It is reported millennials are leaving evangelical churches and joining Anglican, Orthodox and the Catholic Churches across America. So, why the shift?
Some speculate it is the result of a generation tired of attending “PowerPoint churches” where pastors try too hard to be cool. Their pastoral uniform appears predictable at best, complete with skinny jeans, a V-neck t-shirt, and hipster glasses. Others cite unease with fog machines used during worship to create a concert-like experience for church attendees. Aside from the superficial reasons, it seems many agree millennials are hungering for stability, tradition and liturgy over signs of modernity.
In 2007, respondents to a Pew Research Poll claimed that 16.1% were unaffiliated with any church. By 2014, that number had climbed to 22.8% of respondents. In the latest poll, 35% of millennials do not claim any religious affiliation (claiming they are either agnostic, atheist or “nothing in particular”). Furthermore, in 2007, 78.4% claimed Christianity as their religion; today that number has dropped to 70.6% of the population.
It is encouraging to remember the United States remains the most Christian nation in the world. After all, 7 out of 10 Americans claim some to follow some form of Christianity. Even better, two-out-of-three Americans believe Jesus was the Son of God and rose from the dead. Yet, it is important to note that overall, older generations of Christians are not effectively passing on their faith to the next generation.
However, for those who are young and looking for a new church – they seem to be looking for a church grounded in tradition. In a 2010 address to the Anglican Congress, Archbishop Robert Duncan put a name to it and called it “Anglican fever,” much to the delight of attendees. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) officially began in 2009, after a split with the Episcopal Church over more liberal theology. Perhaps younger generations are attracted to Anglicanism for its sense of authenticity. After all, many Anglican churches stood up for their beliefs and lost their buildings as a result.
It appears young people are appreciating the sacraments and interactive liturgical prayers offered in more traditional churches. Many speculate millennials are attracted to Orthodox churches because they offer a clear set of beliefs, doctrine and dogma about what it means to live a full Christian life. It is also worth noting that there simply is not a plethora of data available to support this widely reported trend among Christians.
Whatever the cause of these ruminations – next time a young person asks for a church recommendation – consider directing them towards a church with greater orthodoxy – it may be just what they are looking for.