Keeping the Faith, But Not in Church

We tend to think of teenagers as a particularly pagan bunch. A poll by Barna Research finds, however, that Americans are most likely to stray from religious practice when in their late 20s. Among respondents in the 20-29 bracket, 31 percent reported attending religious services in the previous week, vs. 42 percent of those in their 30s and 49 percent of those 40 and older. The figure was even lower (22 percent) for respondents age 25-29. “Many 20somethings are reversing course after having been active church attenders during their teenage years,” says the report. “As teenagers, more than half attended church each week and more than four out of five (81 percent) had ever gone to a Christian church.” Still, 20somethings aren’t as godless as one might suppose from the way pop culture depicts them. While less likely than their elders to read the Bible regularly, a striking number of 20-29s do so (see the chart). Moreover, 75 percent said they’d prayed to God in the previous week. The study says “personal faith is but one of multiple sources of input which young people combine to create their own definition of personal fulfillment and meaning.” Asked whether religious faith is very important in their lives, 80 percent of 20-29s said it is. So, will 20somethings return to the fold as they get older and have kids? On that score, the director of the study is skeptical, predicting that those who’ve lapsed will resume regular church-going only “in a minority of cases.”