|NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- There is an abundance of books, strategies and research on two large groups of unchurched Americans. It is my thesis and subject for future research that one group that is increasing its distance from churches has not been adequately studied or pursued by church leaders. For that reason, this article will examine the group I call the nomads. As background, I'll briefly review the more common unchurched groups: the nones and the nominals.
The nones represent those American adults that self-identify as having no church affiliation. A recent Pew Research study garnered much attention when it noted that the number of American nones had grown from 15 percent of the population to 20 percent of the population in the past five years. One major factor behind the growth of the religiously unaffiliated is generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones. The newer generation has a smaller portion of their numbers who have some type of religious affiliation.
The total number of nones in America is 46 million adults. This number also includes 13 million people who identify themselves as agnostic and atheist. The remaining 33 million adults simply say they have no religious affiliation.
Most research and strategies for churches to reach the unchurched have dealt with reaching the nones. There are, however, two other groups that are largely neglected.
About 80 percent of the American adult population has some religious affiliation. But over half of that group states they attend church monthly, yearly, seldom or never. I call that group the nominals. Churches would do well to reach out to this group that is self-identified as both religious and relatively inactive in churches.
Church leaders often call these persons "CEO" Christians, meaning that they typically show up on "Christmas and Easter only." Though church leaders intuitively know there are large numbers of these persons to reach, few develop strategies for doing so.
From my perspective, the nomads are one of the most neglected groups by church leaders. The reason we neglect them is simple: we see them often so we don't think of them as unchurched. From a definitional perspective they are not truly unchurched. The nomads instead are wandering from a high level of church commitment to a lower level. Continued...