Barna Measures PostChristian: Criteria

Barna Measures PostChristian: Criteria April 17, 2013

From David Kinnaman:

The level of irreligion in America depends on how you measure it. And the vitality of faith in America is much more than simply how people label themselves. Barna Group tracks the following 15 metrics related to faith, which speak to the lack of Christian identity, belief and practice.

post-Christian = meet at least 60% of the following 15 factors (9 or more factors)
highly post-Christian = meet at least 80% of the following 15 factors (12 or more factors)

1. do not believe in God
2. identify as atheist or agnostic
3. disagree that faith is important in their lives
4. have not prayed to God (in the last year)
5. have never made a commitment to Jesus
6. disagree the Bible is accurate
7. have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
8. have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
9. agree that Jesus committed sins
10. do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”

11. have not read the Bible (in the last week)
12. have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
13. have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
14. have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
15. do not participate in a house church (in the last year)

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  • I will again say that I am very skeptical of Barna these days.

    A couple things that seem odd to me. One is the two questions about small group and Sunday school. In general, churches do one or the other. But in figuring their percentages they are both included. So if a person is involved in a small group, but not a Sunday school class then they get a knock against them as being ‘post-christian’. Then there is the problem of only counting the last week. My small group meets 3 times a month. So even I am regular attender I have a 25% chance (if I answer truthfully) of being counted as post Christian on this measurement.

    Another problem is that the volunteer question is only at church. It does not ask if you volunteer at a local Christian ministry or church. (And again the question is in the last week. Those that volunteer monthly would not be counted, even if they are regular volunteers.)

    And why would you ask non-Christians if it is important to share your faith?

    Which leads me to the problem that most of the people I have seen share this have assumed that these percentages are based on Christians, but they are based on all US adults.

  • Steve Bonesho

    Missing the mark on many levels-
    5 and 10 imply particular theological traditions
    6 implies a particular hermeneutic
    11 suggests literacy as essential
    7, 8, 12, 13 suggest conventional congregational life as normative for faith

  • Jeremy

    I’m beginning to really dislike Barna. It seems they’ve abandoned all pretense of neutrality. The only denomination I know of that does “sunday school” for adults is the SBC. The “in the last week” questions are loaded and a lot of very committed, conservative Christians would have to answer no multiple times a year.

  • Shouldn’t we just ask, “Are you currently pursuing discipleship of Jesus?”

    What else does the church need to know?

  • Yeah, I think it’s weird that “do not participate in a house church” is a mark of post-Christianity. What if you faithfully attend a regular church?

    And, as others have pointed out, not every denomination has Sunday school for adults or religious small groups. And even with those that do, there could be all kinds of reasons that Sunday School or small group meetings don’t happen every single week of the year.

  • RJS

    I think some people are misunderstanding this list. By looking at a number of factors – and saying that post Christian means meeting at least 9 of them aren’t they trying to avoid tight definitions?

    I meet five of the criteria – but that means that I am classified as Christian not post Christian.
    I would have to meet at least four more to be classified as post Christian.

    As almost no one attends Sunday School, a small group, a church and a house church … almost everyone will meet some of the criteria … but I don’t think that is the point.

  • @RJS, but my concern is that Barna is creating this type of measurement, and the arbitrary nature of 9 of 15 not to really show a fundamental change (there is not data that this is being compared to in the past when the US was supposed to be a Christian country for instance), but that Barna is trying to prove sell product (which they do) to help churches minister in a ‘post-christian’ world.

    So to take your example, an active Christian will likely attend one, but not all three of Sunday School, Small Group, or House church. So right off the bat, an active Christian will have 13 of the 15. That same Christian volunteers weekly at a soup Kitchen and monthly in their church nursery. So they get lose another point.

    Now I agree the rest are a bit harder to explain away. But There are years I have not given to my church (because I was devoting my giving to friends that were serving overseas). And while I would be ok with the word accurate, we had a discussion about Barna’s use of inerrant earlier. So as someone that has a seminary degree, is an active church member and been a part of a church for most of my life, I could get to 10 fairly easily. And if I happened to have a week where I was sick and didn’t go to small group, then I am at 9 and suddenly post Christian.

  • Jean

    There are 168 hours in a week and a single NFL game lasts 3-1/2 hours. I don’t know why anyone would argue with the criteria of meeting together for Worship, Sunday School, and one or more small groups, along with volunteering, service, etc. If your church doesn’t offer these opportunities, then get them started. Do we love living in His Kingdom? We are stewards of our time, as well as our money.

  • I have to agree with the consensus of the comments that Barna is way off base in his methodology here. Too many of these are not essentials of being a Christian. Perhaps it should be called a survey on post-evangelicalism?

  • Norman

    I approach these results as a scientist not a theologian or pastor. The comments that suggest you would fall into post christian because your small group meets 3 of 4 weeks (any other such comparison) demonstrates that you do not understand simple statistics and want to use your false conclusion to support your negative attitude to the Barns Group. If your statement had any validity then your Christianity is defined by external parameters and you adhere to a mechanical measurement of religion, i.e. you do x,y and z and your are a christian. How many of you believe this? I would suggest none but your comments lead a reader to suspect you are judging the post-christian metric by a very rigid set of criteria. I read these metrics and concluded I am well within the Christian category while my son who fails to meet at least 9 of the metrics is in the post-christian category. I am not defending my son. He truly dose not meet the 9 by not doing any one of them at any time of a year.