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Latest Research on "The Apathy Generation" - The Latent Religious Beliefs of Millennials

Tuesday, April 05, 2011   (0 Comments)
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The Apathy Generation: The Latent Religious Beliefs of Millennials

Excerpt from White Paper from Grey Matter Research & Consulting
Presented by Ron Sellers at NRB Research Symposium, 2010

Millennials – adults who are 18 to 29 years old – are unique from other generations in a variety of ways. For one thing, previous generations experienced a drop-off in church involvement once teenagers left home, but our research has shown that Millennials started experiencing that drop-off earlier than other generations. The proportion of Millennials who regularly attended worship services in grade school and before is the same as it is for other generations. But the proportion who attended regularly during junior high and high school is substantially lower than among older generations. This has also led Millennials to feel their adolescent religious involvement has had less impact on their lives today than other generations feel.

However, this doesn’t mean Millennials fail to hold orthodox Christian beliefs. Indeed, we find no substantial difference between Millennials and other age groups on traditional Christian doctrine such as the sinlessness of Jesus, the existence of sin, the accuracy of the Bible, or the omnipotence of God. And although the cliché is that Millennials are far more liberal than other generations when it comes to beliefs about sin, that’s not the reality. Our research has shown that in 30 different areas people might define as "sin,” ranging from having an abortion to getting drunk to gambling to sex outside of marriage, Millennials are just as likely as older generations to define most of those areas as sinful.

The difference is not in the beliefs they hold, but in the role those beliefs play for them. Millennials are about as likely as other generations to hold traditional Christian beliefs. What differs is their level of commitment to those beliefs, and their willingness to act on those beliefs. Significant proportions of Millennials may believe getting drunk or having sex before marriage are sinful behaviors, for example, but those theoretical positions often won’t stop them from engaging in the actual behaviors.

Millennials are simply less likely to be aware of what’s going on around them religiously. They’re far less likely than other generations to have any clue what an evangelical Christian is, to be aware of what’s happening with religion in the public arena, to know any clergy personally, or to have relationships with any evangelical Christians.

Millennials are a unique generation in our country’s recent history, in that their religious beliefs are fairly typical, yet their knowledge, experience, and willingness to act on or commit seriously to those beliefs lags other generations. They are not antagonistic toward religious faith, but often have a serious apathy or latency related to their faith.

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FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION BELOW:

  • Does the information in Ron's comments or in the results he reveals in the white paper surprise you?
  • As Christian publishers, is there something we can do to help this generation move from mental assent to faith in action?
  • What specific ways is your company engaging with Millennial readers?
  • What are the areas we as Christian publishers have overlooked or neglected in reaching this audience?



Since 1996, Grey Matter Research has been conducting both qualitative and quantitative research for a wide variety of Christian and secular organizations. The Christian community is an area of expertise for the company is, with clients ranging from Focus on the Family and LifeWay to United Methodist Publishing and B&H Publishing. Results from our studies have been covered in the international media, such as Pravda, USA Today, The Financial Times of London, Associated Press, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times, USA Radio Network, Dallas Morning News, Clergy Journal, Detroit News, and many other outlets throughout the world. More information on the company, as well as substantial detail on other research we have done that is available for your use, can be found on our website: www.greymatterresearch.com.  Please contact Ron Sellers at 602-684-6294 for additional information.

Ron Sellers is the grey matter behind Grey Matter Research & Consulting of Phoenix, AZ. Mr. Sellers has twenty-four years of experience in the marketing research field – much of it working with a variety of Christian organizations, including Focus on the Family, Thomas Nelson Publishers, LifeWay, Compassion International, Cokesbury, and the National Association of Evangelicals. For-profit clients have included General Motors, Coca-Cola, BMW, Macy’s Department Stores, The Disney Channel, and Dove Chocolates. Mr. Sellers’ research work and study findings have been covered by the international media, including The Wall Street Journal, CBS Radio, Financial Times of London, Pravda, Associated Press, USA Today, and hundreds of local newspapers and broadcast stations. They’ve even been used in Senate Panel testimony and as part of Jay Leno’s monologue on The Tonight Show. He is also the author of over 50 articles in a variety of industry publications.


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