With 35 million youths raised in Christian families projected to disaffiliate from Christianity by the year 2050, youth ministry leader Greg Stier believes churches can’t settle for simply slowing down the bleeding.
“How about not just slowing down the bleeding, what if there was a revival that flipped those stats?” he asked. “That is what we are praying for. How do we flip the switch?”
The 131-page report, titled The Great Opportunity, is based on reviews of different reports and surveys examining millennial attitudes toward religion and relies most heavily on four major research efforts.
The report was completed in collaboration between Pinetops Foundation and The Veritas Forum.
According to the report’s authors and to Greg Stier, who founded the national youth ministry organization Dare 2 Share and has written several books on the topic, the massive disaffiliation trend over the next 30 years will represent the largest missional opportunity in U.S. history.
But in order to respond to the trend, Stier believes that churches need to reimagine the way they do youth ministry.
“If you were to go back to the retention rate of Gen X from 20 years ago, that would slow down [disaffiliation] to 20 million young people,” Stier told The Christian Post. “That’s more than the First and Second Great Awakenings and all the Azuza Street Revival and all of Billy Graham’s converts combined.”
The report relies on research efforts like Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study (2007-2014), the Baylor Religion Survey (2007 to 2011), a September 2016 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Gallup Annual Religion Surveys (1992-2016).
“Based on those primary data sources, we built out religious switching scenarios for the next 30 years, using the most up-to-date switching and attitudinal data, harmonizing assumptions across primary data sources,” the report explains.
“Our projections are based on modeling techniques akin to what one might use in a professional context for market forecasts. They are certain to diverge over time from reality, and we have called out our assumptions wherever we can.”
The report uses compiled data to project the decline in Christianity for three different scenarios: a “base case” (if trends continue in line with how they are), “worst-case scenario” (if trends worsen) and a “better case scenario” (if trends improve to Generation X rates).
The report estimates through its “base case” scenario that as many as 35 million youths raised in the Christian homes will disaffiliate from the faith by 2050.
Additionally, Christianity in America will make up just 59 percent of the country’s population by 2050, compared to 73 percent today. Meanwhile, the “base case” indicates that the population of the religiously unaffiliated will double to 30 percent of the total population in 2050.
Taking into account a “worst-case scenario,” the report projects that as many as 42 million people raised in Christian homes will disaffiliate from Christianity by 2050 while the Christian population will decrease to 54 percent and the unaffiliated population will increase to 35 percent.
Taking into account a “better-case scenario,” the report estimates that 26 million people raised in Christian families will disaffiliate by 2050. Then, Christians will comprise 64 percent of the nation’s population by 2050.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith