Why Gen Y and Millennials are losing their faith (and 3 things that might bring it back)

Posted on April 18th, 2012


Are Millennials and Gen Y really losing their faith?

Well, yes.

If you’ve been reading reports the last two years, Gen Y is running away from their faith like a 13-year-old who just walked in on his parents doing the horizontal-hula.

As reported in the Pew Study Religion Among the Millennials: “One-in-four members of the Millennial generation…are unaffiliated with any particular faith.”

Gen Y, those born roughly between 1980 – 2000, are stating they are “un-religious” at a 6% increase from Gen X when polled at the same age. A sharp increase.


Gen Y - Losing Faith
Photo via bejealousofme – Creative Commons


Drew Dyck when introducing his book, Generation Ex-Christian writes, “Young people aren’t walking away from the church, they’re sprinting…Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29 years old.”

All those shiny-faced kids who flew off the blob at Christian camp or put their Bible on the cafeteria table hoping to spark an evangelistic-opportunity, shoved their Bibles inside a drawer years ago and sold the desk at a yard sale.

Why? And what might bring them back….

Why are Millennials and Gen Y Walking Away from their Faith?


1. Deep Desire for Authenticity

The same teens that were popping in Christian CD’s like DC Talk and Newsboys are now today’s twentysomethings lining their playlists with Johnny Cash, Mumford and Sons, Sufjan Stevens, and Bon Iver. Stark, driving, honest music that’s wrestling with the question without always giving the answer.

Gen Y and Millennials have an undeniable desire for authenticity. And while Gen Y might not always be able to tell you what “authentic” is, they for sure put their finger on un-authenticour generations’ BS Radar fine-tuned as any.

As Christian Piatt writes in Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church, “We’re Skeptical: We’re exposed to more ad impressions in a month today than any other previous generation experienced in a lifetime.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure the majority of churches and faith traditions are confused as leading experts in authenticity. When church and faith becomes nothing more than a glorified marketing campaign, Gen Y will switch the channel.

2. Re-definition of faith is a part of Emerging Adulthood

First, what is Emerging Adulthood? It’s a theory first coined by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Ph.D as an ambiguous transition period between adolescence to adult that a majority of twentysomethings in Westernized cultures go through.

A revaluation of faith and beliefs is a central part of emerging adulthood (Shuster and Mongetta, 2009).  Emerging adults are less likely to be involved in religious institutions and disengage from the faith of their childhood and family background (Barry and Nelson, 2008; Arnett and Jensen, 2002).

As we leave college and begin the March of the Adult, our expectations of the crazy-successful, magically-perfect life is blown up like a hand grenade in a Hot Pocket.

And with the explosion goes little things like our identity, dreams, friendships, faith, stability — you name it. Everything that can be blown up, will be. Something I experienced in my own emerging adult years — my faith with it.

It took me a few years to pick up the pieces…

In part two tomorrow on Why Millennials and Gen Y are Losing Their Faith, I’ll tell a little more of my own story and what three things helped bring me back to faith.

Why do you think Gen Y is walking away from their faith?


Photo Credit: bejealousofme via Creative Commons


Arnett, J.J. (2002). A Congregation of one: Individualized religious beliefs among emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 17(5), 451-467

Barry, C and Nelson, L (2008). The role of religious beliefs and practices on emerging adults’ perceived competencies, perceived importance ratings, and global self-worth . International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32(6), 509-521.

Shuster, M and Mongetta, J (2009). The influence of a small Christian university’s culture on selected characteristics of emerging adulthood. Journal of Research on Christian Education, 18, 206–234.

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