::generation.problem.1::

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graphic from flickr

Here are some sobering North American statistics:

        In the United States, only thirty percent of young churchgoers continue to attend church after the age of twenty-two.(1)    From 2004 to 2005 in the United States, 57 percent of churches with an average age over 40 declined in their attendance.(2)   The emerging generations are the least likely to attend church on a given weekend, and increasingly so. Another study in 2006 concluded that only 33% percent of younger adults attend church on a typical weekend compared to over 50% of those over 55 years old.(3)   A recent study from Princeton has revealed, “Young adults are less likely to participate in religious services than a generation ago.”(4)   Statistics like these led C. Jeff Woods, from the Alban Institute, to conclude, “We seem to have lost a generation of youth.”(5)

        The trends are similar in Canada… 

…A survey of Canadians in 2000 revealed that 40% of those ages 18-34 believed that religious groups should have “no role” in public issues- an increase of 21% from those aged 35-54.(6)   Only 48% of those aged 18-34 will pursue conventional expressions of Christianity through a local church while 71% of adults over the age of 55 will do so.(7)     Only 13% of those 34 and younger that claim to belong to Mainline Protestant Canadian churches will attend weekly as compared to 28% of those over 55.(8)

1  Rainer, Thom S. and Sam S. Rainer III, Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts.  (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group, 2008), 3.
2  David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based on a National Database of Over 200,000 Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 84.
3  Barna Group, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=10, (accessed May 13, 2008).
4  Wuthnow, Robert,  After the Baby Boom: How Twenty- and Thirty- Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 214.
5  Woods, C. Jeff,  Congregational Megatrends. New York, NY: Alban Institute, 1996), 41.
6  Bibby, Reginald W., Restless Gods: The Renaissance of Religion in Canada. (Toronto: Novalis, 2004), 189.
7  Ibid., 197.

8  Mainline Protestant Canadian denominations include Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United churches according to 1999-2000 Statistics Canada Data as cited in Bibby, 75.

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

4 thoughts on “::generation.problem.1::

  1. James, I’d be interested in hearing from a 40+ person why they would “go to” church today (hint hint… uh… James). Of course, I’m creeping closer and closer to that group! Yikes! 🙂
    In fact, I’d be interested to hear from every age group on why church is important to their generation. That would be a really interesting thread, James.

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  2. Shandell, thanks for the insightful comment. Yes it makes sense! I’m curious to see what takes shape with “emerging” church stuff over the next 10-15 years. I think it’s a bit hard to predict. There are some more liturgical churches that are attracting thousands of young adults too. I’ve found Frost and Hirsch’s book THE SHAPING OF THINGS TO COME really really good for a discussion like this. Hirsh’s book THE FORGOTTEN WAYS is amazing too.

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  3. I like your question Shandell. You understand your generation well.
    What is it that the Hub is doing (or not doing) that makes Christianity ‘accessible’ to a younger generation both for those that know Christ and those that doesn’t know Christ?
    Why should the 40+ generation go to Church today? In the 80’s and 90’s we went to Church or we would be ‘Left Behind’ – but we are still here …
    Ken – I am interested to see what other people who read this blog think about why their generation would want to go to church, and what their church is doing to make Christianity accessible to thier generation.

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  4. So, my question is: Do you think the emerging church (i.e Mars Hill etc.) will have a more prominent role in making church ‘accessible’ to a younger generation? It seems my generation is very passionate and politically motivated, and cares deeply about current issues. However, we don’t tend to channel this energy through conventional means such as the established “North American Church”. Or, conversely, are we merely a spiritually apathetic generation, devoid of any desire to connect with a supreme deity, which we can’t even prove exists? It seems that people my age have access to so much information (through the internet) and we virtually have the world at our fingertips. Perhaps that is why we tend to stray from what cannot be “proven” scientifically, and through this we operate under a more post-modernist paradigm, where every ‘truth’ is valid. I dunno I’m just speculating and I don’t even know if this makes any sense!

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