A new research study has revealed that it is becoming increasingly less likely for young people who leave church to return when they are older.
In a Barna Group research analysis done by assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and pastor of First Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, Ryan Burge, showed that those born between 1965 and 1984 were much less likely to return to church than those born between 1945 and 1964.
The data, Burge said, should have major implications for the way ministry is done in today’s evangelical church.
“Many pastors are standing at the pulpit on Sunday morning and seeing fewer and fewer of their former youth group members returning to the pews when they move into their late-20s and early-30s,” he said, according to the Christian Post. “No church should assume that this crucial part of the population is going to return to active membership as their parents once did.”
Burge added that the “data is speaking a clear message: the assumptions that undergirded church growth from two decades ago no longer apply.”
“If churches are sitting back and just waiting for all their young people to flood back in as they move into their 30s, they are likely in for a rude awakening,” he said. “Inaction now could be creating a church that does not have a strong future.”
Christianity, in general, is in decline across the United States. In the latest study published by the Pew Research Center, it was noted that just 65 percent of Americans now identify as Christian, compared to 77 percent recorded ten years ago. Additionally, the number of people without any religious affiliation at all has risen to 26 percent.
"Religious ‘nones’ are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions,” Pew explained. “And although the religiously unaffiliated are on the rise among younger people and most groups of older adults, their growth is most pronounced among young adults.”
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Will Maule is a British journalist who has spent the past several years working as a digital news editor. Since earning a degree in international relations and politics, Will has developed a particular interest in covering ethical issues, human rights and global religious persecution. Will's work has been featured in various outlets including The Spectator, Faithwire, CBN News, Spiked, The Federalist and Christian Headlines. Follow him on Twitter at @WillAMaule.