Used to be, people published articles about the Millennials and church. Then people started publishing articles about the fact that there are so many hand-wringing articles about Millennials and church. At this point, for all I know, there is a whole generation of folks we could simply class as "people who have written stuff about Millennials and Church."
Barna or Pew should do a research study about them.
In the meantime, we do have some statistics from Pew Forum on the future of religious affiliation in the United States and in the world. They're pretty interesting, some of the most salient news being that Islam will, by 2050, nearly equal Christianity in total numbers, and may surpass Christianity later in the century.
Interestingly, however, agnostics, atheists, and unaffiliateds will actually decline worldwide over this time period, meaning there will be more religious people in 2050 than presently. The only global religion that will see a slight decline during this period is Buddhism.
Religious communities will, of course, decline somewhat in Western countries. The United States will decline from about 3/4s Christian in 2010 to 2/3rds Christian by 2050.
OH MY GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING THE UNITED STATES WILL ONLY BE 2/3RDS CHRISTIAN BY THE TIME I AM 77 YEARS OLD!
Clearly (!!!!!!!) we need to write more articles about Millennials (!!!!) so this doesn't happen!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, having gotten that off my chest, let's return to the numbers themselves. There will be more unaffiliated folks in the next few decades, although the analysis of why people in that category are willing to self-describe as unaffiliated is complex. There might be more unaffiliated folk. Or it could be that healthy secularization has allowed more folks to simply name who they are, rather than wearing a Christian label to fit in with the dominant (77%!) culture of Christians.
What I think many prognosticators are overlooking about Millennials and the church, however, are the real reason why Millennials are leaving the church. They are slowly being raptured.
They aren't leaving to join pagan cults or start house churches. They are leaving because God has decided to descend and swoop them up and take them to himself gathered around Christ in His glory. This is so obvious. And the reason is simple. The next millennium has to be presided over not by Millennials (the beloved of God) but Gen Xers, who carry on them in their very generation the mark of the beast (X).
Also, if this weren't proof enough, notice how close the word Millennial is to millennialism. We all know that millennialism is a deeply Christian belief (albeit one borrowed from Zoroastrianism) that history is broken up into 1000 year periods. Millenialism is a specific doctrine within millenarianism, which also sounds like Millennial, just a little more militaristic.
You see where I'm going with this, right? Clearly, if we are going to do God's will, and aid the Millenials along the path to rapture, we need to stop all of our hand-wringing attempts to bring the Millennials back to church, and instead we need to chase them away in droves. We need to adopt church strategies that scare them away.
Many people have written handbooks on this already, so I encourage you to read them. Rachel Held Evans wrote a wonderful piece a couple of years ago for CNN that can be very helpful in scaring Millennials away from the church and towards the rapture they so genuinely deserve.
We have our work cut out for us. According to Barna, 68% of Millennials are still actually connected to a religious community. That's a huge number of people, more than a 2/3rds majority, so to bring about the rapture of this community, we are going to really have to work to disabuse them of their zealous religiosity and connection to faith communities. But it can and should be done, because the Millennials need us. They can't do this by themselves.
Just like it is Barack Obama's top agenda to get nuclear weapons into the hands of the Iranians, the church needs to send Millennials out (think missional, folks!) for their pre-tribulationist role within the economy of salvation history.
Post-tribulationists are going to take issue with me on this point, but since they are amillenialists anyway, I don't think their arguments hold any missional water.