The Millennial generation (born 1980 or later) has a more positive view than any other generation on every societal institution except church and religious organizations. Compared to older generations, Millennials have a more favorable opinion on the positive effects of small and large businesses, financial institutions, labor unions, the energy industry, national news media, colleges and universities, and the entertainment industry. Millennials’ rating of most types of institutions has grown more favorable in the time between the last poll on the subject in 2010 and Pew Research’s most current poll in 2015.
Only two institutions received a more negative rating by Millennials in 2015 than in 2010 – the news media (still regarded more favorably than by other generations), and the church and religious organizations.
In 2010, 73% of Millennials said churches and religious institutions have a positive effect on the way things are going in America. Now, only 55% of Millennials agree with that statement. The change means Millennials have gone from polling with an opinion of the church eight points higher than any other generation to polling six points lower than any other.
But why? What has caused this big shift in young people’s attitudes about the church in only a five-year period? Joe Carter, an editor for The Gospel Coalition, both asks and answers the question. He believes it has to do with gay rights and same-sex marriage. Within five years, Millennials’ support of same-same marriage increased from 53% to 70%. Black Protestants increased their support by only 5% and white evangelicals by only 4%.
“On this issue there remains a … nearly unbridgeable chasm with Millennials on one side and black Protestants and white evangelicals on the other,” Carter explained. “It’s not surprising, then, that Millennials—as a whole—have a less positive view of churches since on this issue we are considered to be on the ‘wrong side of history.’”
Carter also asks: So what exactly does this mean for Christians, and should we be concerned? At this point, he believes that the poll results point to nothing new for Christians because we have seen the threat of same-sex marriage coming for a while now.
“In fact, we should not take too seriously any single poll or survey (they are, after all, just pseudoevents),” Carter writes. “But we should consider the trend line as potentially revealing.”
And continue to attempt to respond biblically to homosexuals – perhaps with even more truth and even greater compassion – in an effort to show them the beauty of Christ and His ways.
Carter believes the findings should prompt the church to be better prepared in the near future for similar “twists” on societal issues and society’s acceptance – or rejection – of the church.
You can read Carter’s article in its entirety here.
And you can be encouraged by checking out AFA’s new ministry to Millennials at EngageMagazine.net. Engage was created by a group of 20-somethings who share a common faith in Jesus Christ. It exists to provide perspective on culture through the eyes of a biblical worldview, showing how that worldview intersects with culture and engages it.
The website houses a number of articles on a variety of topics including family, money, and entertainment. The ministry recently launched a new podcast. You can listen to it here.