Lifeway Survey Paints a Grim Picture

USA Today ran an article in their religion section on Tuesday which was based on a survey recently done by Lifeway Christian Resources. (You can read the article here) The survey focused on the Millenial Generation and their feelings and beliefs when it comes to faith and religion.  They paint a pretty grim pictures.  Here are some highlights that were pointed out in the article.

  • Out of the 1,200 surveyed, 72% called themselves spiritual rather than religious
  • 65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either
  • 65% rarely or never attend worship services.
  • 67% don’t read the Bible or sacred texts.

Even among those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and believe that they will go to heaven…

  • 68% did not mention faith, religion or spirituality when asked what was “really important in life.”
  • 50% do not attend church at least weekly.
  • 36% rarely or never read the Bible

The Church is doing a poor job when nearly 70% of young adults do not pray, attend worship or read the Bible.  Thom Rainer, the President of Lifeway says that if this trend keeps up that,

“the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships.”

This is not hard to believe.  Look around your congregation- look for the 20 year olds.  In many places they are absent.  Our staff recently took stock of what many of us thought we 20somethings in our congregation and they turned about to be 30somethings.  Aside from a few 20somethings- we are missing a huge segment of our population.  They are not hearing the gospel. They are not experiencing transformation through Jesus Christ.

The Church needs to rethink how we go about our ministries- reaching out to those who have never heard and discipling those who express faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s hard to imagine that 50% of people who define themselves as Christians do not attend worship weekly or that 36% rarely read their bible.  Rainer goes on to say,

“We have dumbed down what it means to be part of the church so much that it means almost nothing, even to people who already say they are part of the church.”

So what must the church do?  Here are some of my quick thoughts.

  • We must get rid of the attitude that is ok with college students “falling away” from their faith because we believe that they will come back to church when they have kids.  I have heard this a lot in the local church and people are ok with it.  We need to change our attitudes towards young people
  • Churches need to realize that it is not the Youth Pastors job to instill faith in young people.  First, it is the parents responsibility- then it is the responsibility of the entire congregation- per baptism vows (in the UMC, the entire church vows to help raise our children to know Christ as Savior.  We are falling short of that vow.)
  • We need to rethink how our churches do evangelism and discipleship. Discipleship is not a program, but a way of life! Evangelism should naturally flow out of our lives because God’s love and grace overflow in our daily walk.
  • Worship services, music and sermons need to express the mission of God and invite young adults (and people of all ages) to participate in God’s kingdom.  Look at your worship service…would a 20 year old feel comfortable there?  Does your music relate and reach to young adults? There is no “right” form for worship…it needs to be whatever best communicates our thanks to God and points to God’s love for the people we are trying to reach.

If you are older than your 20’s, think back for a moment.  Almost every major decision that has made you who you are was made in your 20’s.  Your studies.  Your career.  Your life goals.  Your spouse (for many). Your dreams.  Yes, these can change as you grow older…but many of these were solidified in your 20’s.  It is imperative that we continue to do all we can to reach young people- especially those in their 20’s.

How is your church reaching 18-29 year olds? Are they trying?  What are some things that need to change to help 20 year olds become disciples of Jesus Christ?

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
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