The coronavirus pandemic might push larger numbers of young people to abandon Christianity or churchgoing, researchers from Christian polling company Barna say.
"I actually think we're going to see an increasing number of people who've lost connectedness with their faith community, with their usual rhythms and practices," said Barna President David Kinnaman. "We know that 22% of young people today are what we call 'prodigals.' They lost their faith entirely. That number grew by double from 11% 10 years ago. So what it will look like in 10 years is hard to know, but we think it's going to actually accelerate that problem."
The statistics Barna cites apply to Christians ages 18-29. Only 10% of this group are considered "ideal" or "resilient" disciples, 30% are "nomads" who still say they are Christians but do not regularly attend church, and 38% are "habitual churchgoers" with minimal relationship with God.
Mark Matlock, Barna's director of insights, said "the pandemic has accelerated the urgency, I believe, in discipling those habitual churchgoers."
"We need to be calling every young person that we have contact with," he said. "...Asking them how they're doing? Finding out how their faith has been going. How can we be the church to you? We know that resilients have those relationships, habituals do not. And it's a hard thing to do in the pandemic to try to build those things, but that's what is most urgent right now."