Influence

 the shape of leadership

Millennials Are Losing Faith in the Church

Barna report shows reputation slipping among young adults

Influence Magazine on April 26, 2019

The Church’s reputation is suffering among young adults, a new report from Barna Group and American Bible Society reveals. Fewer than half (47 percent) of U.S. millennials agree that churches and faith organizations do more good than harm in American society, according to the report, “State of the Bible 2019.”

About 3 in 10 (31 percent) of millennials say churches do more harm than good, and 23 percent say they don’t make much difference at all on society.

By comparison, 56 percent of Generation X, 58 percent of baby boomers, and 69 percent of elders (those currently 73 years of age or older) believe churches do more good than harm. Just 21 percent of Gen X, 23 percent of boomers, and 15 percent of elders say churches do more harm than good.

Among millennials who are reading Scripture, 11 percent say the most important Bible directive is to take care of the earth.

Higher levels of Bible engagement significantly increase the likelihood of holding favorable opinions of churches. At least three-quarters of those who frequently read the Bible believe churches do more good than harm, compared with 40 percent of those who rarely or never interact with Scripture.

Millennials are generally less Bible engaged than older generations. They are also more likely to say the Bible is oppressive toward the LGBT community (39 percent) and women (29 percent).

Among millennials who are reading Scripture, 11 percent say the most important Bible directive is to take care of the earth. This perspective is unique to millennials; just 2 percent of Gen X — and no boomers or elders — said this.

The same share of Bible-reading millennials (11 percent) identified the Great Commission as the greatest directive, while larger numbers pointed to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (38 percent) and “love your neighbor as yourself” as the greatest.

If the Church hopes to build relationships with people and point them to Jesus, it needs to demonstrate a care for them and their concerns. That may look different in 2019 as Christians reach out to millennials and the younger Generation Z.

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