By Aaron Earls
“Frankly, when I pray, I don’t even know who or what I’m praying to,” Amanda said. “I’m not even sure there’s anybody to pray to. But what if there is?”
The uncertainty Amanda expressed in an interview recorded in The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Thom S. Rainer and Jess W. Rainer is confirmed by the most recent findings from Pew Research.
Millennials, those born after 1980, are more likely to not believe in God and be unsure about the beliefs they have. Eleven percent say they don’t believe in God, while 28 percent say they believe, but they’re not certain. Only 58 percent say they are absolutely certain about their belief in God, compared to around 70 percent of every other generation.
The newest adults are also the least likely to self-identify as a religious (36 percent) or patriotic person (49 percent). Only in one category did a majority (51 percent) of Millennials self-identify — a supporter of gay rights.
Their hesitancy to label themselves also shows up in their political identification — 50 percent consider themselves Independents — and their religious affiliation — 29 percent say they are unaffiliated. According to Pew, “These are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.”
Millennials are also in no rush to marry. Only about a quarter (26 percent) of Millennials are married. Previous generations were much more likely to have married by the age of 32.
The Pew summary concluded, “perhaps because of their slow journey to marriage, Millennials lead all generations in the share of out-of-wedlock births. In 2012, 47% of births to women in the Millennial generation were non-marital, compared with 21% among older women.”
But keep these non-committal numbers in mind when someone claims the large swath of “nones,” those who select “none of the above” on religious surveys, are all atheists. As a matter of fact, today’s nones “include many more unbranded believers than atheists.” These are unattached believers who hold many traditional theological and social views, but reject being part of a specific religious brand.
The research of The Millennials, written by Thom S. Rainer and his son Jess, supports this, but found the fervency of Millennial Christians to be exceptional. They concluded those who follow Christ in this generation “are passionate about their faith. They have no patience for business as usual. They see the urgent need to share the gospel and start new churches. And they will not wait on tired, established churches to get the work done.”
The Rainers give five ways for the church to connect with Millennial Christians:
- Become radically committed to the community
- Go deep in biblical teaching
- Love the nations
- Direct revenue outwardly
- Demonstrate transparency, humility and integrity
They also share how the church can reach non-Christian Millennials:
- Keep in mind that religion is not an important issue to most
- Unleash the power of a simple invitation
- Connect Boomer parents with Millennial children
- Display the deep meaning of following Christ
- Show concern for others
- Demonstrate transparency, humility and integrity … again
What has your church done to stay connected to Millennial Christians and reach those in this generation who are far from Christ?