Marketing Religion to Younger Generations Due for a Change

As religious diversity increases across the U.S., it seems that few young adults have much in-​depth knowledge on the topic.  A Pew Forum report indicates that up to 25% of young adults are unaffiliated with any church. And another study by Barna Group finds that a majority of young adults say the Bible, the Quran and the Book of Mormon are documents that depict the truth but they lack details to support these beliefs. These findings concern the leaders of traditional and established religions who worry about the future of their institutions. But one of the reports offers a glimpse at the best way to market religion to younger consumers and perhaps increase their participation.

Earlier this year, the Pew Forum noted that only 68% of  young adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18–29 call themselves Protestant. This is a much lower figure than the 88% of consumers age 70+ who give themselves the Protestant label. The Pew report revealed no substantial difference in categories such as Jewish, Muslim, or Catholic when it comes to age groups. However, there are significantly lower rates of young adults who belong to evangelical and mainline Protestant churches than their older counterparts.

Of the younger generation, David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, Ventura, CA, says “their spirituality is extremely wide, often shallow and always compelling.” These consumers are not particularly interested in “word by word battles of deep theological resonance to scholars and preachers.” Neither do the Millennials  want to sit in the church pews on Sundays and listen to sermons. Instead, they are interested in doing well and doing good. The secret to their spirituality and even to their potential church membership may be to market experiences to them. As young adults prepare to carry out missions, whether it is staffing soup kitchens or collecting clothing for the needy, church leaders may be able to educate them on religious history in these unusual settings and increase their commitment and involvement.

But to get the Millennials’ attention, more churches may first be marketing opportunities in service campaigns to engage this ‘experiential’ generation.

[Sources:  Religion Among the Millennials. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Pewforum​.org. 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 8 Oct. 2010;  Grossman, Cathy Lynn. Faith & Reason. Content​.usatoday​.com. 24 Sept. 2010. Web. 8 Oct. 2010] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.