What Christian Radio Needs To Know About Young People

Many of you joined me at a CMB Gold event some months ago in San Diego. If you did you saw an extended presentation on the future of religion and spirituality among our youth (people under the age of 25) and what it means for Christian broadcasters.

I’m not going to repeat that presentation here, but I do want to point out a couple of things that affect everyone in the Christian media space with an eye to the future. These are not the millennials I’m talking about – these are their little siblings and even their children: People born between 1995 and 2012 – ages 7 to 24.

The bottom line is this (from iGen, by Jean M. Twenge, PhD): This group is “the least religious generation of the last six decades, and possibly in the nation’s history.”Today a full third of young adults do not affiliate with any organized religion.

Digging deeper, the data indicate these people are less religious in part because they are more likely to be raised in non-religious households and because more teens today consciously decide not to belong to a religion anymore. It’s not that they are “young and unsettled,” writes Twenge (based on the data), it’s due to “cultural change.”

And it’s not just about “distrust for institutions,” because the data indicate young people are “disconnecting from religion entirely, even at home and even in their hearts.”

In this FaithBright I’ll discuss why this has happened. And in the next issue I’ll cover a few things we can do about it. And remember, this is not my opinion – this is an interpretation of solid research.

Why the decline?

  1. Too many rules. American culture is increasingly about individualism (for better or, as many would argue, for worse). But religion, like the law, has rules. In a society where a young person is taught to “trust yourself” over all else, rules are obstacles, not guidelines or standards for a better, richer, more fulfilling life.
  2. The call for sacrifice and community. A peek at the news headlines will prove that we don’t live in times that lead with sacrifice. On the contrary, “if it feels good, do it,” is the phrase that pays. Fact and fiction are seemingly interchangeable depending on what feels best to you or me. Everybody wants everything right now – why wait, why sacrifice, why invest? Amazon Prime will deliver it today! And if the center of all my concerns is the “individual,” then “how can I possibly believe in something bigger than myself?” Look at the world of reality TV – it’s all about maximizing the attention on yourself and beating others in the “game” of life. There is no community, only a gang of rivals. What sort of lesson is this?
  3. The world inside Church is not the same as the world outside of it.Young people accept certain things in science, pop culture, and sexuality. Things that are challenged or disregarded in some Churches. In 2012, a survey of 18-24’s found that most believed that Christianity was anti-gay, judgmental, and hypocritical. Not some – most.
  4. Famous for the wrong things.Christianity should be and often is famous for love and the wide range of Christian and family-oriented values that we’re well acquainted with. But in his book unChristian, David Kinnaman reported that 40% of young people outside of Christianity had a “bad impression” of the religion. Why? As Kinnaman put it, “We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.”

Mark Ramsey is president of Mark Ramsey Media, strategic research provider to many Christian music stations including K-LOVE, AIR1, KLTY/Dallas, WPOZ/Orlando, KTIS/Minneapolis, and many others. More information about his services is at http://mrmchristian.com. Sign up for FAITHBRIGHT, his weekly email of smart and actionable ideas for Christian broadcasters here: https://goo.gl/2hJMCG. Reach him at 858-485-6372 or mramsey@markramseymedia.com.

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