USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

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