Young Creatives Are Fleeing Evangelicalism

The Barna Group* has a new study out, and it shows that the future is bleak for the evangelical church in America. That’s because young, creative evangelicals are leaving the church in droves:

The results of a five-year study of the Millennial Generation—people born between 1982 and 1993—are in. Thanks to the Barna Group, a 28-year-old, California-based, Christian research firm, we now know that conservative evangelical churches are losing formerly–affiliated “young creatives:” Actors, artists, biologists, designers, mathematicians, medical students, musicians, and writers.

Some leave because they oppose the church’s doctrinal stance. Others are turned off by its hostility to science, and still others reject the limitations placed on permissible sexual activity. The report cites the tension felt by young adults who find it difficult—if not impossible—to remain “sexually pure,” especially since most heterosexuals don’t marry until their mid-to-late twenties. [READ THE REST]

This comes as no surprise. As I wrote last week, a significant impetus for the birth of the emergent church movement was to find solidarity with cultural creatives. At least at Solomon’s Porch, we’ve been successful at that.

HT: Rollie

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*I am always suspicious of research from the Barna Group. George Barna is not a neutral, disinterested pollster. He is an activist partisan who has written many books; he’s advocated for the demise of traditional churches and the rise of house churches; and he recently endorsed Newt Gingrich for president. He is the FOX News of polling; that doesn’t mean that he’s not accurate, it just means that he’s not neutral.

  • james

    Love the footnote. Barna is helpful but also seems to have an agenda to discredit traditional churches. I cannot believe he endorsed Newt. As a neighbor from Canada i hope that this does not happen.

    • http://www.therenaissancechristian.com Charles

      ditto! I wish more people would include this footnote when quoting Barna’s latest “research.”

  • Ric Shewell

    Interesting that you emphasized the creativity of those leaving the evangelical churches, where Bader placed most of the emphasis on more social issues. She can’t help bringing up abortion and homosexuality. Not having the actual Barna study in front of me, is the reason for the young adult exodus as much about these social issues as Bader made it out to be?

  • Brian

    2 things:

    1. Glad you included the footnote…I would have commented on this had you not.

    2. I have a “young creative” friend who has left the church and I’m pretty sure he calls himself an atheist these days. The funny thing is, the “Christianity” he rails against on his social media sites represents the tiniest minority of evangelicalism…nevermind Christendom. (And heck, some evangelicals wouldn’t call this minority group ‘evangelicals’.) What’s more, it seems that very few of his young friends are able to recognize this and thus all of Christendom gets painted as ultra-conservative fundies.

  • http://thewearypilgrim.typepad.com ron cole

    Tony you know what really bothers me by Barna, and I’ll throw in Kinaman too. Is that the assumption is because young people are leaving the church in general is that they are loosing their faith…becoming atheists and agnostics. I find a lot of young people are retaining a faith profoundly centered in Jesus…in which they orbit a diverse and complex life around. Maybe this is sort of a post post modern/ post emerging church…it will even be more stealth and far harder to track for the likes of Barna. I find Barna and Kinaman still track fairly close to the grid of the church…still the inside group after all both are still embedded in ” church ” after all that is their market. No one really wants to know, or really cares what’s happening on the extreme fringe. But I think if we moved our stethoscope over their we would find a living pulse of something very UN-christian ( as in undefined )…but never the less is faith.

    • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve Knight

      If there was a “Like” button on individual comments, I’d be “Like”-ing this one. Good thoughts, Ron! *Like*

  • http://charlieschurchofchrist.wordpress.com Charlie’s Church of Christ

    Oddly enough last night I scanned my book shelf wh I had three books that Barna has co-authored, which caused me to remember Tony, in passing, mentioning he’s not a fan of his work. So finding the answer today was quite convenient.

    A bias is a big deal when it comes to research, do you think there is an obvious one with his work or do you think he’s able to remain professional and objective? I have to admit if he’s going to have a bias I don’t mind one bent toward home churches, but nonetheless a bias is troublesome.

  • Matt Edwards

    I wish we could see the research of how many creatives in their mid-thirties are “coming back to church” after they get married and have kids. I suspect it’s a good portion of those who leave in their early twenties.

    • Frank

      Indeed it is. Maturity has a way of bringing children back into the fold.

      • JH

        Hasnt happened so far… Actually the statistics is quite clear on this few returns. And yes, I think that not coming back is showing that they have matured.

  • Justin F

    My wife and I left Southern Baptist Churches by default when we moved to central IL, they just didn’t have anything in this area. But now having been out of the culture and looking back in, I have no desire to ever return. Part of the reasons are cited above anti-science, anti-questioning, anti-postmodern (as if the bible was written in modern times), oh yeah and the constant verbal beatings I take any time I comment on SBC affliated blogs. I still love my SBC friends, and I know a lot of leaders in the SBC who I have a lot of respect for. But overall I have no desire to join back with the SBC institution.

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  • hink

    “As I wrote last week, a significant impetus for the birth of the emergent church movement was to find solidarity with cultural creatives. At least at Solomon’s Porch, we’ve been successful at that.”

    How would one or you define “success” with this? I am not trying to be critical, I am just curious to the metric/observational method Solomon’s Porch uses to define the results they are witnessing. Besides the communion reference, what other areas has Solomon’s Porch ventured in to reach out to cultural creatives?

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      No, we haven’t “reached out” to artists, per se. But the high number of artists in our community bespeaks an attraction that they find. In fact, I’ve had other pastors tell me how envious they are of this aspect of our church.

  • http://www.tabledallas.org/ Nathan Hill

    Thanks for the comment about Barna not being biased. Not sure what research is completely objective, but on the other hand, I have found resources like unChristian very helpful even in mainline settings to open up the conversation about what young people think about the church. It does give hard data that is useful, though it still flies over the head of a lot of church people.

    Thanks for the link – more things to think about!

  • Ken S

    Maybe Christianity should be dispensed similar to the Build A Bear thing for kids. Just fashion it the way you like it.

    Idolatry has always been a serious problem.

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