Monday, May 14, 2012

The Decline of Christianity in the Next Generation

In the past three years, a number of articles have been published about the decline of Christianity in America. CNN published the results of a March 9, 2009, poll that concluded, “America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago.” The article went on to explain, “Seventy-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was 86 percent.” That is a drop of more than 10 percent in only twenty years.

Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis, an organization that promotes a biblical view of creation, is concerned about how few young adults there are in many of the churches where he speaks. He enlisted America’s Research Group to study why young people were leaving the church. Based on the results of the study, Ham wrote a book entitled Already Gone. The results of the survey are shocking: “95 percent of 20 to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55 percent went to church during high school. And by college, only 11 percent were still attending church.”  Ham concluded, “The next generation of believers is draining from the churches, and it causes me great personal and professional concern.”

After studying the influence of Christianity in American society, Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, concluded, “While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago.”

Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, has written extensively about this issue as well. Referring to the decreasing number of young believers, Stetzer says, “This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry.”  There is no arguing that the statistics reveal that fewer young adults identify with the Christian religion now than ever before. If such trends continue unchecked, the organized Christian church will soon find itself in serious trouble.

Though the numbers reveal a decline of Christianity at the national level, this does not mean that every church in every town or area is facing imminent closure. A number of bright spots on the horizon demonstrate that churches can grow in the current spiritual climate. Some of the most-encouraging examples are found in the most unlikely places. Vermont is a great example of a place where the next generation is being reached despite all the statistics that make it seem improbable. In my next post, I will share examples of what God is doing in Vermont that seem to defy all the national trends.
Adapted from Terry Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.


  1. Dear Dr. Dorsett,

    Thank you for the information. I plan to obtain a copy of your book and read more of what you have to say.

    David Fleeger

  2. Just because many young and not so young are leaving the "institutional Church" does not mean that all of them have lost faith. It just means that faith will look different in the future, possibly more home fellowships, less denominational ties.

  3. Chris Beltrami, Barre, VtMay 16, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    there appears to be a bit of an urgency and we have a lot of work to do there is a hope in Christ

  4. David,
    Glad you are going to get a copy of the book. Hope it will be a blessing.

  5. Dave Russell,
    I agree that just because they are leaving certain types of churches does not mean they are all giving up on Jesus compeletely. I will talk more about this in future blog posts. Looking forward to your input.

  6. Chris,
    YES, we have so much work to do!!!!
    All of the Lord's soldiers need to show up for duty. Spread the word that ALL LEAVES ARE CANCELLED, it's time to work!