The Barna Group primarily provides research information that is related to religion, specifically Christianity. They also have a slew of other things they do, but all are centered around religion and Christianity. They actually partner with Christian ministries as well as other individuals to be a “catalyst in moral and spiritual transformation in the United States”. The leader of the research group is George Barna, who founded the research group with his wife Nancy in 1984. Not to my surprise, the group is based out of California, Ventura to be exact. They have done research for certain groups and companies such as Billy Graham, Catholic Parishes, Ford Motor Company, Walt Disney, Visa, Prudential, and they have also assisted the US Army and Navy on various occasions.
So the Barna Group has compiled a list of “the 12 most significant religious findings in 2006”. This is what the Barna Group was able to come up with for 2006:
-A majority of people in America seem to consider themselves to be “deeply spiritual” and their faith in their religion is “very important”. However, only 15% of the people that go to a Christian church on a regular basis think that their relationship with God is of top priority. Here’s the kicker; the pastors seem to think that at least 70% of the adults in their congregation believe their relationship with God is top priority in their lives. Apparently the pastors need to do a little research.
-Here was an interesting fact about teenagers. Note I said “interesting” and not detrimental. Apparently 3 out of 4 teenagers have admitted that they have tried to use psychic abilities or other “Witchcraft” related activities. This included things such as having a “reading” performed, playing games that involve any type of sorcery or magic, reading books about Wicca or Witchcraft, or playing with a Ouija board. Heaven forbid a teenager pick up a book and read about another religion besides Christianity. Furthermore, Ouija boards are just for fun, and all of the Wiccans or Pagans I have ever known do not use Ouija boards for “mystical” purposes. For some reason I bet they also lumped the reading of any Harry Potter books in there as well. Finally, here is how the information relates to churches: less than 3 out of 10 “churched” teenagers had been taught anything at church about the evils of the supernatural. It seems like churches want to complain about what is happening, but do nothing to “educate” their people about it.
-The next fact revolves around “holiness” and the idea of “holiness”. Only 21% of Christian adults consider themselves to be “holy”, and it could be because a majority of them confessed to not knowing what “holiness” actually means. To top things off, only 1 out of 3 thinks that God expects them to be “holy”. So why are they going to church again?
-Do you believe you are spiritually mature? Well, apparently pastors and parishioners do not really know how to tell if you are or not. Pastors seem to rate the congregants spirituality based on the amount ministry and volunteer activity the person is involved in. Great idea. Sorry for all of the church goers that think they are spiritual but don’t lend enough time to volunteering or ministry. Maybe they should rethink this and base it on the amount of money the person gives every year. I’m sure there would be a lot of spiritually mature adults at that point.
-Remember 9/11? Remember how people seemed to “flock” to their religious beliefs through open prayer and attending church? Well, 5 years after 9/11, none of the 19 faith measures that they studied showed any significant change in attendance or religious behavior than before 9/11 took place. I wonder how much the number actually dropped since 9/11 and not before 9/11.
-Next is some really interesting information about parents helping to “develop” their children’s spirituality. 7 out of 10 parents seem to think that they are being pretty effective at developing their child’s spirituality. The children however, have a different view on the matter. The Barna Group surveyed 8 to 12 year olds and found that a measly 1/3 thought church actually made a “positive” difference to them and their life. 1/3 of them also think that prayer is very important. The not so surprising fact is that most of the “tweeners” would rather be popular than do what is right. And even though most of them stated that family is important to them, only 57% said they liked spending time with their family. The big shocker was only 1 out of every 3 said they felt comfortable talking to their parents about anything that personally matters to them. So it looks like beating the idea of Christianity into the heads of our youth isn’t having a huge positive effect after all. So why are parents continuing to do it?
-A final study found some interesting information about “faith contours of America”. In the past quarter century, the amount of “born again” adults has gone up from 31% to 45%. Apparently all spiritual behavior has went up within the past 2 decades, including reading the Bible, attending church, and getting involved in small groups at church. I have noticed there seems to be a growth of evangelicals in particular. You can’t turn on the news or open a newspaper without having to read or hear about an evangelical complaining about the “evils” of other religions. Hopefully this will take a down turn in 2007, or maybe they will learn to stop forcing others to believe what they believe. I can only hope.
So, at the end of his study, Barna also likes to discuss the future of faith in America. He believes that we will become more diverse in 2007, which would be great. He seems to think there will be “new forms of spiritual leadership”, which could mean only in Christianity, but I hope that it would include other religions as well. Barna also brings up bifurcation. He seems to think that the ones that have faith embedded in their daily lives and the ones that are more casual with their faith will be more apparent. It seems almost as if the lines will be set and believers will be divided. Finally Barna touches on the media. His statement on media is really a no-brainer. Barna states that with the constant gain of new technology, people will be able to experience faith even more and express their own faith even more greatly. Great, more spam about Christian mortgages and junk mail about church services. I can’t wait.
*The information that the Barna Group compiled, was from a series of surveys they conducted across the country over 14 months. They grouped the people as 18 and older, 13 to 18, 8 to 12, and Protestant church senior pastors. Every survey contained at least 600 respondents and a majority of their studies contained more than 1000 randomly sampled yet qualified individuals.*