Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pew Forum Report--Good news for Presbyterians

Last week the Pew Forum shared a report on Religious Life in America.  The report is fascinating and should be required reading for every religious leader in the United States.

The complete report can be found here:
The executive summary of the report can be found here:

The main headlines of the report are that "Nones" are on the rise.  This means that people who don't claim an affiliation to a church or religion are on the increase.  The report called these folks, "Unaffiliated." Twenty percent of all adults in the United States describe themselves as unaffiliated compared to 15% of all adults five years ago

On the surface this should be depressing for any person who is involved in leading a church and especially a person who is starting a new church. 

This doesn't mean that the United States has become a secular country compared to other countries.  The number of Americans who currently say religion is very important in their lives (58%), is little changed since 2007.  This number is much higher than Britain (17%), France (13%), Germany (21%) or Spain (22%).

It's easy to draw simplistic conclusions to such a detailed report.  However the executive summary shares some fascinating information.

The reason that the number of unaffiliated is higher is generational replacement, which is the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones.  One-third of the youngest Millennial (ages 18-22) identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated compared to ten percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) and five percent of the Greatest Generation (born 1913-1927).  The church as a whole is not connecting with this youngest generation.

It's fascinating to know the impressions of the church by people who identify themselves as unaffiliated.  The chart at the top of the blog interests me the most.  The unaffiliated believe that the church is too concerned with money and power; are too focused on rules; and are too involved with politics.  That makes sense to me.  I don't want to be a pastor of a church who falls into any of those three categories.

A large number of unaffiliated folks believe the church should bring people together and strengthen community bonds; and the church should play in important role in helping the poor and needy.  Does this sound like a Presbyterian church?  Yes!  If anything Presbyterians do a terrific job at strengthening community bonds and helping the poor and needy.

Our Presbyterian approach to service and community building are ones that can connect to people who aren't affiliated to a congregation.  Let's keep doing the great work we've done at community building and helping the poor and needy.  Then let's proclaim our work from "the mountain top."

These aren't the only ways to connect to folks who aren't affiliated with a church, but I think we can grow in numbers if we do them well.  The research bears this out.

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