No Longer ”Believing In Belonging” – Generation Y Challenging Church Membership

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:45 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Kati NIEMELA , University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Relationship to the national churches in the Nordic countries has often been described as “believing in belonging”. With this term researchers have wanted to highlight the special character and importance of church membership in these countries. For the Nordic people belonging to national churches has been regarded as something special: they want to belong even they don’t attend or believe in accordance with the teachings of the church.

However, the new generations seem to challenge this notion. This paper reflects this change based on a longitudinal study of young people from early adulthood to the age 25 in Finland. This period between childhood and adulthood is a time of great changes overall. The latter part of this phase of life (18-25) is often called as the period of emerging adulthood. The most characteristic feature of this time of life is the search for identity.

At the age of 15 a great majority of all 15 year-olds are confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. However, 10 years later as many as ¼ has left the church and resigned their membership. In this paper I fill focus on the relation of young people to the church, their reasons for staying as members and reasons for leaving based on a longitudinal data which allows us to analyze the question in a life-course perspective.

The research shows that for many young people confirmation period serves as a means of maintaining and activating religious observance. However, in early adulthood young people get more relative and ambivalent about religious tradition and non-believing increases strongly. The search for personally meaningful experiences and relations is strong. Church leaving is explained most often by Church having no personal meaning and tradition itself is not an adequate reason for staying as a member.