The Pastor’s Pen: February 17, 2019

We often hear people question why young people don’t go to church.  Some reasons may be found in research conducted by the Pew Research Center.  In recent years, their data has shown that Millennials in the United States – young adults born between 1981 and 1996 – are generally less religious than older Americans, based on the Center’s core measures of religious commitment.  Their research further showed that Black Millennials are more religious than non-Blacks, Black Millennials tend to be less religious than older Blacks, and Black Millennials are considerably more religious than others in their generation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

When the Center conducted surveys on prayer, their data showed that about six-in-ten Black Millennials (61%) say they pray at least daily, which is significantly higher than non-Blacks (39%) who say they do not pray.  Incidentally, this data aligns with the Center’s previous finding that Black Millennials are more religious than non-Black Millennials.  And while 38% of Black Millennials say they attend religious services at least weekly, only a quarter (25%) of other Millennials worship during the week, according to the analysis from the Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study.  In fact, the study further showed that nearly two-thirds (64%) of Black Millennials are highly religious on a four-item scale of religious commitment – which includes belief in God and self-described importance of religion, in addition to prayer and worship attendance – compared to 39% of non-Black Millennials.

When compared to Black adults, the Pew’s research showed that Black Millennials are substantially less religious by these same measures:  they are less likely to pray at least daily, they are less likely to attend religious services at least weekly and they are less likely to say that religion is very important to them.

The study also revealed that Black Millennials are not as involved in organized religion as their parents, but they are more religious than their counter parts in other racial groups. A key reason why young Blacks are not as diligent to church commitment as their parents and generations prior is because Black Millennials thrive in a stronger economic environment than their parents.  It was through religion and church commitment that Blacks coped with life during Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Great Depression and scores of recessions and economic down turns. Maids, janitors, cooks and day laborers found hope and their release in church where the music was exciting, the preaching inspirational and where holding positions such as deacon or usher was a source of pride and dignity. Now, Millennials in all cultures of our society are sensitized and driven to follow the money in the tech world, their musical tastes are discovered through music videos and YouTube and their need for belonging is satisfied through school activities, sororities and fraternities.

The challenge for churches today is to find ways to message the Gospel in contemporary dress. Rather than criticizing texting and video imaging, we must embrace messaging the Gospel through social media…if we want to ‘save the Millennials.’

The question is not do churches offer a message that is no longer needed, the issue is how do we present the Good News to those who interact and learn differently than their elders. This present generation has all the same fears, phobias and emotional issues as their parents. We must determine how to present Jesus in ways Millennials can comprehend. No matter what our age or generation, the world still needs Jesus.