The Popularity of Unaffiliated

Posted on: 01/2/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

A new year brings new trends, and one of these growing trends just might be claiming “unaffiliated.”

On December 18th, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released their newest Global Religious Landscape study. In other words… who believes “what” around the world?

Christians led the pack, with 31.5% of the population claiming, “I’m Christian.” Muslims came in second (23.2%)… and then the bronze winner… “Unaffiliated.”

The picture in America isn’t much different. The number of unaffiliated rose from 15% to 19% in the last 5 years. Even more intriguing… when you break it down by age. Pew’s other recent report, “Nones” on the Rise, provides this nice chart showing the recent trends in affiliation, by generation:

As you can see, the younger the American, the greater the chance of being unaffiliated with any religion. My son’s age group (born 1990-1994) leading the pack with 34% unaffiliated.

Interesting enough, unaffiliated shouldn’t be confused with being an atheist or agnostic. While 19% of Americans claim unaffiliated, less than 5% still claim to be either atheist or agnostic. Does this mean they’ve never had doubts? Actually, PEW asked a question about doubting God’s existence. When asked if they’ve never doubted the existence of God, 80% of Americans said, “Yes, I’ve never doubted this,” compared to 88% in 1987.

What does all of this mean for us, especially those of us working with young people?

It means many of us are going to encounter different types of kids in our respective mission fields and we should take some time to consider who they are, what they believe and what our conversations with each of these kids just might look like. This is exactly what I teach in my CONNECT training workshop, and what we taught in this little youth leader training video on YouTube, Connecting with the Six Types of Kids.

(When I hear the words “unaffiliated,” I think “not interested kid.”)

What about you? How are you going to connect with each of the six types of kids we encounter in today’s culture?

FOR FURTHER READING… you’ll enjoy Jonathan’s book Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, where Jonathan helps youth leaders connect with the six types of kids they’ll encounter in their community.