Article Display
Email  |  My Account  |  Donate
Every December, a tradition at Barna Group is to compile some of the most important trends of the year. We invite you to check out the six major trends that our team explored this past year.

Changing Role of Christianity
This year, Barna Group delved into many subjects of faith and culture, including the changing role of faith and Christianity. One of those shifts is the relative unknown nature of Christian leaders. Only Billy Graham, the Pope, Barack Obama and Joel Osteen were mentioned by more than 1 out of 50 adults as the most significant Christian leaders. What’s more, 41% of Americans are unable to identify any individual who they consider to be an influential Christian.

Another way in which Christianity hit the mainstream radar was prominent discussion about hell. This issue sparked so much controversy and vigorous debate in part because America is essentially split down the middle on most issues of universalism and religious pluralism. For example, 43% of Americans said it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons; 54% of Americans disagree. Half of Americans (50%) believe that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God no matter what they do, while 40% disagreed. With the nation’s population so divided, expect to see these issue continue to stoke lively conversations.

Despite the fact that Christianity’s role is changing, Barna Group discovered that there is a great deal of openness among millions of Americans to overtly supporting Christian business and brands. In fact, nearly half of all adults (including all faith groups) said they would be open to purchasing from a business or brand that operates according to Christian principles.

For faith leaders, one of the most favorable Barna findings of the year was the fact that three-quarters of Americans believe that churches are a positive factor in their communities. Just 1 out of 20 adults believe that the influence of churches is negative. While the most common thing that people look to from churches is addressing poverty, churchgoers as well as unchurched residents look to congregations for a range of things.

Downsized American Dreams
A consistent theme from Barna Group’s research this year is Americans’ growing acceptance of limitations. Compared to the experience of economic surplus of recent decades, residents are living within a redefined American dream. For many, this includes lowered expectations, rethinking spending habits, and relearning savings.

One reason for their modest outlook on life is that three-quarters of adults claim to have been personally affected by the economic downturn. Another reason: Americans have come to accept that the economy is not recovering anytime soon. They are settling in for the long haul. Seven out of 10 Americans believe it will be two or more years and nearly half say it will take three years or longer. One out of 17 Americans now believes the economy will never fully recover, up from one in 50 two years ago.

One of the unfortunate consequences of these changes is a reduction in charitable giving. Three out of 10 adults have reduced their giving to churches and four out of 10 have downgraded their giving to non-profits. One of the measures of generosity is tithing, or giving 10% or more of one’s income. The tithing indicator, too, has dropped from 7% to 4% of all Americans. The patterns of giving and generosity suggest a tough year ahead for non-profit and church leaders.

Millennials Rethink Christianity
Another key theme from Barna Group’s research is the new generation gap hitting the Christian community. Many of today’s congregations are struggling to remain connected with Millennials (a generation that Barna calls Mosaics). The faith journeys of teens and young adults are often challenging for many parents and faith leaders, who often misunderstand how and why young people become disconnected. Barna Group’s Faith That Lasts Project emphasizes the fact that every individual is different and experiences a unique series of events that lead to disconnection. Yet, the research also points to six reasons that young adults leave church as well as five common myths about church dropouts.

In particular, 84% of Christian 18- to 29-year-olds admit that they have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests. For example, young adults who are interested in creative or science-oriented careers often disconnect from their faith or from the church. On the creative side, this includes young musicians, artists, writers, designers, and actors. On the science-oriented side, young engineers, medical students, and science and math majors frequently struggle to see how the Bible relates to their life’s calling.

This is particularly urgent because nearly half of Christian teenagers aspire to careers in science and nearly one-fifth are interested in creative professions. The Barna study showed that faith communities can become more effective in working with the next generation by linking vocation and faith.

The Digital Family
According to a new report co-released by Barna Group and Orange, most Americans have welcomed digital technologies like computers and smart phones into their lives with open arms. In fact, most parents believe that, on balance, technology has been a positive influence in their lives by making communication more convenient.

Yet, there is no question that technology has also increased conflict within families. Parents complain that technology wastes time, creates diversions from homework, allows students to maintain a private, exclusive relational life, and distracts from family conversations.

Interestingly, the research pointed out that most parents are just as dependent on digital tools; they use the Internet and mobile phones nearly as much as their own children. Teenagers also complain about a double standard with regard to technology, noting that their parents bring home too much work and that it makes it hard to have conversations. Recent writing from Barna Group founder, George Barna, raises the possibility that technology has become America’s new addiction.

The Barna report gives clues as to how church communities can help families navigate the digital world by helping to reimagine the role of sabbatical living (i.e., taking meaningful, consistent breaks from technology) and by adding technology to discussions of stewardship.

Maximizing Spiritual Change
Much of Barna Group’s work through the years has shown the rarity of lasting spiritual transformation in people’s lives. For example, among those who believe they are Christians, just one-fifth say they live in a way that makes them completely dependent on God. A similar proportion of Christians claim that the single most important decision they have ever made was to invite Jesus Christ to forgive them and become their savior. And just one-sixth of Christians say they are totally committed to engaging in personal spiritual development.

This year, George Barna’s Maximum Faith Project added new knowledge about the obstacles and also pointed to significant insights that could lead to deeper spiritual transformation for individuals. The research revealed that most Christians simply do not understand the obstacles they face on the spiritual journey. Yet, the Maximum Faith study identified four common barriers to transformation, including lack of commitment, unwillingness to fully repent, confusing activity for growth, and failure to engage in genuine, accountable community.

One of the main discoveries of the project was that the spiritual journey can be mapped. In fact, the study describes 10 stops in the spiritual journey and shows why it is so rare for people to continue growing spiritually as well as how to help keep people moving. Many church leaders simply offer a menu of programs and spiritual activities, hoping that people will, in effect, choose the right “spiritual diet.” Instead, the most effective leaders understand that there is a defined and predictable process that people must undergo in order to be transformed. Consequently, these leaders give people a sense of this journey and then facilitate the conditions for people to experience such spiritual maturation.

Women Making it Alone
Barna Group’s work explored several aspects of the so-called gender gap, especially among young women. The conclusion: young women are more likely than ever to feel they must get educated, find a job, and be ready for life – with or without marriage. More than ever before, young women are preparing themselves to live independently.

For example, one of the fascinating Barna findings from the year was the fact that teen girls aspire to most of the same careers as teen-aged boys. As expected, young women exhibit traditional preferences for teaching, fashion, interior design, and nursing. But teen females are more likely than teen males to aspire to work in journalism, business, and law. And teen girls are equally likely to be interested in the military, arts and music, public safety including law enforcement and firefighting, and government.

Another surprising fact about the changing views of young women is that only 1% of teen girls explicitly identifies “domestic work” or “homemaking” as their future occupational choice. Most of these young women still expect to raise families, but just anticipate doing so later in life. This corresponds to a recent article by a Barna researcher describing that the demographics of twentysomethings have shifted from young, married couples to “digitally connected urban tribes.” In the past, the conventional life path for twentysomething women included marriage and childbearing. But that is no longer the typical outcome for today’s young women. This gives churches and workplaces a more educated, upwardly mobile – and less marriage-oriented – cohort of young women.

Additionally, Barna Group explored some of the emotional and psychological burdens that weigh down today’s Americans, including young women. In total, more than 70 million adults in this nation feel as though their past decisions and life events have limited their current prospects. The manner in which the next generation of women finds their full potential will influence much of the health and vitality of the nation over the next several decades.

Barna Research Online
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

George Barna
Web site: Barna Research Online
George Barna is the president of the Barna Research Group, Ltd., a marketing research firm located in Ventura, CA.

About Us

The online ministry of cfaith has been helping people discover faith, friends and freedom in the Word since 2000. Cfaith provides a unique and comprehensive collection of faith-building resources for the worldwide faith community.

At cfaith, you can strengthen your faith and deepen your understanding of the Word of God by digging into the vast collection of teaching articles, streaming audio and video messages, and daily devotionals. No other website offers such a unique and extensive collection of spiritual-growth resources aimed at helping you grow in your knowledge of the Word.




Support Us

Why support cfaith?

(All contributions are 100% tax deductible)


For every Internet search you make using
goodsearch, cfaith will receive one penny!

GS Logo 250x38

Contact Us

Business Hours:

Monday—Friday: 9 a.m.—5 p.m. CST
Saturday & Sunday: Closed


(763) 488-7800 or (800) 748-8107

Mailing Address:
9201 75th Avenue North
Brooklyn Park, MN 55428


Login Form

Please ignore the “Secret Key” field; it is not needed to log in to cfaith.

Login Change Article

You need to enable user registration from User Manager/Options in the backend of Joomla before this module will activate.