Yes, We Are Losing the Millennials

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The latest Pew Research Center report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” which is making a big splash in the news,1 clearly shows Christianity declining in America. Headlines appeared in secular news sources stating, “Millennials leaving church in droves, study finds.”

Answers in Genesis has been warning the church about this troubling trend for many years.

Answers in Genesis has been warning the church about this troubling trend for many years. In 2014 and earlier this year, we contracted with America’s Research Group (ARG) to find out more about the millennials both inside and outside the church. The results of ARG’s research (some of which are summarized later in this article) reveal the same alarming trend the Pew study found—and also expose a shocking problem among the millennials inside our churches!

The Pew Research Center report states the following:

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing . . . . While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages . . . .

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. . . . But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014.

Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014 . . . .

The report continues,

One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Just 16% of Millennials are Catholic, and only 11% identify with mainline Protestantism. Roughly one-in-five are evangelical Protestants.

In 2009, Answers in Genesis published the ground-breaking book Already Gone , which detailed the results of a survey of young adults (basically the group referred to as millennials) who were regular church attenders as children and teens, but now in their 20s had left the church. This research was in part initiated because of the research by George Barna, Lifeway, and others indicating around two-thirds of young people were leaving the church by college age.

In Already Gone, we cited Barna Research from both 2000 and 2006: “61% of today’s young adults who were regular church attendees are now ‘spiritually disengaged.’ They are not actively attending church, praying, or reading their Bible” (p. 24).

To follow up Already Gone’s findings on why so many young people are leaving the church, last year we commissioned ARG to conduct new research. ARG’s new research confirmed this 61% Barna figure for the 20–29 year olds. In fact, the new research also surveyed the spiritual state of the 20s generation still in the church—and the results were very alarming!

Then earlier this year, AiG contracted with ARG to conduct a general population study (i.e., non-Christians and Christians were polled), which found that,

  • Of those who regularly attended church as children, 22% of the 60s age group had stopped attending, but a whopping 53% of the 20s age group had stopped attending.
  • 86% of the 60s age group believes Noah’s Ark was actually built, but only 52% of the 20s age group believes this.
  • 60% of the 60s age group believes the Christian faith is under attack today, but only 34% of the 20s group believes this.
There’s no doubt the 20s generation is leaving the church and is more secular in its thinking.

There’s no doubt the 20s generation is leaving the church and is more secular in its thinking. The Already Gone research also showed clearly that these millennials are being “lost” way before college age—40% doubted the Bible by the end of middle school and another 45% by the end of high school.

From the 2014 ARG research on the 20s generation in the church, we found that,

  • Over 40% state they are not born again.
  • 35% declare the Bible has errors or that they don’t know if it has errors.
  • Close to 90% attend public school.
  • Over 20% left school believing the Bible was less true.
  • Over 45% say they were not taught to defend their faith at Sunday school.
  • 45% say homosexual behavior is not a sin or that they don’t know if it is a sin.
  • 40% believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and have legal rights, and an additional 10% say they don’t know if they should or not.
  • 20% believe there are books other than the Bible that are inspired by God, and an additional 10% don’t know if there are.
  • 65% believe if you are a good person you will go to heaven.

The above results are alarming. They indicate that there has been a failure on the part of Christian homes and churches to teach the Christian faith. The results of this research have been compiled into a new book that we will release in the fall. Let me also say that for the moment there is no doubt the research also showed conclusively that the issue of the age of the Earth/universe was one of the major factors causing this generation to doubt that the Bible can be trusted as the inerrant Word of God. Moreover, as seen in the results summarized above, many young people in our churches have not been taught to defend the Christian faith. There is a big need for homes and churches to teach apologetics to their children and teens and to future generations.

About 90% of church kids attend public schools, and such schools (even though there are a small number of Christian teachers who are really missionaries in need of our prayers) have really become churches of atheism. There is no doubt in my mind, based on 40 years of ministry and the research conducted through ARG, that public education has had a disastrous effect on the coming generations. Our research has shown conclusively that the teaching of evolutionary beliefs in geology, biology, astronomy, and anthropology has been a leading factor in causing the doubt. And saddest of all, the compromise by Christian leaders on such matters has greatly contributed to the reason so many young people have left the church and have a predominantly secularized worldview.

I pray this . . . will help wake up the church to this serious youth exodus.

AiG has been sounding the alarm concerning the 20s generation for some time now. It’s sad that some Christian leaders deny that the church in America is in trouble. I pray this new Pew study and the new research from the renowned America’s Research Group to be published in the fall will help wake up the church to this serious youth exodus.

I urge homes and churches to use Answers in Genesis’ apologetics materials, which have been revolutionary to children, teens, and adults as they learn to defend the Christian faith and stand boldly and uncompromisingly on the authority of the Word of God beginning in Genesis.

I encourage you to challenge your church to use AiG’s increasingly popular Answers Bible Curriculum to instruct all ages in the truth of God’s Word.

I implore you to use these leading creation apologetics resources for your young people at home and at church:

Yes, we are losing the millennials—which is why homes and churches need to act!

Footnotes

  1. Lester Holt, NBC Nightly News, May 12, 2015; Cathy Lynn Grossman, “Christians Drop, ‘Nones’ Soar in New Religion Portrait,” USA Today, May 12, 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/05/12/christians-drop-nones-soar-in-new-religion-portrait/27159533/; Rachel Zoll, “Study: Americans Becoming Less Christian, More Secular,” ABC News, May 12, 2015, http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/study-americans-christian-secular-30970981; “Implications of U.S.’s Changing Religious Landscape,” Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/video/implications-of-us-changing-religious-landscape/D9A1C764-3588-45CE-AF44-FC2A7F6E1C52.html.

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