By Dr. Nancy Going, Director of the CYF Distributed Learning Program at Luther Seminary
Did you see this news in today's USA Today? I saw a tweet this morning that named the meat of the report: "The fastest growing religion in America is no religion."
"In the 1960s, two in three Americans called themselves Protestant. Now the Protestant group -- both evangelical and mainline -- has slid deeper in the statistical waters, down to 48%, from 53% in 2007."
Where did they go? Nowhere, actually. They didn't switch to a new religious brand, they just let go of any faith affiliation or label.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released an analytic study today titled, Nones on the Rise, now that one in five Americans (19.3%) claim no religious identity.
This group, called "Nones," is now the nation's second-largest category only to Catholics, and outnumbers the top Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists. The shift is a significant cultural, religious and even political change."
Alan Cooperman, Associate Director of Research for the Pew Forum, says, the increase in Nones is "among men and women, among those who don't have a college education as well as those who do. There's as much increase at the lower income level as at the higher. And it is changing all across the country. It's not only in urban areas or on the coasts."
It's the change of a lifetime. When today's Baby Boomers were under 30, about 15% were Nones. They still are today. Among the 32% of Millennials who are Nones now, few will return to the organized religion fold, Pew researchers say." (USA TODAY, October 9, 2012. You can read the full article here: http://usat.ly/SYEpRL )
This news really is news, not because it identified the "NONES" as a group. That had already been done But because it shows dramatic change since the 2007 Pew Forum study. I'm guessing that might not be news to you. You are in the rare position where you are getting to see the "letting go" first hand. In fact, we can pretty much see that growing numbers of young people are rolling straight out of children's and youth ministries in churches to "None-dom."
There are at least THREE questions that we who serve in ministries with those in the first third of life need to wonder about as we look at this news:
1. Where and how did I come away from my growing up years with such a different perspective on faith in Christ AND the Christian community? (I know I'm assuming here that people who work with kids in churches do have a different perspective!) How can I help them get what I got?
2. What signs of future "None-ship" do I see in the families in front of me? How can I engage them differently?
3. What might the Spirit of God be calling us to do differently for a time like this?
Join the conversation on Facebook.com/FirstThird!
Nancy Going is a life-long youth minister, who loves Jesus, other people learning to love Jesus, her husband Art Going, and the two new families that are her kids and grandkids.
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