Age and Religious Identity in America

xW_eWvG7Today’s guest post comes to us from Michael Lipka, a Senior Editor at Pew Research Center.

The U.S. religious landscape is already in the midst of some dramatic changes when it comes to the growth or decline of people with certain religious identities. And while it is impossible to predict exactly how that landscape will shift in the future, some key demographic factors — particularly age — can provide a clue as to how things might unfold in the coming decades.

For example, religious groups whose members are younger may be more likely to grow, not only because those members will live longer, but also because more of them are still of childbearing age (and thus have a greater chance of passing on their religion to their descendants).

With this in mind, some of the groups that have already been growing in recent years may be primed for continued growth. This includes people with no religious affiliation: The median age of adults who say their religion is “nothing in particular” is 38, while for atheists and agnostics it is 34.

Overall, these three groups together (often called religious “nones”) have a median age of 36 – fully a decade younger than the median age of U.S. adults overall (46), according to data from our 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

Members of some non-Christian faiths also are very young – U.S. Muslims and Hindus in the survey each have a median age of 33. About four-in-ten Muslim adults in the U.S. are under the age of 30, and nine-in-ten Hindu adults are under 50.

At the other end of the spectrum, members of two Presbyterian denominations are among the oldest of the 30 religious groups we were able to analyze, which include Protestant denominations, other religious groups and the three categories of people who are religiously unaffiliated. The median age of adults who identify with the Presbyterian Church in America (an evangelical denomination) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (a mainline denomination) is 59 for each group, identical to the median for members of the mainline United Church of Christ.

Only about one-in-ten adults in these denominations are under the age of 30; the same is true of Anglicans, United Methodists and Episcopalians and members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Mormons, Orthodox Christians and Seventh-day Adventists, meanwhile, are relatively young compared with most other Christian groups.

Of course, age is not the only factor in future growth patterns of religious groups, meaning that younger groups may not necessarily grow (and older groups may not shrink) as a share of the population. Fertility rates, religious switching, immigration and other factors also come into play.

Click here to read the entire article.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

Nelson SearcyEvangelism, Growth Barriers, Preaching, Strategy