less likely to believe that “a person’s faith in God is meant to be developed by involvement in a local church.”

These attitudes explain other anomalies of twentysomething spirituality. Much of the activity of young adults, such as it is, takes place outside congregations. Young adults were just as likely as older Americans to attend special worship events not sponsored by a local church, to participate in a spiritually oriented small group at work, to have a conversation with someone else who holds them accountable for living faith principles, and to attend a house church not associated with a conventional church. Interestingly, there was one area in which the spiritual activities of twentysomethings outpaced their predecessors: visiting faith-related websites.


Jim C said...


Was there any comment as to whether or not these twentysomethings return to a church body later in life?

Just curious.

First Theology said...

JimC- Good questions. The article does touch on this in a way, but it does not provide any stats (another study they have might tho - I seem to remember something)... my blog has a post on whether this is a "lifestage" thing (where people come back) or something more endemic... the article concludes that even if it is a "lifestage" thing we would do ourseleves no favor to just write it off. Feel free to weigh in my blog if ya want.

Jim C said...

Josh - thanks... I'll take a look at your posts on the matter.

Being a 30something that was once a 20something, I can relate to the idea behind the statistics, and DEFINITELY see it as something to consider.