In Theory

According to a report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Americans who belong to the so-called "Millenial" generation – 18- to 29-year-olds who were born between 1980 and 2000 – are significantly less religious than older generations. Pew found that fewer Millenials belong to a particular faith and that they are less likely to be affiliated with their parents' or grandparents' religions. Is this trend happening in your own church, mosque, or synagogue? Does this worry you, and what you do to draw more young people to your congregation?

People of all ages seek answers to questions about the meaning and purpose of life and seek to develop their own values. What is important is whether an organization, community and teachers can truly be a resource in exploring the answers. Meditation provides an excellent path or process for doing this. We have college age and young adults at our Center. However, motivation to meditate usually comes a bit later in life when it has become clearer that so many things are beyond our control, for example, sickness and death.

The Rev. Deborah Barrett

Zen Center of Orange County

Costa Mesa

We have not seen this trend among the young people who have grown up at Liberty. I became pastor of the church in 1990, so I am closing in on 20 years in the same church this year. It has been my observation that the young people whose parents are serious about their walk with God have at some point adopted their parents faith as their own. My own three children have all accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and are now raising their children in Christian churches in the States in which they now reside. I don't believe it is the Christian faith that young people reject, but a pseudo-Christianity that does not emphasise a personal relationship with God through Christ. As far as attracting young people, we believe the Bible has the answers to meet the needs of the human heart, no matter the age. We attempt to be a community of sincere believers who love God, each other and the world.

Pastor Dwight Tomlinson

Liberty Baptist Church

Newport Beach

I do not think that Millenial Muslims would be significantly less religious than prior generations; in fact, we are witnessing a younger face on Islam.

Millenial Muslims make a significant number in our mosque. We see them forgoing their lunch time or adjusting their class schedule to make the Friday Prayer, which stands as the "day" of worship for Muslims. They are running programs and engaging the community.

As an imam, I have always preached that it is essential for the young to keep God as their anchor, partner, and aim in life. This is what Islam preaches and the Millennial Muslims understand this because they have been born and raised living the faith. Islam is part of their being and it remains an integral part throughout their lives.

Imam Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini

Islamic Educational Center of Orange County

Leaders in our Parish Church take seriously other reports in the same study by the Pew Research Center: "the number of Millennials who say they pray every day rivals the portion of young people who said the same in prior decades" and "young adults are clearly more accepting than older Americans and less convinced than their elders that there are absolute standards of right and wrong."

The Episcopal Church is a perfect place for people who can pray with Bob Dylan's words, "Good and bad, I define these terms quite clear, no doubt, somehow. Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now"!

(The Very Rev'd Canon) Peter D. Haynes

Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church

Corona del Mar

Assimilation has ravaged American Jewry. The Jewish population is in precipitous decline and the commitment by young Jews to Judaism is attenuating. Only Orthodox Judaism fosters deep Jewish identities among a wide swath of its youth.

In a rootless world, many respond favorably to the structure provided by Orthodoxy's definitive answers, daily rituals, absolute morality, and adherence to Torah's transcendent truths. Liberal branches of Judaism are not holding on to their children, while Orthodoxy is expanding in numbers and intensity of commitment, featuring the highest birth rates, the lowest rates of intermarriage, and the greatest dedication to Jewish education. One observer wrote: "Within three generations there will be almost no trace of young American Jews who are currently not being raised in Orthodox homes with a complete Jewish Day School education."

It is Orthodox Jews who will be the vanguard for transmitting an ancient heritage to coming generations.

Rabbi Mark S. Miller

Temple Bat Yahm

Newport Beach

Most people, including those in our own religious community, go through alternating periods of church activity at different stages of life. The decade from about age 16 to 26 is the time in life when young people are most likely to question the teachings of their youth and exercise their free agency to think for themselves. For a while they assign a higher priority to education and starting a family, but if they grew up with a religious faith, they tend eventually to return.

The Latter-day Saint community experiences these same trends, but they are moderated to a large extent by an energetic youth program, daily religious education during high school and college, and the strong tradition of voluntary missionary service entered into by about a third of our young men and 10% to 15% of our young women.

The important thing is for all religious communities to be reaching out with open arms and inviting their sojourning young sheep to return.

Tom Thorkelson

Director of Interfaith Relations

Orange County Council

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

We do notice a drop off in church attendance between the time a teenager graduates from high school and when he or she gets married. Marriage and subsequent children can be incentives to return to the Faith. Still, some Catholics don't recognize the importance (and obligation) to marry in the church, and many in this group never return. Young people in general are more influenced by what they hear at school and see on television than by what they hear or learn at church. It is not uncommon for teenagers to claim to be atheists. We recognize the need to reach out to this age group, though admittedly we have been slow in doing so. We will offer some events (rediscovering our faith, and a social event or two) this summer and we do have a Young Adult ministry. We hope to attract at least some from the age group that often falls through the cracks.

Fr. Stephen Doktorczyk

St. Joachim Church

Costa Mesa

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