Part 14 in series How Millennials Who Gave up on Church are Redefining Faith and Re-engaging Community
Bad news for churches trying to fill their seats with young people. A recent survey of Millennial values conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute offers little in the way of good news for religious affiliation and the Millennial generation.
The study, conducted in conjunction with Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs shows that across the board numbers are dropping in religious affiliation among younger Millennials. College aged Millennials are more likely to be religiously unaffiliated than the rest of the public. Of those surveyed, despite only 11 percent being raised religiously unaffiliated as children, 25 percent now are unaffiliated with religion. The study does not paint a pretty picture for religious denominations which have typically ruled American religious life, such as mainline Protestants (Episcopalians, Presbyterian, etc.) as well as Catholics.
What’s most interesting however are the possible reasons for the break from religion, specifically Christianity, among Millennials.
Younger Millennials’ feelings about Christianity are decidedly mixed. Three-quarters (76 percent) agree that present-day Christianity has “good values and principles,” and 63 percent believe that Christianity “consistently shows love for other people.” On the other hand, strong majorities also agree that modern-day Christianity is “hypocritical” (58 percent), “judgmental” (62 percent) and “anti-gay” (64 percent).
So what we have are young people who are at least receptive to Christianity’s values and principles, but are turned off by its hypocrisy and strong judgment as it exists today. Especially when it comes to homosexuality.
…a PRRI survey found that nearly 7-in-10 (69 percent) 18-29-year-old Millennials agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
Will we see a shift in the way churches engage with young people? Can (or better yet, will) the Church shed it’s “anti-gay” image?
If religious leaders — particularly in Catholic and white mainline Protestant churches — aren’t content to wait for the return of this generation’s prodigals, they are faced with a challenging task. The balancing act of whether and how to reshape present-day congregations to connect with a generation that remains receptive to — but also highly critical of — traditional forms of religiosity.
Next Post in the series: The Millennial Teenager: An Infographic