The Aging Church: The Troubling Truth about Christianity Around the World

The statistics are staggering. Each day that goes by, churches around the world are aging — literally — and it’s affecting the future of the Church as a whole. The median age of church members continues to rise. In the U.S., it’s 53. In the U.K., it’s 61. Even more concerning is the inevitable end result: in South Korea, 10,000 churches have closed in the past decade due to the number of members who died from old age.

The Church isn’t growing. It’s dying — and it’s because around the world, we are failing at effectively reaching the next generation for Jesus. If we continue on this path, Christianity will continue to fizzle out, while other religions grow. Globally, the median age of Christians is 30, while the median age of Muslims is 23. The aging of the Church plays a large role in the prediction that Muslims will outnumber Christians globally by 2050, according to Pew Research.

In 2018, another study from Pew found that younger generations (age 18-39) in 46 out of 105 surveyed countries around the world were less likely than their older counterparts to say religion was “very important” to them. While the other countries surveyed largely did not have a significant difference between the two populations, when there was a gap, it almost always reflected a higher religious quality in the older generation than the younger, not the other way around. 

The gap was notably more significant in countries with higher Christian populations, like the U.S., where the share of adults under age 40 who identify with a religious group was 17 percent lower than those 40 and above. In Canada, that difference was 28 points. South Korea came in at 24, Uruguay at 18 and Finland at 17.

“These statistics are a wake-up call to not only all pastors and youth leaders around the world, but all Christian adults. The time from age 13-19 is the range young people are most likely to confess Christ. We call this the ‘exchange zone,’ a reference to the point at which the baton is passed in a relay race,” says Ron Luce, CEO of Generation Next and founder of Jesus Global Youth Day. “There are currently 1.8 billion children in the ‘exchange zone’ around the world. They’re waiting on us; we cannot let them down.”

Effectively and intentionally engaging the next generation in the name of Jesus is therefore crucial to the life of the Church, and we cannot ignore this problem. It is a global issue that requires a global effort to shift — a joining hands of pastors, youth leaders and youth around the world to discuss what works, what doesn’t and how we can make a difference together.

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