To many, 2022 may have felt like a return to familiar routines and rhythms after the disruptions of 2021 and 2020. Barna continued to monitor trends and shifts in faith and culture, reporting on topics such as pastoral well-being, discipleship practices and opportunities, emerging generations, children’s ministry and generosity.
This article features Barna’s most-engaged articles published over the last 12 months.
The number of pastors who have given serious consideration to quitting full-time ministry rose dramatically in 2021. In early 2022, Barna checked in with the more than two in five pastors who have considered leaving (42%) to determine what challenges are causing them to reconsider their position in the pulpit.
Over half of pastors who have considered quitting full-time ministry (56%) say “the immense stress of the job” has factored into their thoughts on leaving. Beyond these general stressors, two in five pastors (43%) say “I feel lonely and isolated,” while 38 percent name “current political divisions” as reasons they’ve considered stepping away.
It’s worth noting that while 58 percent of pastors say they haven’t considered leaving full-time ministry, these leaders still experience a number of tensions. In fact, their top challenges are the same as those named by pastors considering resignation.
Patterns of attendance among younger generations can be especially important—and perplexing—for pastors to understand, in their own church and at large. Aggregate data for 2019 through 2022 highlights some of the fluctuations that have surrounded church attendance through the pandemic, affecting all generations in similar fashion.
In 2021, there was less than a 10-percentage point difference between the church attendance of Millennials, Gen X and Boomers (taken together, today’s 23–75-year-olds). Although Millennials (and, emerging behind them, Gen Z) are known for declines in religiosity, data show that, since 2019, the percentage of Millennials reporting weekly church attendance has increased from 21 percent to 39 percent.
What barriers keep Christians from being part of a discipleship community? Not feeling qualified or equipped (37%) is the main barrier for this group. Additional Barna research shows that disinterest in disciplemaking is tied to a fear of not being good at it, of not having enough knowledge or of being the wrong person for the job. The confidence crisis is a core issue.
Whether because of this personal wariness around discipleship or more general indifference, some Christians who aren’t making disciples seem only to need a push. One in four says the practice of discipling others hasn’t been suggested to them (24%) or they haven’t thought about helping someone grow closer to God (22%).
Recent Barna data collected in 2021 show that most parents, regardless of religious identity or faith practice, want their children to have a healthy relationship with spirituality. When asked how concerned they are about their children’s faith formation, nearly three-quarters of American parents said they were at least somewhat concerned (37% very, 36% somewhat).
While self-identified Christian parents are significantly more likely than non-Christian parents to say they are “very” concerned about this (42% vs. 27%), the majority of both groups is at least somewhat interested in ensuring their children have a healthy relationship with spirituality (80% Christian parents, 58% non-Christian parents).
For a while now, Barna has been reporting on the credibility crisis America’s pastors are facing. Overall, U.S. adults are unsure whether pastors in their local community can be trusted, are in touch with their community’s needs and are reliable sources of wisdom and leadership.
Recent Barna data collected amid the pandemic show that just 57 percent of all U.S. adults agree at least somewhat that a pastor is a trustworthy source of wisdom.
Christians, naturally, are far more likely to agree (31% definitely, 40% somewhat), while non-Christians tend to disagree (18% not really, 29% definitely not). Still, many Americans—including one in five Christians—admit feeling unsure whether pastors are trustworthy (24% all adults, 21% Christians, 31% non-Christians).
How do today’s teens think about Jesus, the Bible and justice? In How Teens Around the World Relate to Jesus—the first of three journals in The Open Generation series—teens from 26 countries share their perspectives of who they believe Jesus to be and how he impacts their lives.
Data show it’s rare that teens think poorly of Jesus. Most teenagers around the world have a positive perception of him. About half of all teens, across faith groups, describe Jesus as “loving” (49%) and believe he offers hope to (46%) and cares about people (43%). The global impression of Jesus is that he is trustworthy, generous, wise, peaceful … and the glowing list goes on.
While pastors today note the tithe as being central both to their church’s funding and its practice of generosity, new data uncovered in Revisiting the Tithe & Offering—the second release in The State of Generosity series—suggest a traditional tithe is not widely understood or practiced today.
When U.S. adults are asked if they are familiar with the term “tithe,” about two in five (39%) indicate they are familiar and are able to provide a definition. The same percentage (39%), however, indicates they are unfamiliar with the term, and one-fifth (22%) says they are familiar with the word but cannot recall its meaning. Compared with their congregations, nearly all pastors (99%) are familiar with the concept of tithing and its meaning.
Privacy might seem like the natural habitat for faith formation in our increasingly individualized culture. Indeed, 56 percent of Christians feel their spiritual life is entirely private.
These Christians who see faith as private are less likely to say it is very important to see progress in their spiritual life (30% say progress is important vs. 54% of those who don’t consider their faith private), less likely to say their faith is very important in their life today (45% vs. 66% agree strongly) and less likely to have weekly time with God (51% vs. 66%). In other words, the idea that faith should be kept private is one part of a bigger swirl of negative conditions that need to be addressed for people to see spiritual growth.
What motivates people to give? In The Giving Landscape—the first release of The State of Generosity series—research shows that most of the time—in fact, for a striking 69 percent of adults—people say they give "because of who they are."
For U.S. adults who are practicing Christians (77%), this deeply individualized response is even more common. That’s a bold statement: People give because it feels elemental to their identity and personhood.
New Barna research featured in The Things That Divide Americans (available exclusively on Barna Access Plus) raises questions about a more divided America. Comparing a June 2022 survey to data collected in 2015, we see growing inconsistencies in U.S. adults’ willingness to discuss important topics with others and to examine their own views.
Generally, U.S. adults today have a pretty rosy perspective on their ability to talk across differences. This runs counter, however, to past Barna research that suggests there are certain divides that are difficult to bridge in conversation. U.S. adults' own responses today also present friction and indicate an entrenchment of beliefs is on the rise.
About the Research
The statistics and data throughout these studies have been drawn from a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group. All of the studies were conducted by Barna Group, unless otherwise noted, among a nationally representative sample of the population identified. For a more detailed methodology for each study, see the research methodology in the “About the Research” section in the footer of each respective article.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2022