Building the Congregations of Tomorrow


It has been a common thought that the future of religious institutions depends upon attracting young people; they are, naturally, the congregations of tomorrow. Consequently, this idea is important in understanding why that generation appears to be not going to churches, synagogues, and mosques.

The reasons for the  separation are examined by journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley in her new book, Got Religion?: How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back, published by Templeton Press. One focus is the phenomenon of “emerging adulthood,” the notion that traditional milestones for entering adult life, such as marriage, are now often deferred or blurred in young modern lives. Because marriage has traditionally been the point at which people who have strayed return to religious communities, the delay of marriage has cause them to delay their return—sometimes indefinitely.

Got Religion? explores how successful institutions are addressing this gap, research that Riley also outlines in an online video discussion. The faith communities young people attach themselves to are not necessarily the biggest or the most flashy, she suggests. They are not the wealthiest ones or the ones employing the latest technology. Rather, they are the communities that create stability for young people, that give them real responsibility in a community, and that help them form the habits of believers that will last a lifetime.