Millennials, those 18 to 29 years old, are less likely to attend church than those in previous generations. One may conclude that this generation is more secular than their parents and grandparents, but a recent report says this assumption is false. The report uses data gathered by a Pew Research Survey in 2008 and from survey data gathered by the University of Chicago.
Here are some interesting findings:
Millennials are significantly more likely than young adults in earlier generations to say they don’t identify with any religious group. Among Millennials, 26% cite no religious identity, compared with 20% for most members of Generation X (born 1965-1980) at the same ages, and 13% for most Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) at those ages.Worship attendance is sliding steadily, too: 18% of Millennials say they attend worship nearly every week or more often, vs. 21% of Gen Xers when they were in their 20s and 26% of Boomers at those ages.
Yet “by several important measures, Millennials often look a lot like their elders now and earlier generations when they were young,” says Pew senior researcher Greg Smith. Among Millennials:
•40% say religion is very important in their lives, similar to 39% of Boomers at the same ages.
•41% report praying daily, like 42% of Gen Xers as young adults.
•53% are “certain God exists;” 55% of Gen Xers were certain at the same ages.
This sounds very similar to the findings reported in the book Essential Church, which I have blogged about previously here and here. Younger generations are not attending churches, but it is not because they have stopped believing. Most leave because they do not feel the church is important to their lives. There is no real need to go to church.
If it is true that religious belief has not changed significantly through the years, we must ask the question, “Why are young people leaving the church and what can we do to reverse the trend?” How can we make the church essential to the lives of those who attend so that they will not want to leave?