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State of Atheism in America

Barna Research just released a report entitled, “2015 State of Atheism in America.” The study interviewed 23,000 adults, of which 8,220 were unchurched. For the purposes of this study, Barna combined atheists and agnostics into one group and called this group, “skeptics.”

The research revealed that there have been some demographic shifts among skeptics in America over the past 20 years. Today:

  1. Skeptics are younger. Today, 34 percent of skeptics are under 30 years old. This is nearly double the percentage from 20 years ago. Additionally, the percentage of skeptics that are 65 years old or older has shrunken by half, to 7 percent today.

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  1. Skeptics are educated. 20 years ago, one third of skeptics were college educated. Today, half of skeptics have a college degree.
  1. Skeptics include more women. The percentage of women that are skeptics is 43 percent, nearly triple the 16 percent of women skeptics in 1993.
  1. Skeptics are more diverse. 20 years ago, whites comprised 80 percent of skeptics. Today, whites represent 74 percent of skeptics. There has been an increasing percentage of Hispanic and Asian skeptics.
  1. Skeptics are more regionally diverse. In 1993, 43 percent of skeptics lived in the West. Today, that percent has shrunk to 30 percent, indicating that skeptics are dispersed more evenly across America.

Some observations:

  • It seems that skeptics are becoming increasingly representative of America—better educated and more diverse. This makes sense. Today, it is more difficult to “peg” atheists and agnostics into a preconceived hole. Skeptics represent every race, gender, and economic status.
  • There is a rising tide of younger skeptics. Although the percentage of the Millennial generation in America accounts for some of the rise in skeptics under 30, it does not adequately describe why the percentage of skeptics in this age group has doubled. On average, younger Americans are simply becoming more skeptical of Christianity.
  • The large increase among women skeptics is a surprise. It used to be that more women attended church than men by a ratio of 9 to 1, but that ratio is rapidly decreasing.

 

What can we do to address the state of atheism in America?

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State of Churches in America

The church in America is in decline. According to research by Gallup, church attendance in the U.S. has fallen from 62 percent in 1994 to 53 percent in 2012, a 9% loss. One example is the Churches of Christ, which have declined by 9.8% since 1990.

GallupAttendance

Since 1990, the population in the U.S. has grown from 250 million to 320 million, an increase of 22%. If the U.S. population continues to grow at this rate and church attendance continues to decline at its current rate over the next 25 years, it will take approximately 1.6 million new Christians per year just to keep pace with the population growth.

Research by Olson (2005) indicates that new churches grow faster than old ones. In fact, once the average church reaches 40 years of age, it actually begins decreasing.

chart

According to The Christian Post, 4000 new churches are planted each year. However, if we figure that they have an average attendance of 200 people (perhaps an unrealistic assumption), we are still 4000 churches shy of staying even with current trends.

What does this mean? Either we need better methods of evangelism or we need more churches. Perhaps the old adage, “It is easier to have a baby than raise the dead” is an apt lesson in this case. My post, Boom or Bust? State of the Church in America, discusses additional reasons to plant churches.

We need more churches!

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Why Plant Churches?
Boom or Bust? State of the Church in America

What’s the Difference?


Excellent video that begs the question, “What’s the difference” between all of us? Rich, poor, weak, strong–we are all the same in God’s eyes. This is also a fantastic way for your church to spread the love of Jesus.

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

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Top Bible-Minded Cities in 2015

Each year, the Barna Group and the American Bible Society rank the top Bible-minded cities. The 100 largest cities are ranked according to their levels of Bible engagement. Bible-mindedness is determined by how often people read the Bible and how accurate they consider the Bible to be. The latest results are shown in the graphic below.

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As you can see, the top five Bible-minded cities are in the South. The most Bible-minded city is Birmingham, Alabama, with 51 percent of the population qualifying as Bible-minded. Chattanooga, Tennessee, Tri-Cities, Tennessee, Roanoke, Virginia, and Shreveport, Louisiana round out the top five.

At the other end of the spectrum, Providence, Rhode Island is the least Bible-minded city, with 9 percent of the population qualifying as Bible-minded. Albany, New York, Boston, Massachusetts, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and San Francisco, California comprise the rest of the five least Bible-minded cities. New York fell to the bottom 10 this year.

From this study, it is clear that the “Bible-belt” of the South remains to be an accurate designation. The least Bible-minded cities are generally in the Northeast, but also include a scattering of some cities in the West—San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

What other observations can you make from the state of Bible-minded cities in the United States?

Barna Group also has information on individual cities.

 

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What Attracts Millennials Most

What leadership trait attracts Millennials most? A sense of purpose. This is according to a recent study by Deloitte.

The study, which surveyed 7,800 Millennials across 29 countries, revealed that 6 out of 10 Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) said a sense of purpose was part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer.

Deloitte-Infographic_29616

 

As far as the individual traits of leaders, Millennials admire the ability to inspire, strategic thinking, decisiveness, interpersonal skills, passion, and someone who is a visionary. The graphic below illustrates these findings.

leaders

What are the implications for ministry from this research? We need to pay attention to how we communicate our mission and vision. If we come across as wishy-washy or indifferent, we will not attract the younger generation. We must communicate our passion for our spiritual beliefs. This does not mean giving lip service; it means being authentic from the inside out. We can only attract Millennials when they know that we are committed to walking the walk.

What other implications can you draw from this research?

You can download the full report here.

 

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