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The Rise of Digital Urban Tribes
Image: Illustration by Paul Kisselev
The Rise of Digital Urban Tribes

This piece is a response to Thomas E. Bergler's cover story, "When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity."

The most popular games are those that rely on both strategy and luck. When we win, we like to credit our acumen. When we lose, it's easy to blame the unfortunate odds.

Many Christians seem to think discipling the next generation of Christ followers is a simple mix of skill and luck. It goes something like this: God gets the credit when the kids turn out all right, and our broken world gets the blame when things run amok. This logic may not be entirely wrong, but it oversimplifies on-the-ground realities

Our team at Barna Group has spent the past five years researching the development of Christianity among youth and young adults—more than 5,000 interviews on this subject. We've examined the perceptions of teens and 20-somethings, and we've explored the attitudes of stakeholders, including pastors, youth workers, parents, and ministry professionals who work with the younger generation. My take on our research findings is that we underestimate three aspects of discipleship, and overvalue another, regarding the next generation.

First, we underestimate the profound impact of the social changes that are taking place with the current millennial generation, or "mosaics," as we call them. Today's generation of youth and young adults is more conversant with technology, less likely to come from married families, and more financially indebted than any previous generation. Their levels of religious, ethnic, and sexual diversity far outpace those of preceding generations. And they are getting married much later in life than did the boomers. Robert Wuthnow's book After the Boomers shows just how much ...

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hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2012

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