It’s no secret that millennials are less likely to participate in organized religious services that other generations. But a new Pew Research Center report shows that their faith in religious institutions has taken a dive these past five years.
“Younger generations,” said the Pew report, “tend to have more positive views than their elders of a number of institutions that play a big part in American society. But for some institutions — such as churches — millennials’ opinions have become markedly more negative. Since 2010, millennials’ rating of churches and other religious organizations has dipped 18 percentage points.”
In 2010, 73 percent of millennials said churches and religious organizations had a “positive effect on the way things are going in this country,” the report said. That was the highest percentage among all the generations polled at that time.
That number now has fallen to 55 percent today, the lowest of all generations.
As the Pew report also noted, “Views among older generations have changed little over this time period. As a result, older generations are now more likely than millennials — who are much less likely than their elders to be religious — to view religious organizations positively.”
Naturally many in the mainstream media enjoy poking fun at all of this. Some say that most religious institutions take a firm stance against marriage equality, see women as inferior, have scandal after scandal and have little or no financial disclosure, so why is anyone surprised millennials don’t like them? Those skewed views, however, overlook the fact that most religious institutions have vibrant communities of the dedicated faithful even while they’re not perfect.
The Rev. Michael Sliney, a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders, shared this observation about today’s millennials and the Catholic faith: “How to get our young professionals back into the pews? Many feel they have ‘graduated’ from Catholicism and that although it gave them a solid ethical perspective, the skill set has been learned and they have moved on.”
“Presenting Jesus Christ at the center of Catholicism in the context of a friendship and companionship is appealing,” he continued. “They all feel a sense of solitude in facing their personal struggles, and Christ can and should be a part of the solution. They want to be happy ‘now,’ ‘today’ — so reminding them that Christ will give them inner peace and authentic joy, something the world cannot give, is vital as a motivating force.”
Sliney said most millennials “also want to give back, to make an impact on culture.” The Catholic Church, he said, “needs to provide more opportunities for mission trips and social outreach as a way for these young people to discover Christ in the poor.”
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