The level of commitment to the vision of their local church is higher amongst younger attenders.
When looking at the views, experiences and hopes of younger churchgoers aged 15 to 36, we see that while many younger attenders are relatively new to their local church, they are committed, keen to grow and willing to contribute.
Findings from the 2016 NCLS showed that over six in ten (62%) of attenders aged 15 to 36 were aware of and committed to their church's vision. Just over half (54%) were fully confident the vision could be achieved. Around a third (32%) stated they would like to be more involved at church. Churches should consider the potential of capturing this dynamic energy in church life.
Below are a range of interesting results for younger people across the Australian church. The story may differ somewhat between denominations, but the top-level results here highlight some important issues.
In 2016, around half of church attenders (52%) aged 15 to 36 years were new arrivals to their church within the previous five years. Just over one in ten (11%) were newcomers who had either never regular attended a church previously or who had returned after a long absence. Nearly four in ten (39%) had changed from a different church in the last 5 years (of which 13% had switched from another denomination and 26% transferred from a church in the same denomination). Some 45% were long term attenders at their church.
Some 45% of attenders aged 15 to 36 said they performed at least one leadership role at church, out of a list of 10 options. This is a similar rate of involvement to older age groups, at around 42% for those aged 37 and over. Younger attenders were more commonly found in leadership of children's and youth ministry, as well as worship services; and less commonly found in administration, council, deacons or elders, committees, and pastoral care or visitation roles.
Some 22% of attenders aged 15 to 36 were involved in leading children's ministry or youth ministry, compared with only 10% of attenders aged 37-64 and 3% of those aged 65+. A great difference between age groups was seen in pastoral care and visitation leadership roles, with only 3% of attenders aged 15 to 36 involved, in comparison to 12% of attenders aged 65+. These trends are perhaps indicative of peers ministering to similar aged groups at church, with younger attenders leading children and youth, while older attenders visit and pastorally care for older attenders.
Results from the 2016 NCLS reveal that the level of commitment to the vision of their local church is higher amongst younger attenders. Some 62% of attenders aged 15 to 36 are aware of and committed to their local church's vision compared with 51% of older attenders aged 65+. Over half of younger attenders (54%) were fully confident the vision can be achieved, in comparison with 43% of older attenders.
When asked to select the priorities for their local church in the next 12 months, the top choice of younger attenders aged 15 to 36 was spiritual growth activities. Some 36% of younger attenders aged 15 to 36 selected Spiritual growth e.g. spiritual direction, prayer groups (compared with 26% of older attenders aged 65 and over), revealing a hunger for growth amongst younger generations. The next option selected was Building a strong sense of community (at 27%). Also apparent was a desire to be empowered to discover and use their gifts at church, with 25% of younger attenders aged 15 to 36 selecting Encouraging people here to discover or use their gifts (compared with 19% of older attenders aged 65 and over).
Younger generations of attenders gave favourable feedback on being empowered by their leaders and wanting to contribute at church. Nearly three in 10 younger attenders (28%) felt their leaders encouraged them to find and use their gifts and skills to a great extent. This compares with just 17% of older attenders aged 65 and over.
Around a third of younger attenders aged 15 to 36 (32%) stated they would like to be more involved at church, compared with 24% of attenders aged 37-64 and 11% of attenders aged 65 and over.
When asked about their views on innovation at their local church, younger attenders showed support for such initiatives. Some 84% agreed that they would support the developments of new initiatives in ministry and mission at their local church. Four in ten (41%) younger attenders aged 15 to 36 strongly supported such new initiatives compared with 24% of older attender aged 65 and over.
Younger attenders gave more positive assessments of their leaders' encouragement of creativity at their church. Some 27% of younger churchgoers aged 15 to 36 strongly agreed that their leaders encouraged innovation and creative thinking, compared to 21% of churchgoers aged 37 to 64 and 14% of churchgoers aged 65 and over.
With such dynamic energy associated with openness to creativity, confidence in achieving a vision and willingness to be empowered by leadership, churches should consider the potential of enabling their younger generations to contribute to the life of their church.
Powell, R. Sterland, S. Pepper, M. and Hancock, N. (2016). 2016 NCLS Operations Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research.
Powell, R. Sterland, S. Pepper, M. and Hancock, N. (2017). Comparing Australian Church Attenders by Age Group. Research Profile 1704. Sydney: NCLS Research.