Will Young Evangelicals Come Back to Church?

Renaud-Getty_505550154Source: Religion And Politics


Beth Seversen rarely saw young adults at the evangelical church in Kansas where she served as an associate pastor until 12 years ago. But one Sunday, after the service, she spotted a young man sitting in the back of the sanctuary. She hurried to greet him, pushing past, as best she could, the many congregants who wished to speak to her, trying to reach him before he could slip out the door—possibly forever. She managed to chat with him that day, and he came for two more Sundays. Then, as she feared, he failed to return.

Seversen, now an associate professor of youth and Christian ministries at North Park University, shared this story in April with a group of white evangelical pastors and church leaders to illustrate the challenges of attracting younger people to church and the challenges of retaining them. The pastors and leaders had come together for the Wheaton Mission & Ministry Conference at the evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois. They were there to brainstorm strategies to reengage late-teens and twenty-somethings who were raised evangelical but had stopped attending church. Seversen summed up their worries when she said: “Many of our millennials have not come back [to church] at the age of 29, 30.”

The 18-to-29-year-olds missing from predominantly white evangelical churches span two generations. Using the Pew Research Center’s breakdown of U.S. generations, this cohort includes younger millennials (a generation born between 1981 and 1996) and older members of Generation Z (born after 1996).

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