losing my religion

A study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life today claims that Americans are increasingly switching faiths or leaving faith entirely.

Here are a few excerpts from the "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey":

Based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that religious affiliation in the U.S. is both very diverse and extremely fluid.

More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion -- or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, roughly 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

The survey finds that constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents. Those that are growing as a result of religious change are simply gaining new members at a faster rate than they are losing members. Conversely, those that are declining in number because of religious change simply are not attracting enough new members to offset the number of adherents who are leaving those particular faiths.

To illustrate this point, one need only look at the biggest gainer in this religious competition -- the unaffiliated group. People moving into the unaffiliated category outnumber those moving out of the unaffiliated group by more than a three-to-one margin. At the same time, however, a substantial number of people (nearly 4% of the overall adult population) say that as children they were unaffiliated with any particular religion but have since come to identify with a religious group. This means that more than half of people who were unaffiliated with any particular religion as a child now say that they are associated with a religious group. In short, the Landscape Survey shows that the unaffiliated population has grown despite having one of the lowest retention rates of all "religious" groups.

In addition to detailing the current religious makeup of the U.S. and describing the dynamic changes in religious affiliation, the findings from the Landscape Survey also provide important clues about the future direction of religious affiliation in the U.S. By detailing the age distribution of different religious groups, for instance, the survey findings show that more than six-in-ten Americans age 70 and older (62%) are Protestant but that this number is only about four-in-ten (43%) among Americans ages 18-29. Conversely, young adults ages 18-29 are much more likely than those age 70 and older to say that they are not affiliated with any particular religion (25% vs. 8%). If these generational patterns persist, recent declines in the number of Protestants and growth in the size of the unaffiliated population may continue.

CLICK HERE to read the full report

So, Americans float around a bit and get restless easily, no surprise there. Did you notice how quickly the numbers are shifting to the "unaffiliated" camp, and the dominant age ranges of those claiming no affiliation?

We have to ask ourselves some serious questions.
What must the church do to reach the younger generations?
As a follower of Jesus, what is my responsibility to the younger generations?


DarlaGeiger said...

I am not sure what to think of this. I have seen many of my friends leave the church in the past 5 years, but I know that they all have their personal reasons for leaving. I have found that I am, personally, more engaged in a service if it is relevant to me. I am definitely in favor of churches or church services directed to the younger generation, considering that I attend a church like that in Redding. And our church is growing too. This is the opposite of what I saw at the churches in Santa Rosa or Sebastopol and the difference for me is the relevance. I still like the churches in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, I just feel more connected personally to the actual church service in Redding and it is not a college group either.

jimmy said...

Hi Darla, it's good to hear from you. I'm glad things are going well for you in Redding. Can I ask you a follow up question? How do you define "relevant"? What about your church's service makes it relevant, and what about it makes you feel more connected? Is it the style of the teaching, or the music, or is it the substance of the message? I'm intrigued. Whenever I hear about young people that are really connecting with church I want to find out why so that I can learn from it. I look forward to your response.

grace and peace, jimmy

DarlaGeiger said...

relevant- would be something that is applicable to my life and not just my personal relationship with God, but my entire life. EVERYTHING. some topics that have really struck me at church are dreams and power. I realized how important my career goals are to me and God. And that creativity isn't just artistic creativity, but God gives us the ability to be creative in our careers ,schoolwork, and social life. I am also attending Life Group which that kinda gets me connected to a smaller people. It is kinda hard to explain everything that I am hearing in a comment on blogspot. but here is the website for my church www.theStirring.org. That will probably give you a better taste of what the mission of my church is etc... and there are podcasts of the messages. My pastor is only 30 so having someone closer to my age keeps things at my level too. I would say we have about 300-400 college students going and 100 or more young adults/married couples and 50 or so people that are older. so it is definitely geared toward 16-30 year olds. or something like that. I think like 500-600 total people go. and there are new people every week. oh and yes I do like the music. Kinda like Hope Chapel with maybe a more emo twist sometimes. lol. one of our worship pastors is the lead singer of the Myriad if you have heard of them. So definitely the same style as the Myriad when Jeremy leads. His brother is our pastor and he leads worship sometimes too and they have a similar style. The only thing is that I am not 100% connected with the people since so many people go. I definitely feel more connected on the people level at Hope Chapel and Sebastopol Christian cuz they are smaller and I have known everyone for years. But I am more connected to the substance of the message at the Stirring. well i hope that makes sense. later.

jimmy said...

Your life group has little people? SWEET! Just kidding, I get ya. We've been putting a huge emphasis on life groups lately. It's been hugely beneficial for the community aspect of things. I'll have to check out that website. Thanks again for sharing Darla!

DarlaGeiger said...

oh I meant a smaller group of people, but you already know that. ya I will probably show up at Hope Chapel in a few weeks when I am home. Is there a Saturday night service on Easter weekend? Let me know what you think of the Stirring from the website. later. Thanks for listening. lol.

jimmy said...

No, we aren't having a Saturday night service but we are having a Good Friday service at 6:30pm. I hope to see you there Darla.

Peter Hamm said...


cool site, thanks for the comments on mine! We do the same thing, we should commiserate some time!

I think that it's important to note that people are leaving "religion" in some cases because it never offered the connection with God that it promised. Jesus teaches us this.

Just like the early gatherings of saints needed a brand new word because of the brand new thing they were doing and Jesus chose the word "ekklesia" (church) for them, I almost feel like some of us who are doing "church" in a whole new way need another new word.

Oh well, "church" will have to do for now.