Religious institutions and places of worship have played an important role in the advancement of Black people in America. Throughout history, the Black church has been so much more than just a place of worship. For centuries it’s also been a source of inspiration and hope, especially during the vile days of American slavery. Many Black worshippers also believe that religion and the church have played vital roles in fighting racial discrimination. But that sentiment doesn’t seem to connect with younger Black Americans as it did with their elders.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, young Black adults are less religious and less engaged in Black churches than older generations.
Black Millennials and Zoomers (Gen Z) pray less, are less likely to have grown up in a Black church, and are less likely to say religion plays an important role in their lives. They also attend fewer religious services, and those who do are less likely to go to a predominantly Black church.
Still, some of our greatest leaders have come from the pulpit of a place of Black worship and still are.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor. He took his sermons from the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, to the worldwide stage of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
King’s legacy inspired folks like Senator Raphael Warnock, who was also the Senior Pastor of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, King’s spiritual home of worship.
Attending a Black church used to be mandatory for Black worshippers. But as time progresses further away from the days of segregation, so do the ideals that Black people should only attend a predominantly Black place of worship. This ultimately affects the influence of the Black church on the Black community.
According to Pew, 63% of the Black Americans who participated in their study said that if they were looking for a new congregation, it would be ‘not too important” or “not at all important” for them to find a congregation where most other attendees shared their race. Finding a congregation that is welcoming and that offers inspiring sermons was deemed a higher priority.
Although fewer young Black adults are seeking mental refuge in a Black church, most Black Americans still see the value in them.
The Pew study found that three-quarters of Black adults surveyed said that Black churches have played at least “some” role in helping Black people move toward equality – including three-in-ten who say Black churches have done “a great deal.”
There isn’t one main reason why younger Black Americans are skipping out on some places of worship. But times are certainly different, and what the church meant for Black people 100 years ago, doesn’t mean the same thing anymore.
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