The blogs, Facebook, Twitter -- they're all talking about religion and the Millennial Generation. This is the generation born between 1981 and 1992 (more or less). It's the generation that envelopes my own son -- and the young adults in my church.
A new Pew Research Report suggests what many of us in church work already knew, young adults are increasingly unaffiliated, especially in relationship to earlier generations. Whereas at a comparable age, people of my generation (Boomer) saw maybe a 13% unaffiliated rate at a similar age, it's climbed to 26%. That's one out of four who feel that the church doesn't meet with their expectations of a community that sustains their faith. They decry the institutionalism of the church.
They believe in God at similar rates as earlier generations, but their understandings of God and social mores are different. To give a key difference. According to the poll, 78% of those born before 1928 say that homosexual relationships are always wrong, and 56% of my generation say the same, it drops to 43% among Millennials. Personally, I suspect that the last number might either be a bit high, or softer than one might think.
Now, as I contemplate these stats I know that a group of young adults gathered on their own to share in a study of scripture and to pray at the church. I had nothing to do with its planning or implementation. More importantly, the group gathered was comprised of young people beyond our congregation as well as young adults from within. To say the least, I'm excited about this. I'm also going to do all I can to keep my hands off it!
Christian Piatt, a Disciple young adult and husband of a Disciple pastor, has written a book, with his wife Amy, called Myspace to Sacred Space (Chalice), which tackles many of these questions, and according to his blog response to this report finds confirmation of what he discovered. He writes today:
Yes, there is still a need for communities of people offering one another love, wisdom, support and mutual accountability, to challenge people to put their faith into transformational action and to give them the tools to do so. And insomuch as institutional church can facilitate that, I believe there is a place for it in today’s culture. But the degree to which the existing buildings, paid staff, boards of directors and bylaws will – or even should – be a part of that, I’m not so sure.
So, the question that faces us, as we contemplate this report, is: how does the church put itself at the service of those who seek God, but find the institution too constraining or just plain irrelevant?
Note, I grabbed the chart from the Pew site. There are other charts, so check it out.