American religion is changing. For many, the story of decline is now familiar. Each year, 3,500 churches close their doors. Over 70% of non-Orthodox Jews marry outside the faith. Corporate mindfulness programs divorce meditation from Buddhist tradition. A stark generational difference underpins fears about decreasing religiosity: More than a third of Millennials categorize themselves as ‘none-of-the-above.’
Yet a hopeful landscape is emerging. Not only are increasing numbers of religion-like communities bursting forth in unlikely places – from gyms to makerspaces to living rooms – but religiously affiliated innovators are also reimagining what religious community might look like. Angie Thurston and I have mapped these hopeful stories in a new report, Something More [pdf download].
We examine how religious innovators from across Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and beyond, are embracing this transitional time to imagine new possibilities for their traditions. The case studies include dinner gatherings such as Pop-Up Shabbat, learning journeys such as the Living School, and online communities such as Buddhist Geeks and RELEVANT Media.
Building on our previous publication, How We Gather, we draw parallels between innovative religious communities and their secular counterparts such as CrossFit and Camp Grounded and explore how these communities challenge some traditional boundaries around what might be considered ‘religious’. They extend a compelling invitation to established religious leaders to embrace their institutional transformation and meet the rising generation’s timeless yearning for meaning and belonging.