Only 8 percent of millenials say church 'out of date'

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
The greatest reasons young adults attributed to non-attendance at church included finding God elsewhere and a lack of personal relevance. |

VENTURA, Calif. (Christian Examiner) -- It is no secret millennials are absent from today's churches. A new research study gives insight about why, and the reasons include that God is absent too.

A Barna survey released last week questioned 843 adults between 18 - 29  years old about whether church attendance was important to them.

Responses were mixed with 30 perrcent saying worship was "not at all important" and another 30 percent claiming attendance "is very important" and 40 percent staking a position somewhere in between.

Of the 30 percent who said worship was not important, 31 percent pointed to boredom as the cause, 35 percent said services were not relevant, and 39 percent claimed they "find God elsewhere." About 20 percent said "it feels like God is missing from church."

Respondents could choose multiple answers, so totals exceed 100 percent.

A surprisingly low 8 percent said church is "out of date" and Barna cautioned against overselling church, saying millennials are "hyperaware and deeply suspicious of the intersection of church and consumer culture." Barna described them as "avid consumers" who also have a sense that church "should be different somehow" and not just selling "spiritual goods" in a "religious services industry."

Among all millennials, there was a dichotomy on almost every position:

-- About two-thirds (66 percent) said churchgoers were hypocritical, but almost an equal amount (65 percent) said "church is a place to find answers to live a meaningful life."

-- Fewer than half (46 percent) felt churchgoers are "tolerant of those with different beliefs," but right at half (49 percent) said "I can be myself at church."

-- While 44 percent said church felt like "an exclusive club," 54 percent said church is "relevant for my life."

Despite these extremes among the responses by millennials, Barna said there are some common beliefs that unite them.

"The fact remains that eight out of 10 young adults say growing closer to or learning about God are the two most important reasons to attend church," according to Clint Jenkin, VP of Research at Barna Group.

"And with all the other options open to millennials," he said, "it's safe to conclude that, when they show up at church for a worship or learning opportunity, they do so hoping there is Someone present to worship or learn about."