Friday, May 15, 2009

More on church polling data

On Tuesday, I posted about one person's take on recent Pew Forum data showing people switching faiths and denominations all over the place and how he let the numbers do the talking without drawing any conclusions from it.

Today, he posted his follow-up and recommendations, which I didn't think were quite so illuminating as his initial post.

I think that's because his second post is all about, "How do we fix this?" without, I think, fully articulating the "this." What is the problem, exactly?

I suppose the problem seems obvious: churches are losing members. And his additional piece of data is well-taken: "Most religious life decisions, even among those who have been open to change, has been set by age 23."

Of those who were raised Protestant (Evangelical, Mainline, and Historical Black), and are now “unaffiliated with any religious group”, 85% left their childhood faith before the age of 24. Of those who were raised Catholic and were now unaffiliated, 79% left before the age of 24. The same holds true for those coming back the other way. Of those raised unaffiliated, but who are now affiliated with a religious group, 72% left the ranks of the unaffiliated before the age of 24.

And so his primary conclusion seems perfectly reasonable: "My point is that if we are not serious and intentional about engaging our young people before they hit their teens, then we may have left it too late." I guess my issue arises from wondering whether we are engaging young people in faith to make sure they make the "right" choice, or to give them the skills to choose wisely.

There's also something a little desperate in this statement, the "it's too late!" part. Is our message so uninspiring that anyone age 13 or above would have no interest?

I also wonder: Do we have the courage to let children grow up and choose for themselves? To do our best and still see them walk away?

I'm still pondering this one. No conclusions yet.

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