“Religious Nones” – those who say they have no religion – are the fastest growing “religious group” in Canada. They represent 24% of Canadian adults, 28% of Canadian millennials, and 32% of Canadian teens. I am nearing the end of a book project on religious nones in North America, with Dr. Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme.
What do religious nones have to do with flourishing congregations you might ask? Many church leaders suggest that a marker of a flourishing congregation is they reach out beyond themselves. Let us assume for a moment that this premise is true. What do you know about “religious nones” in Canada? What are your perceptions? Do you personally know people who say they have no religion?
Much could be said. Demographically, religious nones tend to be young, male, white, not married, and without children. They are concentrated in British Columbia, followed by Alberta, with lowest levels in Quebec and the Maritimes. Religious nones are a diverse group, with a range of secular and religious attitudes and practices. Most claim to have meaning and purpose in life, apart from religion, and they believe they are moral. Many detest religious groups who seek to impose their religious beliefs and behaviours on to others – this is clearest in their “cool” feelings toward evangelicals (incidentally, evangelicals are generally “cool” toward religious nones).
I devote some time to religious nones in The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age. If you are a church planter seeking to reach the “nones,” or an established congregation expanding your horizons in this territory, might I encourage you to read social scientific research on religious nones in Canada. Doing so will equip you with how things actually are with religious nones, rather than what you might wish or perceive things to be.
Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil
Christopher B. James
I am typically skeptical of church planting books because they are generally high on personal anecdotes and low on empirical data. This book, based on church plants in Seattle, Washington where “religious none” proportions are high, is different. Here one finds a remarkable intersection between empirical data, sociological analysis, theological framing, and practical implications.
The book centers on four models of practical ecclesiology used in church plants – Great Commission Team, Household of the Spirit, New Community, and Neighborhood Incarnation. Though an argument is made for the final model, a rigorous assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach is carefully presented.