Today’s plenary session address was given by Elizabeth Drescher, a writer, educator and public speaker who has done an intensive study on people who classify their religious affiliation as “None.” She is the author of Tweet if you (Heart) Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation and Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. She is currently working on a new book, Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of Religious Nones. She said the rise of FaceBook coincided with the rise of the Nones, and then explained that there are several varieties of Nones, including:
• Spiritual but not religious
• Nothing in particular
• Secular Humanist
• Soft Agnostic
• Hard Agnostic
• All of the Above (AOTA)
• None of the Above (NOTA)
What was so fascinating was her comment that “Churches today are the biggest factories for Nones,” with the following statistics: The percentage of people who leave the Congregationalists are 63%; Episcopalians 55%; Non-denominational/Evangelicals 56%; Presbyterian 60%; Holiness 68%; Lutheran 41%; Methodist 53%; Pentecostal 53%; Baptist 40%; Adventist 41%; and Anabaptist 60% and the percentages of those members becoming “Nones” range from 20% down to 7%.
Another interesting observation was that at the founding of America, only 20% were religiously affiliated. That didn’t change until the 1950s during President Eisenhower’s time and even he didn’t belong to a church until he became president.
Yet there is a phenomenon of “spirituality of secularity” and atheist clergy. Drescher went to a community meeting of “Nones” and found they had much in common with church groups: They were over 50, white, and desperate for new members! Sound familiar?
All of this, of course, mean tremendous challenges for those who work in churches. “Nones” are growing at the rate of 20% per year!