Just a couple of weeks ago, the big Pew survey on religious belief was making waves among Christians all over the country. Depending on who you read, Christianity in America is either doomed, is fine news for evangelicals or pretty much as it always has been—people are just being more honest.
But now that the survey has been out a little bit longer, people are starting to parse more individual findings. And some of the realizations are striking. For instance: Only 56 percent of American Millennials (born from 1990-1996) claim Christianity, versus 85 percent of those Americans born from 1928-1945. That’s in spite of the fact that nearly 8 in 10 of those Millennials were raised in religious homes. A full 36 percent of Millennials report that they are completely unaffiliated from any faith group.
What does that suggest about our churches? How can evangelicals begin to think about ways to minister to this group that seems to be leaving our sanctuaries? Evangelicals retain around two-thirds of children raised in evangelical Christian homes—but where is the breakdown with the remaining one-third? These are the questions the church will need to answer in the coming months and years as it seeks to make sure it is ready to receive every generation.
However, there might be hope. As L. Gregory Jones, a leadership expert from Duke University told CNN, “If it is the case that millennials are less ‘atheists’ than they are ‘bored,’ then serious engagements with Christian social innovation, and with deep intellectual reflection (and these two things are connected), would offer promising signs of hope,” Jones said. What that looks like remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see how God works on the church in the coming years.