New Study Finds Millennials Like a Touch of the Digital with the Divine
- New study found that a majority of millennials that engage in digital religious or spiritual activities at least once a month also participate in in-person forms of religion or spirituality once a month or more.
- Study found that 32% of millennials in the United States and Canada engage in digital religious or spiritual activities at least once a month.
- Study suggests that religious leaders looking to connect with Gen Zers or millennials need to have an online presence, but in-person activities are needed, too. We
11 August 2022 | A recent Adventist Record article asked, “Is online church really church?”
Living Manna, the first solely online Adventist Church, would probably argue it is.
But Bruce Manners, the article’s author, wrote that “unless we are incapacitated or isolated, we are biblically called to belong in a way that online church cannot satisfy.”
Karl Vaters, a pastor from California, U.S., wrote in a blog post that “church will never be entirely digital. Screen-to-screen is no substitute for face-to-face. Digital reality cannot replace actual reality.”
And it would seem a bunch of millennials agree with them.
A recent study, “Digital Religion Among U.S. and Canadian Millennial Adults,” led by University of Waterloo sociologist Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme, found that 32% of millennials in the United States and Canada engage in digital religious or spiritual activities at least once a month. But only 5% said they do so without engaging in in-person forms of religion or spirituality once a month or more, reported the Religious News Service (RNS).
Digital religion is defined in the study as an umbrella concept that reflects “a new frame for articulating the evolution of religious practices online” and “points to how digital media and spaces are shaping and being shaped by religious practice,” reported the Christian Post.
Wilkins-Laflamme left the definition of digital religion largely up to respondents; it could include anything from using a Bible app to watching a spirituality-themed Instagram reel, reported the RNS.
The study, published in the Review of Religious Research, analyzed the digital religion practices of 2,514 respondents among 18- to 35-year-old millennials in the U.S. and Canada. Millennials have one of the lowest rates of participation in organized in-person religious activities in North America, according to the Pew Research Center.
In the U.S., 41% reported passively consuming any kind of religious or spiritual digital content at least once a month, while 32% of U.S. respondents posted about religion or spirituality monthly, reported the RNS.
In Canada, where the population is less religious overall, 29% of millennials consumed religious/spiritual digital content, and only 17% posted about it.
“The overall takeaway for me was that digital religion is definitely a thing, but it’s a thing that only a chunk of the (millennial) population does,” Wilkins-Laflamme told RNS.
However, Wilkins-Laflamme told the Christian Post that “we’ve found that while digital religion isn’t necessarily attracting a lot of new millennials to participate, it is making the experience of those already involved richer.”
Though Manners agrees that online services are needed, he said in his article, “We need to recognise that going to church with its face-to-face and live experience elements makes for better church. It’s true that it may not be as slick, as rehearsed or as professional, but it is warts-and-all real.”
Manners said a big advantages of church attendance is mixing with people who share your faith, but who may be quite different to you in other ways. Those differences help us develop in our own faith.
“Congregating for church matters,” said Manners.
Still, Wilkins-Laflamme’s study suggests that religious leader looking to connect with Gen Zers or millennials need to have an online presence, according to the RNS.
“Religious groups who don’t have an online presence will really struggle with those two generations,” she told the RNS.
(Photo: A new study found that a majority of Millennials that engage in digital religious or spiritual activities at least once a month also participate in in-person forms of religion or spirituality once a month or more. Photo by Omar Medina from Pixabay.)