According to a 2012 report by the Pew Forum on Religious Life, a third of American adults under the age of thirty claimed no religious affiliation. The report's findings can easily paint a dismal picture of American religion, yet the future may be brighter than we imagine. While studies indicate that this generation of emerging adults is less likely to be involved with religion than their parents and grandparents, some religious institutions are successfully retaining, nurturing and developing young believers. But which are these organizations? What methods are they employing? And can their strategies be successful for other religious groups?
In Got Religion?, veteran journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley sets out to identify and meet with religious leaders across America who are successfully engaging and growing the number of young members in their congregation. In interviews with clergy, academics, and (most importantly) the young men and women themselves, she uncovers a series of practical cross-denominational solutions that leaders of all faiths can employ in their own communities.
Unlike other books, Riley's research goes beyond one faith to lay out the reasons that people in their early twenties to mid-thirties are leaving their churches, synagogues, and mosques. She discovers that the secret to maintaining these congregants may lie not in catering to this demographic with more flashy programming and cutting edge technology but rather in giving them opportunities to take responsibility and truly serve their communities.
Through a series of vignettes, Riley discusses how an all- American mosque, a Catholic teacher-training program, an evangelical church plant, and a synagogue-hopping program, for instance, can not only foster a sense of community among young people, but also successfully compete against modernday entertainment. She shows how service-based programs encourage ownership of faith, how churches can collaborate to bring in new members without stealing each other's sheep, how congregations have asked older members to give up some responsibility to encourage young adults to step up, and how a focus on the old-fashioned concept of neighborhood can reinvigorate faith communities.
An essential guide for religious leaders who are trying to grow their congregation of emerging adults, Got Religion? provides a broad, ecumenical view of the problem and offers proven methods in getting young adults to commit to religious institutions for now and years to come.