Here Come “the Nones!” Perhaps … If We Create Something for Them to Come to

A condensed version of this article was published in the Spring 2013 edition of
PS, The Philadelphia Seminary magazine 

by the Rev. Dr. Karyn L. Wiseman, Associate Professor of Homiletics; Director of United Methodist Studies, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Prof. Karyn WisemanA few months ago, I was riding on a plane coming back from a conference in Texas. I got settled into my seat and ready for a nice quiet ride home. I was excited that the seat next to me was empty, and was actually hoping no one would take it. Just before the flight attendant closed the doors, a young man got on the plane and headed back into the main cabin. I did the “Please, don’t be sitting here” mental gymnastics for a minute, and then felt guilty as the guy took the seat next to me. I said, “Hey” and he responded, “Whew, just made it.” 

As the plane took off, I asked where he was from and we talked for a few minutes about our home state — we were both from Texas. I didn’t further the conversation, and when the announcement was made electronics were allowed, I got my iPad out to watch a movie. About the same time I was reaching for my headphones to plug in and tune out, he asked what I did for a living. I often hesitate on this, but replied simply that I’m a graduate school professor. Of course, he was a graduate student and wanted to know what I taught. I replied I teach preachers how to preach and am a pastor myself. “Wow,” he said, “folks are still doing that? I thought with the church dying and all, people wouldn’t be going into that business anymore.” Wow! Ouch!

We started talking about the state of the church and faith. Then I asked if he was a person of faith or attended church of any kind. I was wondering if a 20-something young man who just assumed the church had no need of training any new preachers would have anything to share. And he did not disappoint.

When Tim (not his real name) was a teenager, his grandmother started taking him to church with her every Sunday because she feared he was headed in the wrong direction in his life without God and the church. He had been raised by parents who did not experience positive reactions to their progressive ways in the congregation they had attempted to attend early in their relationship. Because of this reaction, they had turned their backs on the church and did not raise their children in the church. Tim understood that faith and the church were important to his grandmother, so he agreed to attend, under duress. He went to Sunday school, youth group, and sat through sermons he described as boring and not related or relevant to him or to his life experiences in any way. 

He reminded me he only did it for his grandmother. He had no real interest in the church, or faith for that matter. He did not feel comfortable in the church service or in learning about a faith in which he did not grow up. What was going on in church was not something he felt he needed to be part of. What he saw was an anti-gay and judgmental group of folks that he was not interested in joining. What he saw was a worshipping community that had no connection to the music, technology, media, or life he was living in his Monday-Saturday existence. It was not “his thing,” he said.

After sharing his experiences, we started talking about current data about his generation, and he told me that not one of his friends was an active participant in a church. Not one of his friends was part of the institutional church, but many of them he called spiritual and many of them “dabbled” in spiritual practices. He was also clear that he believes in something bigger than himself, but struggled to define it in any concrete way. But he also knew his experience in the church as a youth was not something he wanted to repeat. It’s not an uncommon story.

Much ink has been spilled about the phenomenon of “the religiously unaffiliated.” One of the phrases that is often associated with this group is to call them “the Nones.” According to the October 2012 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report, “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, 1 in 5 adults are religiously unaffiliated. When looking more closely at the generational data, 32 percent of adults under the age of 30 fall within the same category. In 1950, the percentage of persons claiming no religious affiliation was a miniscule two percent. This is a new reality that the institutional church must address as the changing dynamics of this growing population will impact its future as much or more than it is already impacting its present.

But in naming this group “Nones” there is clearly a sense that these persons have no faith or spirituality whatsoever. But my conversation with Tim, one of many I have had over the last few years, and a number of religion and spirituality studies show that spiritual but not religious is a real thing. Christian Piatt invites us to call them “religiously independent,” rather than “the Nones.” No matter what we call them — they are indeed spiritual. Many of these folks feel connected to a larger purpose, a Spirit, a Divinity, or a Supreme Being of some kind, but being part of the institutional church is not part of their lives. Some see this as being incompatible — but those in this category do not.

A summary of the study shows, in a nutshell, that this group:

  • comprises atheists and agnostics as well as those who ally themselves with “nothing in particular”
  • includes many who say they are spiritual or religious in some way and pray every day
  • overwhelmingly says they are not looking to find an organized religion that would be right for them
  • is socially liberal, with three-quarters favoring same-sex marriage and legal abortion.

This also shows that offering opportunities for social advocacy and being an open and affirming community is something that those who are looking find important. Being the church means that we should be open to conversation around these tough issues. We need to be willing to be the church actively in the world in personal and powerful ways. This action can potentially turn the tide in some ways for this group.

The church, the one place that many of these folks are not a part, has to own up to this reality and find a way to be open to the impending crunch of questioning folks in the world. We, as the church, are called to minister to the context of the world as we find it — not as we wish it were. So ministering to this new reality has to happen. 

Some are defining the current world in which we live a post-Christian era, meaning the time of intense Christian influence and assumptions of religious affiliation for the majority of persons is gone. One of the emerging church writers holding this opinion, Dan Kimball, shares that without understanding that Christians are virtually foreigners in this post-Christian world, the church is destined to be lost in the modern era.

Diana Butler Bass, a highly respected author on the state of the church today, states that the generative church, the church that takes seriously the changes in the culture and acts accordingly to engage these new generations and groups, has tremendous possibilities. Both individually and as groups or congregations, Christian folks and “Nones” alike have engaged in deeply spiritual practices and have participated in profound social justice ministry. Sometimes these things are done by both groups without even knowing they have deep roots in Christian history. Many who have grown uncomfortable with the institutional church still find themselves part of spiritual — faithful and principled — living.

People inside the church need to connect to those outside the church — “Nones” and others. However, the truth about too many communities of faith is that they live within a religiously focused bubble. Most of the people they know live within the same or similar bubbles. And inviting others into the “church bubble” is made more difficult because those within the bubble know so few who are outside of the bubble where they live. So one of the major things that the church must do is expand its bubble — and church people have to expand theirs, as well. The church, especially, must create new spheres of community and enlarge the range of sharing they are already experiencing. Maybe the transformative act the church and Christian people need to do is stop living inside a bubble altogether. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

But often the norm in the church is to expect a new response to continued acts that have always been done in the same ways. We do what we have known to work in the past and expect a new response. We continue to invite our members to bring new persons to church; however, the persons our members know are often within the same bubble they themselves are part of. How will things change? We are dealing with a new reality that requires new methods and new possibilities.

Things can only change if we create a church for a new day that meets the people where they are now. And this must be done with a sense of urgency and passion combined with intensity in preparing ministers and laity for embracing the new realities of the church in that world.

Yes, the only way to get new results is to do a new thing. But doing that new thing can be scary and intimidating. It can mean going out of our comfort zone, and it can mean change that pushes us out in to the world and into new contexts.

Here at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), or The Philadelphia Seminary, we are concerned about the task of preparing persons for pastoral ministry for the church today and into the future. We see these trends emerging and are working to create an atmosphere where the changing dynamics of the church and the world are discussed, envisioned, and taught. We also want our curriculum to reflect the church to come.

When I started teaching at LTSP, I was one of a few faculty members who were well versed in the emerging trends in the church. But that has increased even more dramatically over the past few years. Our faculty has prepared a new curriculum and teaches pedagogy that takes fully into account what we believe the church “will be” in the future. All of the conversations about curriculum evaluation and revision were based on being more relevant to both the church of the present and for the church that needs to be in ministry to and with the new generations who are not growing up in the church. We were also concerned with being part of the world in relevant and important ways.

Creating a curriculum that takes this changing cultural and religious reality seriously means a curriculum that is contextually relevant and adaptive to multiple ministry situations. To do this, our new curriculum has an issue-based learning style. We will be adapting all of our current and future classes to be in tune with this pedagogy. Students will be learning while analyzing and assessing situations happening both in the church and in the world. Creating a curriculum that meets the needs of the growing “religiously independent” generations instead of simply maintaining the church as it is presently known is a priority. Understanding that the church actually has a future in the midst of all of this change is important. We have to prepare pastors to minister to and with the church that is present today, but we also have to create a church for the future.

One thing we are learning is that, despite the dire warnings about the death throes of the institutional church, there are several signs of hope. In a recent US Congregational Life Study there were some significant signs of life in five areas of the church. First, the study found congregations are more active in mission and outreach outside their church walls. This data suggests the church is moving out of a period, for many, of isolation and insular concern. Churches are working on justice ministries, they are feeding the hungry, they are engaged in community advocacy, and are donating more than money to these types of ministry than in previous surveys. They are doing hands-on ministry that is transforming the lives of those participating and for those with whom they are doing ministry. This kind of outreach means the church is working in ways that reflect the call of the Gospel in powerfully compelling ways. Young adults are increasingly calling for a more active engagement in the world. A church that moves out of its comfort zone and beyond its walls to participate in ministry around the corner and around the globe is a church that has potential to reach new generations.

The Pew research data and similar studies show that there are more in the category of “spiritual and religious” than we expect. These folks are looking for places and ways to be in ministry and to participate in social justice ministry.

“Spiritual and religious” expresses a grassroots desire for new kinds of faith communities, where institutional structures do not inhibit or impede one’s relationship with God or neighbor. Americans are searching for churches — and temples, synagogues, and mosques — that are not caught up in political intrigue, rigid rules and prohibitions, institutional maintenance, unresponsive authorities, and inflexible dogma but instead offer pathways of life-giving spiritual experience, connection, meaning, vocation, and doing justice in the world. Americans are not rejecting faith — they are, however, rejecting self-serving religious institutions.

We have to be cognizant of this fact and be part of the process of creating these “new kinds of faith communities” — both inside and outside of our existing communities of faith.

Second, congregations are filled with members who have acquired more and more education. Church goers have higher academic achievements, which results in “these highly educated worshipers having high expectations about the content/style of worship, how decisions are made, and the efficiency of congregational ‘achievement,’” said researcher Cynthia Woolever. This kind of active engagement with higher expectations, planning, and development beyond the pastor is a sign of shared leadership and collegial planning that is important for the future of the church. A church that encourages both its members and those in its community to share in making plans for worship, ministry, and engagement is a church that has potential to reach new generations.

Third, churches are more likely to be engaged in the use of social media and technology. Many studies have found that churches are utilizing social media to keep up with members, share joys and concerns, and advertise upcoming events. They are using media, including email and websites, on a regular basis. Almost 70 percent of churches have websites where they post opportunities for service, podcasts of sermons, and calendars of upcoming events. Many more utilize email for many of the same activities. 

In addition, more than 30 percent of churches now use technology in worship to project images on screens or the walls of the sanctuary, including still and moving images, announcements, and/or sermon materials. “Newer media forms such as Facebook, blogs, texting, and streaming media are still less prevalent but are nevertheless beginning to transform the ways religious groups interact and enhance their sense of community.” But this is constantly changing. Young adults, who were the major force on Facebook just a few years ago, are now more apt to be on Instagram or Pinterest than Facebook. So keeping up with the media practices of your community is important. Use of technology is not the “if you build it they will come” answer to a changing culture, but it is very important to many of those in the younger generations.

Congregations with a greater use of technology (especially when combined with electronic instruments and projection screens) are more likely to describe their worship as innovative, joyful, thought provoking, and inspirational. Faith communities that embrace greater use of technology are also perceived as being more spiritually vital. Perhaps even more importantly, these perceptions also have an effect on member participation and involvement.

This kind of utilization of media and technology is important for attracting younger generations who are much more people of the screen than previous generations. Engagement, telling our stories, being where our people are, connecting to new persons, being part of the public dialogue about social issues and faith, reaching out to new cohorts and the unaffiliated, and creatively sharing who we are as faith communities is a huge asset – and using websites and social media allow for this in exciting ways. A church that engages new media and technology opportunities is a church that has potential to reach new generations.

Fourth, there is a shift in diversity, at least in the element of leadership. While women still make up 60 percent of membership of the institutional church, they were only 20 percent of pastoral leadership in 2000. Today they are increasing in the area of pastoral leadership and now make up almost 30 percent. This move to be more inclusive and diverse is not happening in every denomination or congregational cohort, but it is consistently rising, and this makes many in the church hopeful for the future. Ever expanding diversity around race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation is also needed. A diverse leadership model exhibited in the church is a church that has potential to reach new generations.

Lastly, worship in the US Congregational Life Study was found to be more connective and to be creating opportunities for persons to feel a closer experience with and connections to God. Nine out of ten worshippers said the worship they experienced helped them in their daily lives. This kind of relevancy for those present is an important piece of this data to celebrate. This is a significant increase from earlier studies. The rise in people seeing and feeling relevancy in the worship is a powerful insight into the future of the church. They are experiencing a connection to their lives in the worship they are part of. A church that seeks to be relevant and in union with its context is a church that has potential to reach new generations.

Clearly these are positive signs for the church, though many believe they come too late for an entire generation not enamored with the offerings of the institutional church. Additionally, the relevancy those in the study felt might simply reflect that folks in the church are hearing what they want to hear and pastors are being more narrative and relevant in their imagery and stories within their contexts since that is a current trend in preaching. It’s hard to know, but these signs can and must be taken seriously by the church and adaptations made to create the church that many people are still seeking and new kinds of faith communities to reach others.

There are many who meet the “Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR)” and “Spiritual and Religious (SR)” categories who are actually seekers. While 30 percent in the study state they are SBNR, 48 percent stated they are “Spiritual and Religious (SR).” These two groups account for a large amount of the population. Many want to find a community of faith. They desire a place to belong spiritually but have not found that to the needed degree in churches they have attended or heard about. Some have given up all together on the institutional church. But some are still seeking a place to call their spiritual home. As the church, and here at LTSP where we are preparing pastors and leaders for ministry in the twenty-first century, this searching should give us hope that we can create opportunities for these persons to become engaged with faith and spirituality again or in new kinds of faith communities for the very first time. We must address the concerns of this group in order to create this possibility.

Being true to the search for spiritual experiences needed by the generations not currently finding them in the church means the church has to be willing to adapt. Some of “the Nones,” SBNRs and SRs want to be engaged by social activism and are encouraged by the move to more use of social media and technology, but others in this group want deeper spiritual connections and experiences in community that bring them into closer connection with God and their inner faith journeys. No one church will likely be able to attend to all of the needs of these diverse requests for worship and community, but the church as a whole must be willing to learn enough about their contexts and those in their communities to be able to address some of these needs.

Adaptations do not happen by accident; something must be done to make things change. Churches must stop using “inside” language if they want to engage new communities and reach persons not affiliated with the church. The use of language that younger generations do not understand — since they have often not been raised in the church — is a big turn off. Churches have to use relevant and contemporary language and images that have meaning for everyday folks. We have to explain theology, liturgy, sacraments, and rites without using “insider”/”outsider” language. We are not part of an exclusive club that you need a secret handshake for. We are part of the family of God. We are followers of Jesus Christ who used examples to meet the context at hand. He used political language when necessary and agricultural language when it was more appropriate. But too often our church language is not visitor friendly at all.

Churches must put their own preferences aside for those of the community of which they are a part. Church folks typically do things that are comfortable to them and are normative to their expectations and preferences. Not all, but some, of “the Nones,” SBNRs, and SRs are seeking a place where their needs are at the very least taken into account. Churches that move outside of their comfort zones to offer worship, ministry, and educational options that are relevant to those they wish to reach means getting to know their context by walking the streets, meeting neighbors, visiting coffee shops, spending time reading to kids at the local schools, or holding community conversations, to name but a few. Spending time listening to others in the community is vital. The church must think and act outside of its usual boundaries in order to attract new persons.

Churches must also be courageous and make changes if they want to move into a new possibility with persons seeking a place to experience God or persons who previously have not found their needs met by the institutional church. New kinds of faith communities have to be created — not for these persons, but with them. Churches and faith communities must try new things after conversations within their context. Pastors must lead their people into acts of change. And to do so, these pastors and leaders must often take risks — perhaps even risking their jobs to propel churches to engage the possibilities set before them by this new reality of the church and the world with so many religiously unaffiliated in our midst. What most of our churches are currently doing is not working. We have to own that fact and make a decision to either engage new opportunities or maintain the status quo and the way things are. However, making the decision to stay the current course is to make a decision that will impact the future in ways the church may not like.

Not all pastors and leaders, and certainly not all churches, will be able to engage new forms of worship and ministry or to create new kinds of faith communities that will be required to even attempt to reach these new people. Understanding that — and not trying to be all things to all persons — is an important part of the process of readying the church for what might be next. So we have to train persons to do this. Creating communities that are part of the solution and are engaging ministry for a new day must be a priority.

To do this, the church must face another truth about younger generations: when asked to state what turns them away from the church, they defined the institutional church as hypocritical, judgmental, and anti-gay. While addressing the needs of new generations, we also must deal with the negative impressions that the church has made on them. The following is data from a recent Barna Group study:

  • The findings were based on surveys of a sample of 867 young people. From that total, researchers reported responses from 440 non-Christians and 305 active churchgoers.
  • The vast majority of non-Christians — 91% — said Christianity had an anti-gay image, followed by 87% who said it was judgmental and 85% who said it was hypocritical.
  • Such views were held by smaller percentages of the active churchgoers, but the faith still did not fare well: 80% agreed with the anti-gay label, 52% said Christianity is judgmental, and 47% declared it hypocritical.

This kind of view about the Christian church means we have a lot of work to do. When these folks see the church, we want them to see a group of people who exhibit love and compassion. We want them to see a community that is welcoming and inclusive. We want them to experience a faith gathering that speaks the truth, loves others as Jesus taught, and works as positive agents of transformative change. We want them to create the church or faith community that helps them experience God with us.

But, clearly, large numbers of these folks are seeing a very different picture. How do we counter these opinions? One way is to begin with a list of questions churches can ask of themselves:

  • If you were to look at the sermons of your church over a period of time, would you say they are more positive or negative in tone and content? If they are positive, how would you say sin and repentance are addressed so that you aren’t going to the extreme of ignoring them?
  • What is your congregation’s attitude toward those who hold beliefs different from yours on doctrinal issues? How do you talk about other denominations?
  • How is your church known in your community? How do you think people in your town describe your church and the people of your church? Do they even know you exist? What are you known for? Would your church be missed in your community if it went away? How would it be missed?
  • Are there any ways your church is involved in compassion and social justice projects both locally and globally, demonstrating that the church is a positive agent for change in the world? If not, what can you do about it?

I would add these questions: How do you define a family? Are you inclusive of persons of other sexualities and gender expressions? How do you treat visitors? What does your social media (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) look like? Do you engage technology and social media in your worship and study? Does your music reflect the tunes heard in your community? Do you use art, drama, or other creative elements in your worship or study? These are important questions to ask if your church wants to be relevant in new ways.

One of the best ways to create bridges to folks who are suspicious of Christianity and of the institutional church is to develop relationships with non-Christians. To do this we must leave the safety of the walled church and venture into the communities in which we sit. We must serve with, love, work for justice with, listen to, minister to kids and youth of, and accept these generations. We must accept them for who they are — not for who we think they ought to be. We have to accept them and create opportunities for new kinds of faith expressions that engage their spirituality. PERIOD.

All of these positive and negative signs about the church and the world led to the development of our new curriculum at LTSP. The curriculum from the outset was focused on being in tune with what is happening in the current culture. The goal was to modify the curriculum to meet the needs of this changing culture. We had already made covenant decisions to be affirming, diverse, and ecumenical. We had already made commitments to working with our neighbors and by providing a place where anyone who comes to us is accepted and affirmed — whether part-time or full-time; whether Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, or Independent; whether preparing for pastoral ministry or a vocation in social justice agencies; whether just out of college or coming back as a second career student; whether gay, straight, transsexual or questioning; whether white, black, Latino, or African; and whether seeking an MDiv, MAPL, STM, DMin, or PhD. Now we needed to continue our work by looking at more flexible, affordable, and relevant ways to train pastors and faith leaders. We need to prepare leaders who are affirmed so that they can lead accepting, affirming, and relevant congregations and new faith communities.

We needed a curriculum that portrays this and that takes LTSP to the next level in order to meet the needs of the church to come. Our first step was to address the changing needs of the church, and our charge was to address the needs of many of our students who come as part-time students. Seminary is hard on family, career, and pocketbook, and making sure our curriculum has an undercurrent of flexibility was paramount. What we needed to create was a curriculum that allowed for students to attend classes in the evenings and during the daytime or during alternate options with equal ease of course selection. That meant creating options for courses that span the possibilities — daytime, weeknight, weekend, intensive one week daytime, intensive two week nighttime, online, and hybrid (part online and part face-to-face) courses for our students. 

It also meant alleviating the number of prerequisites that are required for many of our courses. For a large number of our part-time students, finding courses to register for at the times they could take them was often tough, especially since so many of the courses required they take another course beforehand. The removal of many of these prerequisites means classes will all begin with a baseline setting for everyone in the class — therefore some element of introductory teaching and refreshment of learning will happen in all our classes. This means our courses will be more readily available to students. This is a powerful and important change for many, and sets the stage for us as an institution that values the diversity of those who come to us for training.

The second significant conversation for our curriculum was the need to make seminary more affordable. Moving into a transitioning church and culture means that many of our students are going to be bi-vocational in their ministry. Many churches and agencies will need to be sensitive to this. Therefore, our new curriculum is more affordable in that our students are required to take fewer courses for degree fulfillment than before. Students will complete their MDiv in less time and hopefully with less financial strain or debt.

The number of courses has been reduced for our program. However, the quality and teaching is not going to diminish, and we are still within accreditation standards. Faculty members are working on new and creative ways to engage our students with issue-based learning. We are asking for our students to become “multi-skilled” for ministry. This means creating an environment in the classroom that honors our students' experiences, helps frame their theological and biblical grounding for the practice of ministry, and facilitates them learning a number of ministry skills to help them become the best pastors and leaders they can possibly be. Moving into any kind of pastoral or social justice ministry with significant debt is a real concern for the LTSP community, and our new curriculum is trying to alleviate some of that for our students.

Lastly, our curriculum is centered on the belief that being a community of faith means being in tune with the wider community by being relevant. Being relevant in rural North Dakota may look different than in the South Bronx, but the skills needed to examine one’s context so our ministry can be relevant and engaged with the community are essential. This means all our courses need to take seriously the context of the world as it is and as it is becoming. This means we take seriously the changing dynamics of our culture and are preparing our students to deal with these changes. 

We are teaching our students to engage in new types of ministry, to create new kinds of communities of faith, and to utilize social media and technology in a variety of ministry venues. We are training our students with a theological, historical, and biblical undergirding that is relevant and in tune with today’s thinking and questioning. And we are training our students to be part of the public discourse about the church and culture. Being relevant means being part of the church of today, but it also means being aware of the needs of the future. Being relevant means attending to the faith needs of our communities of faith all the while creating new possibilities for those who may want and need a whole new way of being a community of faith. Being relevant means listening to people like Tim and being available to be part of his journey. That is what being relevant means — and that is what we are about at LTSP.

When Tim and I spoke on the plane ride, we exchanged email addresses. I recently sent him a message asking if I could share our conversation in this article. He approved and asked if his story was indeed as common as he thought in his generation. I shared some of the data I have collected, and he told me one last nugget from this life.

Last fall, Tim’s brother was diagnosed with cancer. The family has dealt with this kind of news before, but this time it hit particularly hard. His younger brother is a runner and extremely healthy. No one even suspected that Jeremy (again, not his name) was ill. Unfortunately, the cancer was quite aggressive and the medical treatments required were even more aggressive. During treatments, Tim went with his brother and sat with him for hours as lifesaving but terribly debilitating drugs were pumped into his body. Jeremy was strong but began to really question issues of life and death.

Tim and his brother spent many hours talking about life, faith, heaven, God, the Bible, human frailty, death, and other important topics. Neither Jeremy nor Tim have come to be part of a faith community, but Jeremy joined a cancer support group that shared their journeys together on a regular basis. Tim gained much from the lessons Jeremy brought back from these groups, but they both struggle still with the “church issue.” They both are deeply spiritual, even more so since the medical issues they have been facing in Jeremy’s life, but one thing is for sure — they do not feel alone. They believe they are being led on this journey by something bigger than themselves. They are praying for Jeremy and for others with cancer. They know communities of faith who are praying for Jeremy and are very supportive of those prayers of concern and care. Church is not something they feel they need to seek out right now, but prayer is sustaining them on this path of health and healing as Jeremy continues treatments.

“Nones,” religiously independents, and SBNR persons are here — in our midst, in our communities, in our workplaces, in the culture around us, and potentially in our churches — if we create ways to engage their social justice desires and spiritual journeys. 

Maybe, if we build it together, they actually may come.

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References for this article include

  • Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have no Religious Affiliation, October 9, 2012,
  • Christian Piatt, “Don’t Call Us ‘the Nones’: In Praise of Religious Independence," The Washington Post. February 25, 2013,
  • Heidi Glenn, “Losing Our Religion: The Growth Of The ‘Nones’”; NPR Morning Edition,
  • Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus But not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007)
  • Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story. (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), Introduction 
  • Association of Religion Data Archives, US Congregational Life Survey 
  • David Briggs, The Huffington Post, “Five Hopeful Signs for US Congregations”; Scott Thumma, “Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations,” Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary, 2012 
  • Richard Kentopp in “Young People Seek Church Relevance” by Joey Butler
  • David Kinnaman, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. (Ada, MI: Baker Books, 2012)
  • Adelle M. Banks, “Study: youth see Christians as judgmental, anti-gay” in USA Today ( /religion/2007-10-10-christians-young_N.htm - no longer online)