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Posts from the ‘research’ Category

Study Reveals Decline in Religious Orientation Among Teens

One of the largest studies on religious beliefs in American youth has just been released. It revealed that change in culture is strongly influencing lower religious involvement.


As the above figure illustrates, the gap between teens and their parents’ religious affiliation is widening. Since 2000, there has been a steep decline in religious “nones” (those that do not claim adherence to any religion). Between 2000 and 2013:

  • 87% more college students claim no religious affiliation.
  • 50% more 12th graders claim no religious affiliation.
  • 43% more 10th graders claim no religious affiliation.

As the chart below reveals, girls, whites, and those living in the Northeast had the largest decline in religious affiliation.


The trend of religious decline affects all demographic groups, except possibly for African Americans.

The authors of the study present some possible explanations for the decline in religious orientation:

  1. An increase in individualism. This is characterized by focusing less on religious adherence and more on the self. Dr. Twenge, one of the researchers, stated, “Individualism puts the self first, which doesn’t always fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires.” She added, “when people become deeply involved in religious faith, they may be committing to a value system that may bring some costs to the self – albeit with the hope of benefiting others.”
  1. An increasing acknowledgment that religion is inconsistent with science. The researchers said it is possible that “debates about teaching creationism or intelligent design in U.S. schools, such as those in Kansas in 2005, pushed some young people away from religion.”
  1. Increasing religious pluralism in the U.S. “This could also result in the questioning or minimizing of all faiths”, the study suggested.
  1. Increase in online activities. The study stated that “a generation of “digital natives” heavily involved in online activities might simply have been less interested in religious teachings.”

What other possible explanations do you see for the decline in religious orientation in American youth?

Source: Jean M. Twenge, et. al. (2015). Generational and Time Period Differences in American Adolescents’ Religious Orientation, 1966–2014. May 11, 2015 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0121454

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The Changing Role of Religion 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.


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.


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!

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

Learning From the “Dones”


Who are the Dones? They are the “dechurched”—Christians that no longer go to church. Once the most active members of their own congregations, 2.7 million Christians leave the church each year.


In their upcoming book, Church Refugees, sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope submit that one of the best strategies in reversing the trend of people leaving the church is for churches to prevent them from leaving in the first place. Easier said than done? Thom Schultz, founder of Group Publishing, recently wrote that churches need to spend more time listening to long-time church members before they leave. He said that we need to ask them questions, such as:

  • Why are you a part of this church?
  • What keeps you here?
  • Have you ever contemplated stepping away from church? Why or why not?
  • How would you describe your relationship with God right now?
  • How has your relationship with God changed over the past few years?
  • What effect, if any, has our church had on your relationship with God?
  • What would need to change here to help you grow more toward Jesus’ call to love God and love others?

These are insightful questions that we should continually ask. It is our role, as churches—and individual Christians—to listen intently to those with whom we are in relationship. There is much we can learn from them. We should never stop discipling and guiding others in the faith.

Related Posts
Americans with No Religious Affiliation on the Rise
The Changing Role of Religion in America

How Churches Can Address Mental Health Issues

The majority of pastors (66%) rarely speak to their churches about mental illness, revealed a recent study conducted by LifeWay Research. According to families with mentally ill members, this is not enough. 65 percent of those families want their churches to talk about mental illnesses more openly.


People with mental illness need spiritual guidance. Ed Stetzer, President of LifeWay Research, stated, “Our research found people who suffer from mental illness often turn to pastors for help, but pastors need more guidance and preparation for dealing with mental health crises. They often don’t have a plan to help individuals or families affected by mental illness, and miss opportunities to be the church.”

Pastors are not reluctant to talk about mental illness because they do not understand it. Sixty percent of pastors offer counseling services to people with mental illnesses, but 22 percent of them do not talk about mental health because it takes too much time and resources. Most churches (68%) maintain lists of local mental health resources. However, few church families (28%) are aware that those resources exist.


Here’s the kicker: one quarter (23%) of pastors struggle with mental illness, which is on par with the national average of people that struggle with mental illness. According to Stetzer, “If you reveal your struggle with mental illness as a pastor, it’s going to limit your opportunities.”

Some suggestions for churches:
1. Talk about mental illness. From the pulpit; in small groups everywhere. Don’t be afraid to discuss it as a spiritual illness. Many of our fathers in the faith struggled with mental illnesses at some point.

2. Make resources available. This means not only developing a resource list of mental health professionals and mental health organizations, but openly publicizing the list. Since mental health includes spiritual health, churches need to support their members and point them in a helpful direction.

3. Get help for leaders. Pastors need help addressing mental health issues too. Churches, or at least the executive leaders, need to understand mental health and encourage transparency and acceptance of its leaders. Pastors can lead by example in helping churches respond to mental illness in healthy ways.

The full research report can be be dowloaded here.


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 Young Adult Suicide: Signs and Prevention

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The Widening Racial Gap Between Christian Whites and Blacks

There is a growing gap in how black and white Christians view race, according to the Portraits of American Life Study, which surveyed 1300 people in 2006 and 2012.


The chief findings were as follows:

1. More white than black Christians believe that an effective way to improve race relations is to stop talking about it. In 2012, 69% of whites and 34% of blacks agreed with this solution. The percentage for both races increased between 2006 and 2012, but the percentage of whites increased more. Further, the majority of whites said that not talking about race was effective, but only a minority of black Christians thought so.

2. More white than black Christians believe that it is okay for races to be separate but have equal opportunity. The percentage of whites that agreed with this view rose from 20% to 34% between 2006 and 2012. In contrast, the percentage of black Christians that agreed with this statement fell from 19% to 16% during the same time frame.

3. More black Christians than white Christians think about their race daily. Blacks that thought about their race daily rose from 36% in 2006 to 41% in 2012, while the percentage of white Christians that thought about their race during the same time frame only rose from 11% to 13%.

4. More black Christians than white Christians think they have been treated unfairly because of their race. In 2012, the difference was 43% versus 16%, respectively. The percentage of black Christians that thought this way rose 13 percentage points from 2006 and 2012. White Christians increased by 5 percent during the same time period.

What can we infer from these data?

  • There is a widening gap between the way white and black Christians view their race. Black Christians seemed to hold an increasingly negative view of their race with regard to how often they think about being black and how they are unfairly treated. White Christians that thought these ways increased too, but not as much as blacks.
  • Blacks and whites have different ideas to resolve racial issues. Besides the already mentioned disparities between races, there is also a difference in opinion on how much the government should be involved in raising people’s standard of living. Fewer white Christians in 2012 thought the government should do more to increase people’s standard of living than in 2006 (42% to 21%); but the percentage rose for black Christians during the same time frame (68% to 84%).

Jesus modeled acceptance of all races. For example, in John 4, Jesus freely had a conversation with a Samaritan woman, which greatly surprised his disciples. This is the example we should follow in our lives and in our churches. Followers of Jesus can and should lead the way in equal treatment of all people.

What else can you infer from this study?


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Minority Report: Churches Challenged by Majority Minority

Growth of African-American Church Plants

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