According to Barna Research Group, on of the top insights of 2022 was a shifting in church attendance. Taken alone, a chart depicting the millennial generation as having the highest church attendance rates while the boomer generation has the lowest would seem to indicate a major demographic shift in the church. But does Barna’s research reflect reality or does this data collapse on itself?
Evangelical Dark Web has covered how compromised Barna Research Group has become over the last few years, going woke and creating gimmicky schemes for churches. Nonetheless, their data while generally limited in its helpfulness is used by many churches.
This chart seems like an own the boomers type of moment for millennials. The millennial generation more than doubled its weekly attendance rate from 17% in 2021 to 39% in 2022. This genuinely seems like great news, and if saving souls is a numbers game it would be a win. Gen X also doubled from 2021 to 2022. Boomers fell to last place in 2022 after leading the three years prior.
The case that Barna wants to highlight are that non-white millennials are driving this attendance rate 45-35%. Yet, it’s unclear how Hispanics are classified in this.
This chart shows that a whopping 22% of boomers dropped out of the church altogether, the highest of any generation. Yet, it also shows that boomers were loyal to their starting church, for better or worse. Additionally, millennials and Gen X were much more into church shopping over the last three years.
This is the final graph that Barna publicly presents. It shows that boomers attend strictly in person at a 65% rate. Yet they also are exclusively online at a 22% rate which is also the highest of each generation. Gen X and millennials are similar in their numbers with neither claiming a majority strictly in person attendance and have a greatly willingness for the hybrid model of church. Gen X is least likely to attend exclusively online, at 18%.
Not many conclusions can be made about this chart. It seems like the boomers who went to church with no real convictions largely left. Meanwhile, younger generations aren’t attending in person as a whole to the same extent as the boomer generation.
Are these numbers preferable to 2021? By all means. That year was a train wreck. But we don’t know what type of churches these millennials are attending, as Barna did not stratify the data for theological convictions. Perhaps cautious optimism is warranted, but that’s about it.