The Rise of No Religious Affiliation

" The Rise Of No Religious Affiliation "
Rev. Peter E. Bauer

Back in 1987,my wife and I took a trip to Europe. I had come off of active duty with the Navy as a Chaplain: I wasn't working and so as a Christmas present we went to Paris and to Amsterdam.
Both cities were glorious with much to see and do. In Paris, we went to see the Louvre, Norte Dame, Versailles. We took the French National Train out to Chartres to see the magnificent Chartres Cathedral and to spend the day in the charming village.
In Amsterdam, we saw the RijksMuseum-the Museum Of The Netherlands , Anne Frank's House and the many churches. The interesting thing about the churches, however, is that religious services weren't being held. Instead, the churches were being utilized as concert halls for chamber orchestras.
Here in Europe, at that time, religious interest was declining, other pursuits and interests were ascending.
Increasingly, today more churches are experiencing a decrease in Sunday attendance. What use to be considered a respectable attendance of 150 people at a worship service has now dwindled down to 30 on a given Sunday.
What is happening here ? Are golf or the Sunday television magazine and political shows drawing more attention ?
Do people want to sleep in rather than getting up, getting dressed and going to church ?
Does this speak maybe to the notion that traditional expressions of divine service ( i.e. 11:00 AM Sunday service ) are no longer relevant to the needs of people ?
Recently the PEWS Research Center released a study entitled " Millennials Increasingly Are Driving The Growth Of Nones " http://www.PewResearch.Org/Fact-Tank/2015/05/12/Millenials-increasingly-are-griving-gro.
The study revealed that 30 % of adult millennials ( Americans born between 1981 and 1996 ) are religiously unaffiliated. Far more Millennials say that they have no religious affiliation compared with those who identify as evangelical Protestants (21 % ), Catholics ( 16% ) or mainline Protestants ( 11% ).
The 35% of Millennials who do not identify with a religion is double that of unaffiliated Baby Boomers ( 17 % ) and more than three times that of the Silent Generation ( 11 % ).
At one time you could hear people say, " I'm a Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a United Methodist or United Church Of Christ in describing their religious affiliation.
Now you don't hear a lot of this of this religious identification. Some people may tell you that they are more "spiritual " than they are religious. Then you will have people who will identify as attending the mega churches.
Mainline religious traditions, particularly Protestant traditions , are experiencing a period of retrenchment. More and more churches are being forced to merge in order to be sustainable. Some churches are seeking to break away from denominations due to differences in theology, doctrinal beliefs and the desire to control ownership of local church property.
Church denominations may need to look at these findings and ask themselves: Are the ways we are providing worship opportunities meeting the needs of those who are religiously unaffiliated ? Should we offer services on different days and times other than Sunday morning ? Should we offer our church facilities as hosting space for community organizations "i.e. food pantries, child care centers, health clinics, social assistance agencies, advocacy groups working for affordable housing or with Veterans " ?
Recent commentary has suggested that Millennials are open to experiencing meaningful worship with structure and tradition. They are not necessarily obsessed or wedded with church having to be "cool" or to having "a hipster Jesus unplugged format. "
Hopefully, new methods and directions will emerge to attract those who are religiously unaffiliated to begin attending church once again and to find meaning and sustenance in their spiritual journey.
God willing.