On the face of it this piece of research would indicate that Youth Ministry has failed. 70% of young people in the UK are non religious. For all the Generations X, Y and Millenial. None matters, in a secular, or even post secular world – non religious observance is rife. Even Spirituality is relatively scarce.
This piece of research was circulated in the media today, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/21/christianity-non-christian-europe-young-people-survey-religion,
The Headlines from the Data were, for the UK as follows:
Remember: Young people are defined as 15-29 year olds, (not the young people of youthwork of under 18’s)
70% of young people identify as non religious
6% as non christian religion
24% as Christian religion, 7% of these anglican,
59% of young people do not regularly attend religious services, the UK is 4th highest with this number.
The UK however only has the 9th least praying young people for the whole of europe. (65%)
The report compiler said that :
The figures are published in a report, Europe’s Young Adults and Religion, by Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London. They are based on data from the European social survey 2014-16.
Religion was “moribund”, he said. “With some notable exceptions, young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practising religion.”
The trajectory was likely to become more marked. “Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good – or at least for the next 100 years,” Bullivant said.
But there were significant variations, he said. “Countries that are next door to one another, with similar cultural backgrounds and histories, have wildly different religious profiles.”
Today Theos published its own comment on the data here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2018/04/06/generation-noreligion-what-the-data-really-shows-about-youth-religiosity?platform=hootsuite
So – what do we make of all this then?
I cant help think that for quite a while most of this is obvious. Even the most large youth groups in churches across the UK might only connect with 10% of the young people population of a town or city, maybe higher in a village, but that leaves well over 90% of young people not connected. One message from these statistics, is that the way of trying to evangelise, be relevant or practice faith in the UK over the last 50 years has barely made any difference. We have one of the lowest proportion of religious observance in 15-29’s in western europe.
Every trick in the book may have been tried to ‘reach’ young people, but a different tack might be, that faith has not been made meaningful, challenging enough, it is less a dynamic movement for social and spiritual transformation, than an organisation content with its laurels, and young people – especially young people with ideals and a desire to change the world, are no more likely to join the church to do this, than sign up to greenpeace. But that might be what I think too. We know that faith is transferred predominately through parents, (but that is largely young people in the church already, to stop them leaving) – the challenge is that theres 70% of young people not involved in religious services.
I would have been in interested to know in the data what the figures were for the under 15’s and what the differences are. I guess in a way from 15 many young people have their own choice about whether they attend church or not – rather than being dragged by their parents. It is worth thinking then about what churches who kept young people beyond the age of 15 looked like, when fuller youth institute did the research; this is what they found on churches who kept 15 year olds, the report is on this previous article: https://wp.me/p2Az40-NP
If nothing else, this data announced today should be a wake up call, to churches and affiliations not doing anything positive, innovative or meaningful with young people, that they should. But also that there is still plenty of young people to go around right across the UK who have no connection with a church. The challenge might be finding them, the challenge might be connecting in a meaningful way, the challenge is making faith dangerous and meaningful in risk adverse conforming churches.
Somehow, we need to make the christian faith something worth believing in.
And make Discipleship the active, prophetic, dangerous yet life and human affirming thing it is meant to be – challenging the very conformity that churches gravitationally pull towards. Jesus is more disruptive than that.
Richard Passmore on Facebook today saidd – we need a new way of being christian, on the back of the research. Id say we need to provide more spaces for an action orientated, dangerous discipleship to begin.
What do you think?