Bible Use Down Slightly Since Last Year, but Hope for Gen Z

Bible Use Down Slightly Since Last Year, but Hope for Gen Z

A report from the American Bible Society (ABS) on Bible use in America this year found that though Bible engagement in general is down 4 percentage points, over half of Gen Z adults reported that the Bible’s message has transformed their lives.

The State of the Bible (SOTB) 2024 surveyed a group of just over 2,500 people 18 years old and older, within all 50 states and the District of Columbia, in January.

Bible engagement, according to the report, has decreased significantly in recent years, with the most significant drop in 2022 at 10%. Since then, Americans’ interaction with the Bible has continued to fall, especially among younger generations.

However, more than half of all survey respondents, 58%, said that the message of the Bible has transformed their lives—with an increase (4%) specifically in Gen Z people responding this way, at 54%. The report states that this increase is “good news, offering hope for this generation going forward.”

The first chapter of SOTB 2024 covers Bible engagement in the U.S., measuring it in three categories: Scripture Engaged, Movable Middle and Bible Disengaged.

The survey found that 18%, or 47 million, of Americans fall into the Scripture Engaged category—about the same as last year. The Movable Middle decreased from 29% in 2023 to 25% in 2024, with more than 10 million people dropping into Bible Disengaged, which covers an estimated 151 million Americans—up from 138 million in 2023.

The age group with the highest percentage of Bible Disengagement is Millennials (ages 28-43 in 2024), at 65%.

John Farquhar, Ph.D., chief program officer at ABS and editor-in-chief of the SOTB series, says in the report that the Movable Middle category presents a “tremendous opportunity to the church” to share the hope of Christ found in Scripture. ABS’ research has found that these 65 million Americans are generally interested in the Bible, but they struggle with its language and culture—and welcome guidance in understanding it. Often, they prefer more modern translations of the Bible, and know a person, friend or family member who is a “Bible person” that they admire and want to emulate, but don’t know where to start.

Gen Z (ages 11-27 in 2024) and Baby Boomers (ages 60-78 in 2024) have the largest percentages that fall into the Movable Middle category.

As hundreds of students have been baptized across college campuses since the revival at Asbury University began last year, there may truly be an uptick in young people interested in the Bible and its message. Although Gen Z has the lowest percentage of Scripture Engagement, they have one of the highest percentages in the Movable Middle.

The survey found significant correlation between spiritual health and Bible engagement, with the people engaging the most with the Bible reporting to be the healthiest spiritually.

Half of Americans say that “Bible reading is an important component of a child’s character development,” up from 46% last year. The study points out that with many education-related issues being in the news in 2023 and debate surrounding how to best educate children, people may be paying more attention to the Bible’s effects in character development.

Asian Americans constitute the ethnic group with least interaction with Scripture in the U.S., with only 10% falling in the Scripture Engaged category, and 78% Bible Disengaged. Black Americans engage with the Bible the most, with over a quarter (28%) falling in the Scripture Engaged category.

Commenting on Biblical illiteracy, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler wrote, “The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to Biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of Biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.”

“This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of Biblical illiteracy,” he added.

“In less than one generation, we have lost so much Biblical literacy and just basic awareness of the things of God’s Word,” Franklin Graham said in a 2023 Facebook post. “It’s a shame that most people don’t have this foundation, this spiritual survival guide, to base their lives on.”

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