Why Black Churches Are Keeping Millennials

Should blacks be counted as Millennials?

That’s the question Thabiti Anyabwile, an African American pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, asks when handwringing commences about young people leaving US churches.

“Researchers describe millennials as a fairly privileged and special group, which is so far from the reality of so many African Americans,” said Anyabwile. “When it comes to describing broad demographic trends, you’re woefully in danger of building a profile based on the assumed normative experiences of majority culture.”

At large, millennials are less religious than were earlier generations of Americans. In 2012, Pew Research Center released data showing that 32 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 are religiously unaffiliated. This was an 11 percent increase over any other age group that year, and a 7 percent jump from the 25 percent of young people who responded this way in 2007.

Yet a deeper dive into Pew’s study suggests whites are overrepresented among those who are not religiously affiliated. Anglos make up 66 percent of the US population, yet they compose 71 percent of those with no religious affiliation. In contrast, blacks make up 11 percent of the population but only 9 percent of the so-called “nones.”

Black Protestants have retained the greatest number of millennials compared with Catholics, white mainliners, and white evangelicals, according to 2012 data from the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. These traditions have seen their market share of millennials drop by 8.4, 7.3, and 2.2 percentage points, respectively. In contrast, black Protestant millennials have decreased ...

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Why Black Churches Are Keeping Millennials
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January/February 2015

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