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According to a study published by the Pew Research Center in October 2016, a higher percentage of American Millennials were raised in interfaith homes than in prototypical American Protestant homes. I’m not sure how I missed writing about this report back then, but it probably had something to do with my 12 hours of seminary and full time job.
Look at the far right column in the table below. I have put a yellow box around the relevant column and pointed out the relevant numbers for you:
This table tells us a lot. Here’s a bit of a breakdown of some of the more relevant tidbits from this table I noticed:
To be fair, 27% and 24% aren’t too far apart, but regardless, the idea that Millennials are being raised in multi-faith homes at approximately the same rate as Millennials raised in Protestant homes is pretty fascinating.
Further, here is another chart depicting some of the relevant data. It’s less boring and more fun because it sorta has a picture:
As it pertains to Millennials, perhaps the most interesting part of this depiction of the data is that it shows us that 34% of Americans grew up in a home in which both parents were Protestant. This means that Millennials are 10 percentage points behind the national average of people who grew up in two-parent, Protestant homes.
There are a number of conclusions one could draw from this. I think the most prevalent thing you have to see is this: when trying to reach Millennials in your community, it is no longer safe to assume they have a Christian background. We Christians must lower our expectations about our communities’ understanding of Christian culture and concepts.
As Millennials (and Gen Zers) show that America is becoming less Christian, we have to be careful about saying things like, “Well you all know the story of David and Goliath.” No! People in your congregation or the kid you’re talking to in the coffee shop may legitimately not know the story of David and Goliath.
Further, I think American Christians have to find a healthy way to accept people who believe different than them without endorsing faiths other than Christianity. As you work to reach Millennials or others in your community who adhere to a different faith (or no faith at all) it is important to communicate that, while you do not believe the same way they do, you accept them and love them as a human being.
I could write a lot more about this, but I have to stop here.
America is becoming less Christian, and Christians need to learn how to reach their communities in a post-Christian context.