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Living faith

William Tamulonis

Created date

December 25th, 2012

Are traditional religious institutions one generation away from extinction? Recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that 1 in 5 Americans now describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular. The proportion of the nones is at an all-time high and is particularly concentrated in the under-30 generation referred to as the Millennials the children of the Baby Boomers and grandchildren of the Silent and GI Generations. Some dismiss the results as nothing new. Others are alarmed because of the rapid growth rate and unique cultural context that may mean fewer will ever return to their faith tradition. Factors include unprecedented access to a diversity of ideas and values, the postponement of marriage, a backlash from the political culture wars, the example set by Baby Boomer parents (the first generation to drop out of organized religion in large numbers), and the general decline of Americans confidence in nearly all institutions.

New roads to faith?

While more young people are losing faith in the institutions of their parents, most are maintaining their faith in God and are looking for new ways to practice it and connect it to their world. Researcher David Kinnaman calls them Nomads and Exiles, who speak of their experiences with places of worship in negative tones such as, It is supposed to be meaningful, but it feels like a boring obligation and We did not leave the church, but rather, the church left us. Experts hoping to reverse the trend offer a variety of solutions, most of which involve believers in the elder generations developing a more relational, mentoring approach to the younger generation. It starts by empathizing with their questions about faith, not judging them for doubting or offering canned answers. It means helping young people connect Saturday or Sunday to Monday by coming alongside as they explore their calling and vocation. It entails offering wisdom to help them discern God and truth amid the 34 gigabytes of information they consume every day through the screens of their phones, computers, and TVs. Clearly, traditional faith communities need fresh approaches to win back the young exiles. Please share your experiences with me by writing to 703 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville, MD 21228, or emailing