After the Baby Boomers
How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion
Princeton University Press, $29.95, 312 pp.
Today’s young adults may be a mystery to many religious leaders, but one thing about them is clear: Compared with young adults of the preceding generation, fewer go to church. Thirty-one percent of young American adults attended religious services regularly in the 1970s; 25 percent attended in 2000. This decline has cost communities of faith 6.3 million young-adult members—a loss of twenty-one young adults per congregation. Picture your congregation on a Sunday morning, and subtract twenty-one young faces from the pews. It hurts, doesn’t it? It’s possible your congregation already has sustained a loss that large.
After the Baby Boomers is Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow’s call to action. If religious communities do not change, he argues, the decreasing participation of young adults in congregations will jeopardize the future of American religion. According to Wuthnow, if congregations are going to start attracting young adults, they first need to understand them.
After the Baby Boomers describes young adults’ perspectives and life experiences, analyzing their beliefs and practices pertaining to religion, politics, and family-rearing. It draws on extensive survey data and compares generations, denominations, and ethnic groups. The findings confirm some widely held views (young adults probably do prefer newer congregations) and disprove others (today’s young...
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About the Author
Katherine DiSalvo is a research affiliate of the Ecologies of Learning Project at the New York Theological Seminary.