According to a recent Gallup poll based on c. 800 000 interviews, church attendance in the US has increased by 1% since 2008. Gallup attributes the rise not so much to the desire for spiritual succour in the midst of hard economic times, as one might expect, but rather to the increase in the ranks of baby-boomers, who are known to attend church more regularly than other segments of the population.
What does it tmean? The results would seem to indicate that when people retire from the workforce, their minds turn to spiritual matters, and they are more likely to become regular worshippers if they haven't been so in the past. I know that the US is somewhat unusual in the Anglosphere in that its population is consistently more 'religious' across a range of indicators than more secular societies like the UK and Australia, but this finding would seem to tally with my own anecdotal experience as a pastor 'down under'. I've lost count of the number of retired folk I've seen return to regular worship during my time in the ministry.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the evangelisation of young people outside of the church seems less and less fruitful, and pastors and parents alike grieve over the loss from regular worship of university age young people who have been raised in the church. Who has a panacea for this? Why this is so is inscrutably wrapped up in the mysteries of God's grace and human resistance to it. Lord, have mercy! is all we can pray - with tears.
But the results of the US survey, if they indicate a definite, long-term trend in similar societies, might mean that many of those young people and presently middle-aged people who've at least been given a foundation in the faith will return to the church in their later years...if there is still a church for them to return to, that is.
Click on the post title to read a report on the survey.