What are we in the church to make of this growing segment of our population? From a recent column piece by Rabbi Gerald Zelizer:
“Nones” are the burgeoning U.S. populace who are unaffiliated with institutional religion. This month’s report by Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life says one in five Americans have no religious affiliation. The amount escalates to one-third of those under 30. Significantly, 88 percent of those who are unaffiliated say “they are not looking to be part of an organized faith community.”
One-third of those under 30…and they’re not looking to be a part…
Is there any hope for organized religion as we know it in this country? I made a statement in our church a couple weeks ago which didn’t seem to ‘go over well,’ as they say. In a discussion about how the last couple generations of parents have seemingly dropped the ball in regards to raising their children to give top priority to church and faith issues, I proposed that the church of our children and grandchildren will look far different than the church today. And it probably won’t have a steeple.
- Organic is healthy. The longer I’m in ministry, the more I appreciate those who are meeting the ‘nones’ where they are: coffee shops, ball fields, tailgating, parks, etc. I have to remind myself, “If I were a 20-something, why would I venture into a church building?”
- Dirty is good. I’m not a doctor (and I don’t play one on TV), but I think in our attempts to keep our children germ-free we have made them more susceptible to the common ailments. It’s okay to get dirty and then eat a fluffernutter without going through a toxic cleanup procedure first. The same principle holds true in the church; in our attempts to sterilize ourselves, we have created a culture where the dirty and messy are not welcome. And more insidious ailments now plague us in the church; we are practicing a grace-less gospel, which isn’t much of a gospel.
- Saying ‘I don’t know’ is okay. It’s okay to be human and not have all the answers. When the ‘nones’ ask some tough questions, don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know, but let’s look it up together. Let’s find out.’ We are all merely pilgrims on the way. Let’s humble ourselves, admit we don’t have all the answers (and admit we may not always ‘do it right’), and enjoy the journey together.
Through the grace of God may we love and encourage each other, whether we are a ‘none’ or a ‘one.’
How is your church relating to the ‘nones’?