An article worth pondering from The Living Church

Two cultural realities inform the way many clergy and lay leaders are thinking about church these days. First, it is fairly clear that there has been a decrease in younger people attending church.

The Pew Research Center published a report recently detailing the median ages for many Christian denominations in the United States (and for other religions as well); the median age for Episcopalians is 56. Such a decrease has come at a time when millennials have officially surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation.

But is this transition visible in the turnover of leadership in our parishes? While many factors contribute to the decline of younger worshipers, it is symptomatic of a larger failure of the Church to root parishioners in a life of discipleship and a life of mission, which are ultimately funded and fueled by a robust life of worship and prayer — an encounter with the Triune God.

Second, and quite amazingly, millennials have shown greater interest in traditional forms of worship. Many writers have commented on this trend, but an article in The American Conservative highlights these concurrent realities in the following way:

America’s youth are leaving churches in droves. One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll, and 55 percent of those unaffiliated youth once had a religious identification when they were younger. Yet amidst this exodus, some church leaders have identified another movement as cause for hope: rather than abandoning Christianity, some young people are joining more traditional, liturgical denominations—notably the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox branches of the faith. This trend is deeper than denominational waffling: it’s a search for meaning that goes to the heart of our postmodern age.

One does wonder if hard data will substantiate such claims in the long run, but in the short term, plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that many young people are longing for a greater sense of transcendence in their faith and piety than what may be found in services with less vintage than Pixar films. Indeed, I’ve found this to be true in my own interactions with college students. We live in a frenetic age in which much about our daily existence is in constant flux, and therefore I believe many students long for a piety that does not ride the waves of cultural and theological faddism; many long for a piety that transcends the “cultural now,” and thereby provides a place of solace and quiet in a world of noise.

read the full article here

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