Where have all the young adults gone?

Heather Kohlman Olsen is a Doctoral student in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology program as well as a millennial herself. The questions she is investigating are what “barriers” and “on-ramps” to religious participation exist for 20-somethings in the PNW, and what ought we to do about them? 

The last time I was sitting in church, I looked around during the offering and it dawned on me that I was one of the few young adults in the church. I couldn’t help but wonder why. Evidence suggests that approximately one-third of Americans who are under the age of 30 identify as being religiously unaffiliated.[1] So, what are some reasons why young adults are not participating in faith communities? That is exactly what my colleagues and I are trying to shed some light on.

Through our research we are hoping to understand why 23 to 29-year-olds do or do not participate in Christian faith communities in the PNW. More specifically, we are wondering what barriers could get in the way of their participation in a Christian faith community and what aspects of a faith community might attract them to participate. To figure out what might attract or prevent young adults from attending your faith community, go talk to young adults in your church about why they are attending your church and what they think could be preventing others like them from attending. While listening to their responses, pay attention to your reactions to their answers and what information may or may not be surprising to you. Remember to consider their answers with humility and try to listen to them as Jesus would.

[1] American’s changing religious landscape. (2015). The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Retrieved from www.pewform.org/files/2015/05/RLS-08-26-full-report.pdf