Growing number of 'nones' seen as bad, good and fixable

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 7:00 a.m. MDT

If the unaffiliated are spiritual peole who are simply turned off by labels, that should give hope to American faith leaders who worry that the United States could go the way of Western Europe, where Pew researchers say about one in five or fewer say religion is important in their lives compared to 58 percent in America.

But if clergy want to tap into the unaffiliated, they must join the social media revolution and converse as an equal and not as the authority on spiritual matters, Drescher explained.

"That’s not to say they don't want have conversations about the implications of their faith commitments," she said. "What they don't want to hear is any kind of messaging that's meant to direct their behavior. That top-down directive ... narrowing the conversation and narrowing choice is not going to be attractive."

Drescher predicted that some churches will die as organized religion readjusts to better communicate with engaged people within and without the faith.

"The challenge for church leaders is how do you move people from just consuming church (online or in the chapel) to having them be active in the world as a result of their engagement with other people with common spiritual interests?" Drescher said.

For Fredrickson, making that shift from just focusing attendance within the walls of the church to being relevant and meaningful to the surrounding community can stem the rise in the "nones."

"Maybe more people will end up at church out of that, but maybe that is not the most important value," he said. "Maybe the most important value is that we are working to make the world better."

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