Aside from the cottage industry of Christian publishers who crank out lots and lots of books about maintaining church numbers, growing healthy churches, and diversifying aging congregations, it seems that the next big trend will be how to “reach out” to Latinos/as.
Two issues here will be most interesting to watch. One will be, with the popularity of Pope Francis in Latin American and among U.S. Latinos/as, will that stem the long-standing tide of Latinos/as leaving the Church? The other will be broadly, what can about the “nones?” What is going to happen to those who’ve left all branches of Christianity and can there be anything done to get them back?
A couple of recent works have tackled this issue on a local and national level in terms of Catholicism. One excellent special report about Catholics in Chicago.
The loss of Catholicism in its traditional strongholds of the big cities across the U.S. will be quite revolutionary for the Church in the coming years.
The other work, a more in-depth and scholarly work from noted sociologist of religion, Christian Smith, makes some common sense observations about how people maintain faith. Smith followed 700 Catholic young people and found the following: in order to remain in the Catholic Church, teens needed the following: 1) strong bonds with religiously committed friends and family 2) internalize their beliefs and 3) faith internalized had to be practiced in continuous patterns that diminished the secular influences of their surroundings and established ongoing Catholic practices and values.