Barna Releases Review of Top Religious Trends in 2005

The Barna Group on Tuesday released a report on the top religious trends for 2005 based on studies conducted this year.

While the evangelical research group found that churches don't minister or worship properly, it found that there is a hunger in the younger adult generations, who have chosen to satisfy that hunger in new ways.

Lack of Ministry, Prayer, & Authentic Worship

According to The Barna Group Founder George Barna, most local churches (80 percent) essentially ignore ministry to children and families, both of which are critical to church growth.

These two ministries care important because "families are meant to be the faith-center of each individual’s life," stated Barna in his recent report, and "children are the most important and impressionable individuals we could possibly reach."

Prayer and worship are also both seriously lacking in a typical church, the researcher further noted in the report.

Less than four percent of churches label prayer a top priority, and less than 20 percent rated worship to be a top ministry priority, though churches call the weekly event a worship service, he added.

Lack of Biblical Knowledge

And while most American Christians believe the Bible contains truth and is worth knowing and argue that they know all the relevant truths, the lack of Biblical knowledge has reached "crisis proportions," said Barna. Churches have de-emphasized Bible teaching, and families have de-prioritized Bible learning.

"By and large, people parrot what their parents taught them," he stated. "Sadly, with fewer and fewer parents teaching their kids much of anything related to matters of faith, young people’s belief system is the product of the mass media."

Demise of African Church

The demise of the African-American church community is another cause for concern, said Barna, who addressed this subject with Bishop Harry Jackson in their co-authored book High Impact African-American Churches.

Barna found the decline is related to the growing wealth of Black people.

"There is an intriguing – and unfortunate – correlation between the economic rise of the African-American population and the deterioration of its faith in Christ," he said.

Rise of Revolutionaries

There is, however, an overall rise of individuals who want more of God. Not finding it in churches, these individuals – usually young adult generations in their 20s through 40s – have crafted new worship environments, said Barna. He has written a new book on this subject. Revolution released in October and has been Barna's fastest selling book.

There are over 20 million adults who are pursuing a "Revolutionary faith" that is reminiscent of the early Church, said Barna. They are meeting in homes, at work, in public places – wherever they can connect.

"The energy and passion exhibited by these people is quite refreshing," he said.

Growing Use of Technology

Congregations, meanwhile, are rapidly incorporating new technologies into their activities, including big-screen projectors (66 percent of all Protestant churches), websites (57 percent), and e-mail blasts to congregants (56 percent).
Barna said technology "help[s] churches communicate more effectively" and is useful to the many seekers looking for information via the Internet.

Emerging Leadership

The representatives of Christianity in the last two decades included Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson, but as those churchmen have aged or passed away, a new generation emerged, which include Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, whose message and media skills reflect the new cultural environment.

Rise of Evangelicals

Barna also noted that although only seven percent of adults are evangelicals, their voices get an unusually large share of media attention.

The researcher offered three possibilities for this increased attention: the evangelical contribution to the win of the 2004 election, the dismay at the current state of society, and the exercise of religious freedom by Evangelicals before it is taken away.

"It’s kind of an example of the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy," he said.

For the full report, visit barna.org.