If the next generation is the future – What do we know about them? What’s important for them? Who are they?
Millennials are the young adults who were born beginning around 1980 and who began to come of age around the year 2000. Google “Millennials” and you can find all kinds of fascinating information. Not surprisingly they are of great interest to those who do marketing, to political and tech types and, yes, to religious groups.
What’s this research have to say for us?
First, there are lots of Millennials. In 2015 there were more 24-year-olds in the U.S. than people of any other age (Census Bureau data). And more than half (56%) of minorities are Millennials or younger.
Millennials have fewer attachments to traditional political and religious institutions. They connect to personalized networks of friends, colleagues and affinity groups through social and digital media.
Overall, 35% of adult Millennials are religiously unaffiliated.
And Millennials’ opinions of churches and religious organizations have become markedly more negative in the past five years. Since 2010 Millennials’ ratings of churches and religious organizations have dropped 18 percentage points. Five years ago 73% said churches have a positive impact, now 55% say churches have a positive impact.
It is possible that more Millennials will begin to identify with religion as they get older, get married and have children, but previous Pew Research Center studies suggest that generational cohorts typically do not become more religiously affiliated as they get older. And some suggest they become less so.
We exist in a rapidly changing world environment that is calling into question our traditional modes of operation. How will we respond? Your Board is tasked to think about what our congregation will be like one or two generations from now and this is the main focus of our meetings. Stay tuned. We’ll be having ideas to share.
Kay is the President of the UUCA Board of Trustees