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The Great Opportunity

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The Size of the Opportunity

With focused effort on the part of funders, church leaders, and Christians in America, we can move forward into a future that sees millions of young people know Jesus.

Using the best-available data of past and current religious affiliation in the U.S., our team created some data models to find out what’s in store for Christianity in America over the next 30 years. What we found was surprising:

Based on this data, if nothing major changes in the way we mentor and evangelize during the next 30 years, the number of young people who will disaffiliate from the church will rise steadily.

  • Base Case
    Scenario
  • Worse Case
    Scenario
  • Better Case
    Scenario

In this case, which we named our "Base Case Scenario," about 35 to 42 million members of Generation Z (born between 2000-2020) could leave the church by 2050. The percentage of Americans who label themselves as Christians will drop significantly, from 73% to 59%.

Religious Demographic Growth to 2050 using Current Trends

Religious Demographic Growth to 2050 using Current Trends
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This scenario assumes that the disaffiliation rate of all Christians matches the current rate of mainline denominations. This would raise the number of youth who disaffiliate to 42 million, doubling the number of unaffiliated Americans to roughly 35% of the population by 2050.

Religious Demographic Growth to 2050

Religious Demographic Growth to 2050
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If we can return to Gen X retention and evangelism rates—just 10-20 years ago—we would see over 15-20 million more young people know Jesus compared to base and worse case scenarios.

Religious Demographic Growth to 2050 using Gen X Trends

Religious Demographic Growth to 2050 using Gen X Trends
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We need to be a people who would leave the 59 to save the 41.

42million

Based on the current rates of retention and evangelism, it's estimated that 42 million young people could leave the church by 2050.

-20million

If, however, we can revert to Gen X rates of retention and evangelism, that number can be reduced to only 20 million.

=22million

Young people who would have otherwise walked away will instead come to know Jesus: This is The Great Opportunity.

Swipe Right to Reveal Full Equation

  • 42million

    Based on the current rates of retention and evangelism, it's estimated that 42 million young people could leave the church by 2050.

  • -
  • 20million

    If, however, we can revert to Gen X rates of retention and evangelism, that number can be reduced to only 20 million.

  • =
  • 22million

    This would mean that 22 million youth who would have otherwise walked away will instead come to know Jesus: This is The Great Opportunity.

42-20=22

Based on the current rates of retention and evangelism, it's estimated that 42 million young people could leave the church by 2050.

If, however, we can revert to Gen X rates of retention and evangelism, that number can be reduced to only 20 million.

This would mean that 22 million youth who would have otherwise walked away will instead come to know Jesus: This is The Great Opportunity.

To dig deeper into this data and the scenarios we created, you can download and use our Excel model.

We have the chance to raise, reach, mentor, and disciple the next generation of Christians in such a way that 22 million of them take hold of their identity in Jesus Christ.

For a detailed explanation of the research methods, historical examples, and in-depth, practical recommendations for the church, we encourage you to consult the full report on which this site is based, “The Great Opportunity: The American Church in 2050.”

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