The younger generations are losing their firm belief in God at a greater rate than older Americans, by and large, according to political science professor Dr. Ryan Burge – whose research focuses largely on "the interaction of religiosity and political behavior." He reports that the drop is steep among Millennials – ten points in the last 20 years; and precipitous among Gen Z – 16 points in the four years ending in 2018.
Burge is a pastor in the American Baptist Church and author of "The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, And Where They Are Going." He says according to data he's analyzed, those with certainty about God are aging out.
"One of the primary causes," he shares, "is actually younger people are just being born into a less religious world than [were] their parents or grandparents – and they actually only decline from there."
Burge's solution? Pastors need to make their churches a centerpiece of the community. People in the internet age, he says, are longing for a face-to-face connection.
"[Pastors] need to start thinking seriously about the church as a social organization as much, if not more so, than a religious organization," he explains to One News Now. "Because in the 21st century we're all starving for connection."
He continues: "I think churches are really well equipped and really well positioned in their communities to have things like barbeques and cookouts and potlucks and carnivals and get-togethers."
The Eastern Illinois University educator is firm that on Sunday mornings the church needs to remain bold – and orthodox – in its teaching and theology. But he advises that not every event needs to be an evangelistic crusade.
Christian apologist Dr. Alex McFarland agrees with Burge – to a point. The Church as a whole, says McFarland, should give the surrounding community multiple entry points. "But … the message of how to know Jesus must be core to everything that we're doing," he cautions.
Editor's note: "Nones" – as used in the title of Burge's book – refers to individuals who say they have no religious affiliation.