Findings in Brief
Here are some of our key findings:
- Christianity’s decline in the U.S. has been both large and broad. Christian losses have occurred in every population segment – young and old, male and female, within every race, at all income and educational levels, and in every geographic region, though the decline has been greater among certain population segments.
- Doubts are spiritually harmful. Having specific doubts about Christianity made it much more likely that individuals would reject or abandon Christianity, and doubt produced much lower levels of spiritual health as assessed through profession of faith, worship attendance, Bible reading, prayer frequency, and other indices of spiritual health. The effects of doubt fully accounted for the observed generational differences in Christian commitment. And the presence or absence of doubt was found to be the single best predictor of Christian affiliation and spiritual health, compared to several hundred other factors.
- “High information seekers” have experienced the greatest losses from Christianity – in other words adults (and teens) who are younger, highly educated, knowledgeable, high-achieving, technologically engaged individuals who may have religiously diverse friends. This is a rapidly growing population segment.
- Certain types of individuals are more difficult than others to evangelize and disciple. Our research identifies the characteristics of persons presenting a special challenge to disciple-making and explains why as well as how to more effectively engage them with the Christian message.
- All types of persons are equally committed to Christianity provided their questions are satisfactorily answered and their doubts resolved. It is therefore critically important to know, and understand how to answer, the population’s frequently-asked-questions and its most common doubts. The greatest value of NextGen research is that we offer specific practical steps for maximum effectiveness in disciple-making based on the details of our research findings.
When Millennials and other difficult-to-reach types have unanswered questions and unresolved doubts, they are very unlikely to embrace Christianity. However, when those raised in Christian households have successfully addressed their questions and doubts, they are over 98% likely to stay committed to their Christian faith and thrive spiritually.