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🤔 In this thought-provoking video, we delve into the intriguing topic of church attendance in 2023. Join us as we unveil and uncover the hidden truth behind this phenomenon that has been shrouded in mystery.
🚸 Who is Generation Z? Who is Generation Alpha? And what are we doing to reach those students and people in our churches? Because before we know it, Gen Z is going to be the youngest demographic in our church. Where are they? And what is our church doing that's pushing them away?
⚖️ Generation Z is the most justice minded generation the world has ever seen. That should be a dream come true for church leaders? But it's seemed to throw more of a wrench in our plans, than become a strategic advantage to us. How can we respond in a more relvant way?
churchattendance #hiddentruth #unveiling #2023 #church #truth #revelation #faith #spirituality #religion #worship #community #christianity #belief #sunday #sacred #divine #belief #sermon #christian
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//SHOWNOTES & TRANSCRIPTS
//View all the Charts and Graphs via YouTube
//Pew Research Post-Pandemic Article
//Barna Info on Gen Z
//Deep Dive on Gen Alpha
//6 Questions About the Future of the Hybrid Church Experience
00:00-00:53 The Drastic Church Attendance Shift of 2023
00:53-02:50 The World is Changing, How should the church rethink ministry and attendance?
02:50-07:45 Exploring the Imperical Data from Pew Research & Barna
07:45-13:11 Why aren't younger people attending church the way we know it?
13:11-18:45 The Real Reason Church Attendance is Down in Younger Generations
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Nick Clason (00:00):
Have you ever wondered what happened to the faithful church attenders? Meaning when you compare this Pew research data from 2019 to 2023, you see that there is a massive dropoff in church attendance when you experience it personally as a youth ministry or church leader, just how big that loss can feel. I'm going to explore in this video the dirty little secret of church attendance for now and for the future, going on past 2023. I'm also going to share with you my anecdotal 13 year youth ministry experience, what I've noticed as a youth pastor, but then also somebody who just is a part of churches and what I've noticed about church attendance during that time. And finally, make sure that you stick around to the very end of this video because I'm going to share with you the one little thing that I think churches are doing that are surprisingly keeping away young people.
Nick Clason (00:52):
Welcome to the Hybrid Ministry Show. Well, hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Hybrid Ministry Show. I, as always am your host, Nick Clason, a 13 year youth ministry veteran located in Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I am on a mission to help churches and youth ministries understand and embrace digital as a real form of church ministry and church discipleship. That's why we call it the Hybrid Ministry Show. It's not just physical, it's not just digital, but it's a melding of the two. In fact, I have a video where I talk about what every church youth ministry needs to be doing. It's linked right here at the top of the episode. If you want to check that out and explore my full basis philosophy and digital strategy, you can go ahead and do that. But for the rest of us, we're going to be exploring what church attendance looks like as far as trends and things are looking at for the future.
Nick Clason (01:44):
Because things are different. The world is changing, and because the world is changing, I do believe that churches not need to not drop the core things of their doctrine and their faith and their outlook. But what they do need to do is that they need to start rethinking and adapting how they're approaching church attendance and their people that are attending their church and how they can best serve them and best create disciples that are going to make an impact in this world. I also want to make sure that you hit a like button because listen, they're free. They cost you nothing, and they really do help a lot. And a subscribe would be even better. And here's why you want to subscribe because we actually dropped a surefire resource in a video not too long ago, 40 done for you ideas about how to reach the next generation, how to stay relevant by using digital. It's a free P D F that'll just give you ideas of how to explore and share the world of digital with your teenagers and the tenders. If you're interested in that, check it out. It'll be linked down below in the show notes. But let's dive in and explore this world of data between Pew Research and Barna. Let's go. Well, hey, everybody. As I said at the top of this episode, if you notice, pew Research is claiming that church attendance is simply down
Nick Clason (02:59):
The board. It's down in every single demographic. There's really only, interestingly, one demographic where church attendance from a post covid world is up, and that is with the religiously unaffiliated from 3% up to 4%, but otherwise, everybody else is down in church attendance. What's fascinating though is that recently Barna, and as I've mentioned multiple times, I'm a youth pastor, and so I took this Barna zoom discovery course on unpacking and understanding Gen Z and real fast before we dive into this conversation about Gen Z, what you need to know is that Generation Z is aging out of our student ministries, right? The youngest Gen Z demographic that we have is freshmen, maybe even sophomores in high school. The rest of our Gen Z are in our workforce. For example, I have a new resident, he's a college graduate, so he is in his first year post-college, he's Gen Z.
Nick Clason (04:00):
And so the fact is Generation Z are young people now. They're not just the youth pastor's problems, they're the church's generation and demographic to understand, and that demographic, that generation, they're attending church even less and less than before. But what's fascinating is I think you'll find out, and as I'm going to talk about the end of this video, is that it's not for the reasons that you might think that they're not attending church. And so as you'll notice, pew research here on the screen has said that church attendance across the board is declining. And I believe that to be true. Okay? What's fascinating though is I do want to lean into the younger demographic. And so in 20 19, 20 4% of 18 to 29 year olds are attending church. Now, peer research claims that only 20% of them are currently attending church, but Barna said that Gen Z is opting out of religion altogether.
Nick Clason (04:52):
So 25% of them, which is the largest of all the other age brackets, if you're including millennials and Gen X and whatever and whatnot, 25% claim to be have no religious affiliation what so ever. That's the largest currently, and it's the largest I believe, in history. Also, what's more fascinating though, and what I really want to kind of dial into is that according to a recent study, they sent just a survey to a big group of Gen Z students, some church, some not, and all kind of the melding in between of their church experience. And it said that the top five words from a list that they were given to choose to describe a Gen Z person's faith were these growing, open, curious, exploring, and unsure. So we have this data from Pew that says Gen Z is not attending church, but then we have this data from Barna that says, the top five ways that they would describe their faith are growing, open, curious, exploring, and unsure.
Nick Clason (06:04):
And so we have these kind of two things that I think are juxtaposed to each other. I don't think either of the data is inaccurate. I still don't think people from Gen Z are attending church that often, and that's what I really want to dive into and explore. But meanwhile, they are all of these things. They are open, growing, curious, exploring. And so how do we lean into a generation that's open, curious, exploring? Meanwhile, furthermore, and also incredibly important about Gen Z is they're very justice minded and they very much care about the marginalized, those in certain pockets and parts of society that are being overlooked. So we as a church should be clamoring for a generation that cares about that, that wants to serve, that wants jump in and help people because that's what the church should be all about. And so we have that.
Nick Clason (06:56):
I also want to share this with you. This last piece of research data from Pew, it dives in just a little bit deeper. I think it's interesting to note we're not going to spend a lot of time on it. So if you're watching this, feel free to just screenshot this. If you're listening to a podcast, make sure you jump into the show notes or head over to YouTube. Go ahead and see this on screen. But the rates are declining, and this is just even more of the data fleshed out and unraveled a little bit deeper so that you can look at it and just see the breakdowns of Christian, Protestant, white, evangelical and all these things. But the consensus is that church attendance is down. So the question that I believe is worth experiencing and exploring is what in the world's going on? So I want to share with you some of my experiences here in the next section.
Nick Clason (07:44):
Check it out. So as I've said, I am a 13 year youth ministry veteran, married to my incredible wife, Amanda. I have two boys. I started as a youth pastor, my final year of college, Cedarville University in Ohio. Shout out, go yellow jackets. And I started working as a youth pastor making a hundred dollars a week at a church in Lebanon, Ohio. It was about a 45 minute drive away from where my college campus was, and I did that my last semester as a senior on campus at Cedarville. That job did extend past graduation, so I worked an entire year past graduation at that church. And then that church, they took a special offering to get me hired. They weren't during my time making budget. And so while they weren't making budget, the senior pastor at the end of it said, listen, man, I don't want to ask our church again for another special offering just simply for your position while the rest of our church is not making budget, so therefore I think it'll be best you left, or if you stayed, we'd love to have you stay, but you're going to have to take a pay cut slash not get paid at all.
Nick Clason (08:45):
And so I knew that my time at that church was done. I went on to another church about 45 minutes back north, closer to college and closer to home, frankly. And that was actually a great experience. I was there for five years. They didn't have a youth pastor before. And so when I started, there was like four kids. My last week on that job. We went to summer camp and we took 88 students to summer camp. And so experienced a lot of growth, numerically, experienced even more growth spiritually. But in both of those experiences, what was happening was my wife and I were looking around and we're like, where are our people? There weren't many people our age. Of course, when we started at the one church, we were in college. When we left the other church, we were 26, 27 years old and had a kid.
Nick Clason (09:31):
And all in that time, there was really never anybody our age. There were always a few. There are always going to be a few people in our age bracket and in our age demographic. But what I've noticed anecdotally is that I have always been in a no man's land spot in church staff. I don't say that to complain. I don't say that to make anybody feel bad, but my generation, I don't feel like attends church that well. And actually, my wife and I were talking about this the other day, and when we were at that church that we were at for five years, it was called University Baptist Church in Beauford Creek, Ohio. We were there for five years. And the problem was we were like, well, we're young, right? And everybody else was about 10 years older than us. Most of them had kids in my youth ministry or starting in my youth ministry that most of our friends were like 35 to 37 years old. They had kids in
Nick Clason (10:24):
Lower elementary school. And we were like, well, listen, nobody our age goes to church. That was kind of the thought, the widespread thought at that time. Young families, young, they're not going to church. They're not making it a priority, but once they have kids, they'll end up being in church, right? Well, now here I am 35 years old or 34 years old. I have kids the same age as those families that I did at that church a couple years ago. And I look around now and there's still that void. There's still that void. There's a little more of it. A, I'm here in the south b I work as youth pastor, and I work when everybody else is at church. So I may drop my kids off, but I'm not getting to know really any of the families, which is another conversation for another day.
Nick Clason (11:11):
And so there may be more of that than I'm even aware of. But as I look around on staff and things like that, look at some of the pools I'm in. There's not as many people my age just not. There's just a gap. And like I was saying, my wife and I, we were talking about it and we've always felt that. I'm like, well, when we get to that age, then it'll be there. And it just hasn't, it's always felt like there's been some sort of attendance void or community void from the, and we've been able to find community lean in. I mean, we have become friends with people of all different ages and types of backgrounds and stuff like that. So we're not looking for people to be identical to us. The thing, I think the tricky part in all of this is that as we were talking about this, she's like, well, if I look around at some of my friends in my family, they don't go to church that much either.
Nick Clason (12:04):
And so even though even some people we maybe went to Christian college with or whatever, they're just, they're not naturally attending church. There's something about church I think that my generation has an aversion to. And I think that that's what this data is bearing out is maybe not post covid church. TE is down maybe since 2019 to 2023. The older generation that did attend church has unfortunately passed away. And this younger generation, as they're waving up, it's not that they're not coming back to church, it's that they were never really there. And so they may claim to be Christians. And I think that that is the conundrum in and of itself. There may be claimed Christians, but they're not showing up at our churches. And so I have a thesis as a youth pastor, as a 13 year church staff veteran that I want to propose with you.
Nick Clason (13:01):
It's going to be controversial, and you may not even agree, but I have a thesis of why I think that this is happening. So let's check that out on the other side. So here's my thesis. I really do think that young people are interested in God, faith, spiritual things and spirituality. I really do. I think the Barna data bears that out. I think what they're uninterested in is the church current demands, expectations, and the ways that the church has been choosing to do things for years. And I think one of the things that I want to challenge churches, church leaders, even youth pastors who are in a second seat to maybe lead up, is to rethink tier two issues. And that's my hack in this video, rethink tier two issues, because I think we've made things like, now don't call me a heretic and turn this off, but just hear me out.
Nick Clason (13:58):
I think we've made things like the Sunday morning sermon, worship experience, a tier one issue when biblically, the impetus for gathering together is not around a lecture style message. It never was. The gathering was meant to be a family, meant to be a living, breathing organism. And at some point along the way, we've interjected this idea of a lecture style message, and we've made that the number one step in church. And we have a generation of young people that are looking for community belonging, acceptance, looking for a place to make a difference, and then we ask them as a church to come in and listen to us, tell them what to do for an hour. And then beyond that, if they want to go deeper, if they're really, really committed, if they really, really care, if they're really about this God stuff, then they'll give us even more of their time and they'll start serving.
Nick Clason (15:03):
And I just don't know that that's the best entry point in churches anymore. Again, don't call me a heretic. I love preaching and I love sermons, but I think that there are many, many ways to rethink that. In fact, Barna answered the six questions for the future of the hybrid church a couple years ago in the P D F ebook. I can link that in the show notes down below. But in that they asked, what are digital ways to do church? And it was offered things like small group confession, Bible study prayer. The number one thing that people voted that could be experienced digitally was the sermon. I love listening to sermons, but I love also listening to it When I'm on a run or when I'm driving or when I'm at the grocery store, I listen to things in my ears all day long so I can hear a sermon that exact same way.
Nick Clason (16:00):
But instead, the expectation is for someone to walk into a room, stare at the back of someone's head and listen to someone up on stage, talk for half an hour. What if we rethought that and flipped the entry point into a more robust community? Because in my experience, community is like sermon 2.0 or sermon adjacent. We had the sermon, and now that that's good and locked in, now let's explore other avenues for you to go to church. What if we rethought that as a tier two thing? Because what I know the church to be biblically and theologically is a place for believers to come together to gather, to worship God together and to be a family and a community. Hebrews 10, 24 and 25 spurring one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.
Nick Clason (16:58):
And I think if all we do is show up into a Sunday morning gathering and we have the hallway pleasantries and the coffee interactions, and then a 30 minute sermon, and then we go to brunch, I don't know that we really encouraged anybody. We can smile real nice, but at the end of the day, did that do anything? And I think that right there is the rub. I think that's the difference between a different generation, an older generation of church tenders and this new wave of church generations. And so if you're a youth pastor, you're on the front lines of this. And you may be a beneficiary of older families that have kids that are sending their kids to your student ministry, but are those kids actually connected to God in the church or are they connected to their parents who are coming through the church and then ultimately into your
Nick Clason (17:49):
Youth ministry? And so get to know them because while they may not be making the decisions right now as the people who are, they're not the schedule keepers. Mom and dads are the ones driving them, but get to know them, get to know what makes them tick, and will they stay connected and attached to the church and the mission overall. And so that's my thesis. I hope that you just give it a thought, think through what these tier two issues might look like and how you can readapt them in your church. But hey, I want to let you know that right here on the screen, like I said, I have this video helping you break down how to reach this next generation. And I have a ebook 40 done for you, ideas listed out in this video, TikTok versus Instagram versus YouTube. It'll pop up here on the screen. Hey, listen, we're trying to make digital discipleship easy and accessible, so don't forget, and as always, stay hybrid.