Why Do Young People Participate in Church and What’s Missing? Their Answers May Surprise You

Politicians, professors and pastors have all spent considerable time trying to figure out the hearts and minds of millennials—how they will vote, how they relate to the culture and how they worship.

Now, a new Barna study sheds some light on why young adults participate in a community of worship and what they feel is missing from church.

The American Pastors Network (APN) is particularly intrigued by the survey because of the ministry’s interest in the future of the Christian church in America.

APN President Sam Rohrer said the need for pastors to understand millennials is crucial.

“Most pastors realize our nation is in trouble,” Rohrer said. “Without a doubt, it’s divided. The enemy is within the gate, trying to collapse our current administration and destroy our constitution, but when we learn that 4% of millennials hold a biblical worldview so necessary to supporting a constitutional republic here in the United States, the concern, in many regards, is even greater. This issue of millennials and millennial values is paramount in the country, so studies like these help us focus on exactly where the opportunities as well as the problems lie.”

The Barna survey of over 15,000 18- to 35-year-olds across 25 countries found that about 6 in 10 Christians in the study say they participate in their community of worship to grow in their faith (63%) and learn about God (61%). Other motivations also relate to relevant teachings (40%), wisdom for how to live faithfully (39%) or wisdom for applying scriptures (35%). This desire for spiritual instruction persists even though 4 in 10 Christians in this age group (39%) say they have already learned most of what they need to know about faith, and nearly half (47%) say church teachings have flaws or gaps. Others attend for the worship and music (37%), sacraments (14%), or readings and recitations (15%), while still others cite obligation as a reason to attend.

But a relatively surprising factor may be that young people say the top thing missing from their church experience is having their friends in attendance.

While the majority of responses isn’t as large as the reasons for church attendance, nearly one-fifth (18%) said their friends are absent from their church experience. “This may be partly due to the fact that religious affiliation and engagement has generally declined among younger adults, particularly in secular contexts—but regardless of the religious climate in which these Christians live, friends are still identified as the main thing missing,” Barna reported. Relatedly, social gatherings outside of services (14%), relationship workshops (14%) or support groups (13%) are also among the top things lacking from young Christians’ church experiences.

Rohrer works closely with “Stand in the Gap TV” co-host and millennial pastor Isaac Crockett, and the two will be discussing APN’s new yearlong “52 Tuesdays” prayer initiative—a dedicated season of prayer for the important 2020 presidential election now less than a year away. The weekly television program reaches millions of potential viewers on several networks.

Especially as young Americans will be concerned with the election, APN is encouraging prayer warriors nationwide to add their name to the growing “52 Tuesdays” list and join APN’s Stand in the Gap Today” radio co-hosts from noon to 1 p.m. EST on local stations each Tuesday or by tuning in live online. During the final segment of each Tuesday program, listeners can pray with the hosts, as well as during their own prayer time.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

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