Some of the wisest words I have ever read are in the book of Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” The more you evaluate the world around you, the more you realize that even in a rapidly changing world, the core realities remain the same. An interesting statistic I came across recently is about millennial church attendance. Prior to the pandemic, the statistics showed that a little over 20% of millennials reported regularly attending a church. At the time there was a lot of talk about millennials being different, not as spiritual as previous generations. However, when you fast forward through all the chaos the world has been through since 2020 and look at the numbers again, you can see the number of millennials regularly attending church increased to a little under 40%. While overall church attendance is still below pre-pandemic numbers, it’s a very encouraging direction for millennials entering their prime adult years and will hopefully continue. However, what’s most interesting is that this is very similar to how people reacted in the past when they would transition from times of peace and prosperity to times of conflict and difficulties.

Looking at that statistic and taking into account the wise words of Solomon, one can make a case that societal trends play a significant role in shaping people’s behavior. By definition, a societal trend refers to a long-term change or pattern in society that affects behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. Now of course there is a wide range of types of people within each society, and as believers we’re called to live differently than those in the world, but on average people tend to be shaped by societal trends more than they would like to admit. People growing up in a time of economic depression are more likely to be fiscally responsible, while people growing up in a time of financial excess are more likely to be wasteful. People growing up in a country that has political stability are more likely to be trusting of institutions than those growing up during a time of conflict.  And, relevant to this conversation, you can see that times of conflict or perceived loss of control over one’s life usually leads people to grow deeper in their faith, while times of excess do the opposite. This seems to be happening post pandemic for the millennial age group.

As technology has taken hold of people’s day-to-day life over the last 20-30 years, the societal trend has been for people to put less emphasis on pursuing their spiritual life and church involvement and more on trusting themselves and technology. However, as the unhealthy aspects of this societal trend start to create dysfunction in society, hopefully it will create a reversal as has happened to many trends before and will bring people back to the church and back to focusing on what matters most, which is their relationship with God.