Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wooing the "Nones"

As we noted in a previous post there is an increasing number of people, especially young adults, who the authors of American Grace term "Nones."  They are "Nones" because they choose not to identify with any particular religious tradition.  We've noted that many have been turned off by what they perceive are the "political overtones" of religion -- especially conservative politics.   So, is it possible that these disaffected younger adults might be enticed to come into the church?  Well, the authors say it's possible -- because they aren't by nature "ardent secularists."  They write that "a large portion of those who demur from indicating a formal religious affiliation believe religion is important, pray regularly, and even attend a congregation on occasion" (American Grace, p. 176).  They are, what sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer call "unchurched believers."  They are, thus to quote the Putnam and Campbell, "an inviting target for "religious entrepreneurs."  

The term religious entrepreneurs might sound a bit off putting, but their point is well-taken.  It will take people who are willing to take risks and try new things to reach this group of disaffected people.  And what would this look like?  Well, if its partisan politics or a merging of religion and politics, especially relating to sex and family issues that can be seen in the evangelical/GOP alliance, that pushes them away, then it would be helpful to  deemphasize these kinds of issues in favor of others.  That might be a harbinger of good things for mainline churches that aren't as linked to such emphases.

Of course there is the possibility that something more geared toward them, such as the emerging church or emergent church movements might be more successful.  The reality, as the authors see it, innovation is at the heart of the effort.  I would add that from watching the young adults I'm in conversation with, there is a strong desire to be doing something, not just watching something be done.  They're not interested in committees, but they do want to make a difference. 

Can this be done?  Yes, I believe it can.  That is the possibility raised in a more detached way in American Grace and in a more direct way by Carol Howard Merritt in her book Reframing Hope (Alban, 2010).


Rick's pics said...

Kids and adults are "online". The church needs an "app" and not a show. Involvement in the social issues, environment, bridging divisions between people and cultures- these are some of the things that I believe we need to see more of. has lots of "outside the box" ideas on education. The Church needs that "think/pray tank". We must first have a clear vision of The Kingdom of God and then be excited about being there rather than where we are. You are a part of that. Thanks!

dcsloan said...

What the church needs is an emphasis on worship as an expression of a growing and deepening relationship with the divine, both individual and communal, and a life of service to those who are hurt or lost or oppressed.

This means the church needs to abandon institutionalism, acquisition of capital assets, any emphasis of largeness over largess, any emphasis of pastoral governance over individual spiritual development, and worship as an exercise in euphoric anti-intellectualism.

Doug Sloan

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

John said...


But not everyone worships in the same way. For example, some can only feel truly worshipful when they are doing acts of service. Moreover, some are only feel truly engaged with their spirituality when they are working hand-in-hand with a pastor.

I think more complex responses are called for, and different responses which are as niche oriented as the various media, entertainment, and social networking vehicles with which the church has to compete.