Anyone who pays attention to religious demographics knows that congregations -- especially Christian churches and Jewish synagogues -- are having trouble attracting and keeping young people as members.
But now a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has found that the Internet itself may be a contributing factor in why members of the millennial generation aren't attaching themselves much to faith communities.
Here's what Patricia Wittberg is quoted as saying in an IUPUI press release about her work, which focuses on Catholic congregations:
“Some of this (lack of affiliation) is due to the individualizing experience of accessing religion and spirituality via the Internet. On the Internet, seekers can pick and choose what kinds of doctrines appeal to them -- with little or no consideration of the official teachings of any church -- and they can join and leave religious online ‘communities’ much more easily.”
Both religious and secular groups are recognizing now that if they don't somehow provide a sense of community to members, those members will leave -- or never join in the first place.
My own experience shows me that my faith community provides banks to the theological river in which I'm traveling. Which is to say that my community helps keep me from running completely amok when I have challenging questions to ask or doubts to express. Besides that, the community is simply there for me as a healing presence when I need it -- a role I also can play for others as part of my congregation.
Yes, I can get plenty of information, advice and even humor about religion on the Internet. But it helps to have folks off of whom to bounce this information to make sure I don't drift into either fanaticism or apathy.
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KING'S X ON MARRIAGE?
It can be oh so much fun to follow religious debates in England. Now, for instance, they're arguing over changing the law that currently prohibits the British monarch from marrying a Roman Catholic. More ripple effects from the time of Henry VIII. How about settling this by reuniting the Church of England with the Catholic Church? Simple.