Barna recently conducted research into what most influences the self-identity of Americans. In order, the top three influences are
- country (being American), and
- religious faith.
While religion still ranks ahead of ethnic group, career, state of residence, and city/town of residence, it is a distant third to family and country. While a majority of Americans claim that family and their country are central to their identity, fewer than two out of five Americans make such a claim about religion (38%).
As one might expect, the importance of religion varies widely between generations. The older the generational cohort, the more significant the role of religion.
As someone who serves congregations comprised primarily of Elders and Boomers, I am quite aware of just how significant religion can be in self-identity. Given the ongoing trend toward less religious affiliation it is only logical to expect that future generations will have self-identities shaped less and less by religion.
- List your top three influences on your self-identity in order of importance based on the options provided in the Barna survey: family, being American, religious faith, ethnic group, career, state of residence, and city/town of residence.
- How effective is your church in connecting with those with religiously influenced identities especially as compared to its effectiveness in connecting with those without such influences?