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After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion Hardcover – 5 Aug 2007


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"Robert Wuthnow of Princeton has just published a tremendously valuable book, After the Baby Boomers that looks at young adulthood through the prism of religious practice."--David Brooks, New York Times

"In a volume sure to change how pundits and clergy think about religion in the contemporary U.S., prolific Princeton sociologist Wuthnow assembles and analyzes a vast amount of data about the religious lives of Americans aged 21 to 45... Wuthnow argues that our society provides lots of structural support for children and teens, but leaves younger adults to fend for themselves during the decades when they're making crucial decisions about family and work. Though long passages of dense statistics make for a sometimes clunky read, this book is terrifically important."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Robert Wuthnow, [a] distinguished sociologist of religion...focuses on...a group that is not just the harbinger of the future but that already constitutes about half the country's adult population. Wuthnow has a great deal to say about marriage, weddings, marital happiness and parenting [and] describes modest changes in worship services and programs that might help congregations engage young adults, especially unmarried ones."--Peter Steinfels, New York Times

"Wuthnow has analyzed an impressive array of data and provided a thought provoking argument about the future, and the present, of American religion."--Matthew T. Loveland, Catholic Books Review

"[This book provides] a challenge to think more broadly about the future of the church, assisted by a leading sociologist's analysis of current trends."--Brian D. McLaren, Christian Century

"As generations pass and distance grows, so do the values which issues from the body of believers gathered in...the church...Robert Wuthnow's important new book After the Baby Boomers...is a potential wake-up signal, an alarm blast."--Martin Marty, Sightings

"Christian leaders who are ready for change will not find a prescription or program in After the Baby Boomers. What they will find is a challenge to think more broadly about the future of the church, assisted by a leading sociologist's analysis of current trends. And they will find something else: a sympathetic voice speaking on behalf of young adults who are highly interested in God, highly in need of guidance and support, highly networked and networkable, highly available to be equipped for vital mission, and largely uninspired by what churches are currently doing...I find myself even more eager to be part of the solution to the problems raised by Wuthnow. Much is at stake."--Brian McLaren, Christian Century

"Wuthnow shares the concerns of religious and spiritual leaders because...he understands the great benefits religion provides society...[A] precise study...After the Baby Boomers is a work of social science [that paints] a detailed picture of the lives of young adults today."--Patton Dodd, Shambhala Sun

"Princeton University's Robert Wuthnow, the most distinguished sociologist of religion in America today, has presented a timely and important text for pastors and those who are concerned about the future of religious communities in America. After the Baby Boomers offers pastors and church leaders an important text to ponder. Wuthnow places his finger on many issues that the church must confront."--Andrew Root, Word & World

"Open any page of Robert Wuthnow's latest book, After the Baby Boomers, and you are sure to find a nugget of data that will add nuance to some of the well-worn assumptions about he religious lives of the so-called Generation X."--Michelle Dillon, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"Wuthnow's text is a refreshing read. . . . [He] does an excellent job of addressing the cultural shifts that explain why it is the case the young adults are less involved in religious institutions. As a macrolevel study, he astutely ties personal level practices to larger social forces, and tacitly employs the sociological imagination--a skill that non-academic readers could find informative."--Katrina C. Hoop, International Review of Modern Sociology

"After the Baby Boomers is a dense but fascinating read; I had trouble deciding which chapters not to assign to my classes. . . . Every chapter of this book contains questions churches and religious leaders must face--and soon."--Kenda Creasy Dean, Theology Today

"Robert Wuthnow has analyzed an impressive array of data and provided a thought provoking argument about the future, and the present, of American religion."--Matthew T. Loveland, Catholic Books Review

"This is an interesting book. . . . The object lesson in the skillful analysis of survey data is instructive, and the call to focus more analysis on young adults (especially this generation of young adults) is timely and thoughtful."--Anthony J. Filipovitch, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly

"Wuthnow's book stands out as a timely, comprehensive, and thoughtful effort. Mixing a tremendous amount of empirical survey evidence with detailed qualitative interviews, the book covers a lot of ground, including emerging issues pertaining to immigration and new technology. Posing a number of smart questions that are ripe for political science answers, it is a sophisticated and yet accessible commentary on the future of American religion that is more than deserving of a place on bookshelves."--Anand Edward Sokhey, Cambridge Journals

"The strength of this book lies . . . in its careful analysis of a very wide range of largely quantitative data. Wuthnow is bitingly critical of sociologists of religion--particularly rational choice theorists--whose work is long on theory and short on evidence. This volume exemplifies the opposite--long on evidence, shorter on theory and explanation."--Linda Woodhead, Religion Journal

From the Back Cover

"Every generation is different, and in the post-boomers we have one that is as different as it gets. For those of us who care deeply about addressing the spiritual needs of this 'next wave,' Robert Wuthnow has given us an indispensable guide in this important book."--Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary

"Interesting and illuminating. There is a great deal of anxiety about the future of the church and its relation to young adults. This book speaks to those concerns, provides some sound empirical data for people to chew on, and will be often referenced."--Christian Smith, coauthor of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

"This book is a contribution for church leaders and others concerned about young adults and their involvements in organized religion. The data are new and valuable and shed new insights into the intricacies of religious commitment in our society. There is no other book I am aware of quite like this one."--Wade Clark Roof, author of Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion


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Amazon.com: 9 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Great and Informative Read 18 Mar. 2008
By F. P. Desiano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Wurthnow comes with a formidable reputation and he certainly is no slouch in this book which reviews, condenses and depicts the results of many studies of the "post baby boomer" generation(s), sticking with people between the 20s and 45 years of age. He debunks some casual and widely held myths (e.g., how one generation appears to differ from another) and concentrates on the pretty hard numbers that track changes in the life styles of young people. . . and their consequences for churches. This book seems shaped as a resource for pastors, but almost anyone dealing with the young will get a lot out of it. Well worth the price and the read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Sociologist looks at young people 19 April 2009
By R. Channing Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This books is a must for those who follow Generational Cohorts but suspect it may be pushed too far as the defining mechanism behind Generation X and Y. Wuthnow looks at the differences in life stages Independence, work force, marriage, children) between 21 to 45 year olds in 2000 (Generation X and Y) AND 1974 (Boomers). Lots of good data and analysis in longitudianal studies that comapre two cohorts at the same age. Differences in age of marriage and percent who do not marry, for instance, explains a lot of the differences in attendance and participation in religion. Be ready to plow through lots of data and disciplined conlusions
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Lots of statistics, helpfully interpreted 7 Dec. 2007
By M. Abe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Smith and Denton's book, Soul Searching, with its great statistics on teens and faith, I wanted a book that was similar with information on young adults. I needed facts, not feelings, and this book offers that. I find it fascinating and easy reading, though I must admit I don't study every table carefully! It has been quite useful in my thesis work with young adults and faith.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A must have for new church growth strategies 8 Nov. 2010
By Joel L. Watts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author's point, I believe, is better made in almost the middle of the book when he begins to write about the `institutionalization' of the relationship between society and religion (p158). I say that this is the point because for the previous few chapters, numbers are thrown out to show that our institutions, such as marriage and other developmental decisions, are changing for a large section of our population. As these traits become instilled (think Western Europe) in our society at large, what will that do to our pre-existing institutions, such as the Church? Wuthnow is correct that institutions underwent a massive change in the 1830's leaving us with institutions which remain, or at least remained, until the 1960's. Now, we are in a period of transition, due to such things as education, a move from a manufacturing based society to a service economy, and the influx of sometimes radically different voices and values into our culture. The author makes a fine point that change has happened and is happening now in the way our generation approaches religion. For example, Wuthonow notes that `orthodoxy' is shifting for many. While it may be professed, it is not always lived or expressed as professed (p122). My concern here is that Wuthnow never fully defines orthodoxy which is different, he rightly notes, among Mainline and Evangelical church goers. While reading, we are often left wondering what things such as `orthodox', `evangelical' and `biblical literalist' may actually mean to the author and to the respondents on the various surveys. Often times, people consider themselves one way and will use the same words to define themselves as such that another person would use in a radically different way. While the book may not deal expressly with the issue of doctrines, this issue has an impact on conversion by the numbers, especially given the perchance that many evangelicals see salvation as a momentary event in time obtained through a simple prayer and an addition to the church roll. It is these institutions, such as orthodoxy and biblical literalism, which are changing as well.

In chapter 10, the author speaks to the issues of the information age on the internet superhighway as opposed to the television age which dominated the baby boomer generation. Today, we hear about virtual churches which offer virtual communion, prayers, and other orders of the faith via such things as streaming video, twitter, and social networks, which I suspect is different than the virtual church imagined by the author. Having published this book in 2007, I would be interested in his take on the rise of such ventures which serve only to further individualize the religious experience and degrade the community. It is interesting to note, then, the change between 2007 and today in which blogs, Facebook, and Twitter have entered into the daily use of young adults. Now, ministers are being encouraged to use such tools to reach more for the Kingdom, Gospel, or local congregation. Further, the use of internet to `church shop' (p114-117), to cross boundaries (p126) of religion, and to engage politics and other cultural issues as a way of negotiating (p124) these new communities is growing as evidenced by the inclusion of the phrase `google it' into our daily conversations. When I started to look for a new church, I `googled it' and finding what I wanted, I made my first visit. To be frank, the church website was nice, but in my opinion, could have used some work; however, in comparisons to congregations with no web presence, even a mediocre website draws my attention more than a Whitepages.com listing. I believe that even in 2007, and quoting from a survey completed in 2001, the author is presenting the case for the `new form of information technology' (p209) as a means for many to reach out or to seek religious experiences. I would imagine, however, that if the same survey was made today, the numbers would be vastly different, and that Wuthnow would draw a different conclusion than he has (p212 third paragraph from the top).

What he doesn't do is to remove himself from the pitfalls of too little information. Wuthnow's assumption that Evangelicalism's dogmas are easily known and recognized left me wondering about his classification system. Further, his reliance upon the simplistic idea espoused by many regarding biblical literalism leaves a lot of people unclassified. While his first few chapters seem to deal with both Evangelicals and Biblical Literalism, the author simply doesn't go into the mechanics of why evangelicals are holding their own and only generally mentions that the decline of Mainline denominations may be more geographically centered than doctrinally considered. I believe that he hints at the fact that as Evangelicals continue to become more educated, the uncertainty of growth becomes ever present, especially given what modern Evangelicalism is based upon. Further, I don't think he gives Putman's theory its due (p38) and only skirts the idea that as we become more individualist, Mainline denominations which see salvation as a more corporate event will decline.

Wuthnow's work provides some serious implications for those who are considering ministry of any sort, whether starting in the ministry or one who is long in ministry, facing a decline in the congregation, and looking for a renewal. He is correct, that survival of the American church is not a set in stone decision, but based on the traditional ethic of work (p230). Will ministers `roll up their sleeves,' taking the information present in such avenues as this book to heart and start to look for a way not around the statistics, but through the statistics? While the message should not change, the delivery and the targeting must. What is prevalent is the idea that the nature of American religion is changing because the nature of American society is changing. Information is becoming democratized, and as such, people need something more in depth, more lasting, and maybe even something with questions, or at least room for doubt. There needs to be room for diversity, especially theological diversity, which is something that I've held over from Daniels' book Seven Deadly Spirits as well as a real address to the issue of a continuing individualization of the Christian faith. Further, ministers must not forget their demographics. From the slowing of life decisions to the polarization in society, if ministers forget to whom they are called to serve, and instead relax into the myth of a golden age which once was and which is yet to come, they will be blind to the needs of the present community.
a comprehensive sociological appraisal of the religious life of ages 21-45 29 Feb. 2012
By Greg Smith (aka sowhatfaith) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion is a comprehensive sociological appraisal of the religious life of the 100+ million Americans aged twenty-one to forty-five (during the years 1998 to 2002). Relying on multiple studies, the book gives greater understanding to the present religious practices while also showing how they compare to those of the prior generation (those of the same age between 1972 and 1976). Wuthnow characterizes the current generation of young adults as tinkerers who put "together a life from whatever skills, ideas, and resources that are readily at hand" (p.13).

Compared with the prior generation, the current young adults are less likely to participate in religious services. Despite these changes, young adults account for approximately two-fifths of the members of the major faith traditions. The current generation is more likely to be in their thirties and forties than their twenties than was the previous generation. Given the increasing percentage of young adults who spend many years after high school before settling down and starting a family and in consideration of the limited ways other social institutions provide substantive help to those in that stage of young adulthood, Wuthnow believes congregations need to "focus more intentionally" on ministries to this demographic (p.216).
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