The members of the millennial generation can’t come to church as often as their parents do — but what exactly is contributing to this trend of young church dropouts?
“While the U.S. public in general is becoming less and less religious, the nation’s youngest adults are by many measures much less religious than the rest,” David Masci, a senior writer and editor on religion at Pew Research Center wrote in January 2016.
Millennials, the generation of young Americans born in the 1980s and ’90s, have less chance than their parents or grandparents to pray and go to church regularly, according to Pew Research Center.
Pew published a religious landscape study that surveyed more than 35,000 Americans.
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“In total, there are 35 percent of the adult millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) are religiously unaffiliated,” Pew Research reported 2015. “A lot more millennials say they have no religious affiliation compared with those who identify themselves as evangelical Protestants (21 percent), Catholics (16 percent) or mainline Protestants (11 percent).”
While there are definitely more religious millennials than those not affiliated to a religion, the trends are interesting to analyze. To know: About three-quarters of millennials say that they believe in God (more than half with an absolute certain belief in God); but less than a third attend a religious service on a weekly basis.
This may be due to the new trend of those who feel “spiritual” but not “religious.”
“Although millennials are not as religious as older Americans through a number of measures of the worship service, they are more likely to take part in many spiritual practices,” Becka A. Alper, research associate focusing on religion at Pew Research Center, wrote in 2015.
“For example, if older Americans,” she added, “more than four-in-10 of these younger adults (46 percent) say they feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least once per week.”
Alper also wrote, “Furthermore, on some of the traditional measures of religious faith, the difference between the millennials and older Americans is not so great. For example, when it comes to beliefs about life after death, two-thirds of millennials say they believe in heaven, in comparison with about three-quarters of the baby boomers and the members of the Silent Generation.”
In terms of Christianity in America, about 70 percent of the population identifies as Christian.
Dr. Alex McFarland, director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University in South Carolina, said the college-age millennials are more likely to not have a religious belief than the general population.
“Speak with tens of thousands of young people in the course of the years I have learned that if they are just a few of the adults who come along and encourage them to grow in their faith, there is a much better chance that they will remain in the church and rooted in Jesus long into adulthood,” McFarland previously told LifeZette.
McFarland’s newest book, “Leaving Religion: Why Millennials Are moving Away, and How You Can take Home,” was published in March.
“There are many reasons that young people can become disappointed in the church, religious organizations, or faith in general, such as distrust, skepticism, rebellion against a negative experience, the pressure of the atheist or agnostic, friends, or a variety of other influences,” McFarland told LifeZette.
Other factors, such as the breakdown of the family, and rebellious attitude can contribute to the way millennials see a divine authority.
“I would also dare to say that there is a lot of walking because they are faced with situations where they are asked or demanded to defend their faith, and they just don’t know how,” McFarland noted. “But regardless of the reason why they leave their faith behind, the real tragedy is that many millennials are heading in life without Christ.”