How Different Generations View the Bible

Sam Rainer

October 22, 2009

The Barna Group recently released research that reveals how attitudes about Bible usage are changing across generations. They interviewed over 1,000 people in five separate studies. They defined each generation in the study: the Mosaic generation (ages 18 to 25), the Busters (ages 26 to 44), Boomers (ages 45 to 63), and Elders (ages 64-plus).

You can read the full report here, but below are some of the differences they found between generations:

Less Sacred – While most Americans of all ages identify the Bible as sacred, the drop-off among the youngest adults is striking: 9 out of 10 Boomers and Elders described the Bible as sacred, which compares to 8 out of 10 Busters (81%) and just 2 out of 3 Mosaics (67%).

Less Accurate – Young adults are significantly less likely than older adults to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. Just 30% of Mosaics and 39% of Busters firmly embraced this view, compared with 46% of Boomers and 58% of Elders.

More Universalism – Among Mosaics, a majority (56%) believes the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other sacred texts, which compares with 4 out of 10 Busters and Boomers, and one-third of Elders.

Skepticism of Origins – Another generational difference is that young adults are more likely to express skepticism about the original manuscripts of the Bible than is true of older adults.

Less Engagement – While many young adults are active users of the Bible, the pattern shows a clear generational drop-off – the younger the person, the less likely they are to read the Bible. In particular, Busters and Mosaics are less likely than average to have spent time alone in the last week praying and reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes. Interestingly, none of the four generations were particularly likely to say they aspired to read the Bible more as a means of improving their spiritual lives.

Bible Appetite – Despite the generational decline in many Bible metrics, one departure from the typical pattern is the fact that younger adults, especially Mosaics (19%), express a slightly above-average interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge. This compares with 12% of Boomers and 9% of Elders.

So, younger generations have a greater hunger for Bible knowledge than older generations, yet they are more skeptical, read it less, and consider it less accurate. While this research is certainly discouraging on the surface, it reveals a deeper opportunity as well. If you feed the hunger for Bible knowledge through biblical depth in all areas of ministry, then perhaps you’ll see the fruit of less skepticism and a higher view of Scripture.

5 comments on “How Different Generations View the Bible”

  1. Basher says:

    Wonder how people will view these findings?

    1. Use it to condemn and alienate the younger generations?

    2. Use it to help identify with these “mosaics” and reconcile with a generation that is seemingly not interested in the Bible?

    3. Other. Who knows? Do Christians use statistics to help them reach groups of poeple or should is “targeting” groups really just about getting a pair of wings? Is winning souls a job or just part of how a Christian lives – fruitful or not fruitful? – that is the question.

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Basher – good questions. I hope that the church reaches out to this generation and others. I welcome the searching cynic and anyone seeking Truth.

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