Many people assume that religion is unchanging across time and place, but in order to survive, religion must adapt to new social and cultural realities. Membership and participation in religious groups fluctuates over time, with some groups gaining or losing adherents in the process. Religious affiliation may be related to many different things, including basic population shifts through immigration and aging.
Religion also changes through the varying needs and desires of different generations—what one generation thinks is sacrosanct, the next generation may consider no longer essential to their faith. Further, religious organizations must keep up with how the spiritual and religious needs of individuals change across their life course. Religions must adapt to the needs and demands of both young and old adherents, even as they maintain the core tenets of the tradition.
Photo Credit: Stefan Georgi
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“In major urban centers across the United States, there is a generalized perception that individuals in their 20s and early 30s constitute a ‘black hole’ in congregational life. Members of the young-adult population are simply missing from most churches, synagogues and mosques.”
—Tobin Belzer, Richard Flory, Nadia Roumani and Brie Loskota, in Congregations that Get It: Understanding Religious Identities in the Next Generation
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- Brad ChristersonContributing FellowBrad Christenson is a sociologist who has written extensively in the areas of religion, race, ethnicity, and globalization.
- Richard FloryExecutive DirectorRichard Flory is a sociologist whose work focuses on religion and urban life, religious and cultural change, and youth and young adults.
- Nalika GajaweeraResearch AssociateNalika Gajaweera is a cultural anthropologist specialized in Buddhism, transnationalism and ethics, with an area expertise in South Asia.
- Andrew JohnsonPast FellowAndrew Johnson is a sociologist who studies religion on the margins of society, with specific interests in religious practice inside of prison, Latin American Pentecostalism and religion in the city.
- Brie LoskotaContributing FellowBrie Loskota researches how religions change and make change in the world, and works to build the capacity of religious communities around the globe.
- Juan MartínezPast FellowJuan Martinez studies the history of Latino Protestantism, Latino Protestant identity and transnational mission among U.S. Latinos.
- Donald E. MillerDirector of Strategic InitiativesDonald Miller focuses on global religious trends, genocides of the 20th century, and the role of religious NGOs in addressing issues of moral concern.
- John B. OrrCo-founder & Past FellowJohn B. Orr has worked extensively in the fields of religion, education and politics.
- Bruce PhillipsUniversity FellowBruce Phillips is among the leading researchers in the sociology of American Jewry and is an avid historian of Los Angeles.
- Nadia RoumaniContributing FellowNadia Roumani has worked with a wide range of organizations over the past decade to better understand the needs of Muslim communities across the United States.
- Rebecca SagerContributing FellowRebecca Sager’s work focuses on political and religious movements and parties in American political life.
- Nick StreetSenior WriterNick Street is a journalist covering religious change and innovation, Buddhism, Pentecostalism and LGBT issues.
- Megan SweasEditor and Director of CommunicationsMegan Sweas is a journalist specializing in social and economic justice issues and world religions.