72% of Evangelicals came to faith before adulthood: study

By The Christian Post |
Photo by Kyle Smith / Unsplash
A new study reveals that the overwhelming majority of self-identified Evangelicals came to faith as children, and many don't remember the specific moment when they decided to embrace Evangelical Christianity.

report titled “The Spiritual Journey: How Evangelicals Come to Faith” examines the faith journeys and practices of Evangelicals in the United States. The research, conducted by Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts and released last Tuesday, was based on responses received from 1,010 Evangelical Protestants collected in early 2023. 

The survey revealed that 72% of respondents came to faith before the age of 18, while the remaining 28% didn't start holding Evangelical beliefs until they were adults. A plurality of those surveyed (26%) first began embracing Evangelical ideas between the ages of 5 and 9, followed by 24% who came to faith between the ages of 10 and 12, while 17% first subscribed to Evangelical beliefs between the ages of 13 and 17, and 5% first identified as Evangelical before they were 5 years old.

Fifteen percent of respondents first adopted an Evangelical worldview between the ages of 18 and 29, while 6% reported the age range of 30-39 as when they first developed Evangelical beliefs. The remaining 6% came to faith at the age of 40 or older.

When asked to identify the “single biggest influence” that caused them to become Evangelicals, 28% cited their parents, followed by 16% who pointed to their church and 11% who said “other family members.”

Less common factors listed as respondents’ “single biggest influence” in deciding to become Evangelical include reading the Bible for themselves (10%), difficulties in life (9%), their pastor (7%), spouses or partners (4%), other events (4%), friends (4%), other church leaders (3%), a direct experience with God (2%), books (1%) and radio or television (1%). 

Church was cited as a “significant influence” that led them to become Evangelical by 44% of respondents. Other frequently cited “significant influences” include reading the Bible for themselves (36%), pastors (32%), parents (23%), other family members (21%), friends (18%), other church leaders (16%), life difficulties (14%), other events (10%), spouses or partners (10%), books (8%), radio or TV (4%), a direct experience with God (1%) and something online (1%). 

A majority of those surveyed (57%) characterized their faith as “No. 1 in my life,” while 40% described it as “very important” in their lives and 2% saw it as even less important. The research compared the faith practices of respondents who classify their faith as the most important aspect of their lives to those of Evangelicals who either view it as very important or less.

Ninety-one percent of respondents who put their faith at the center of their lives pray daily, compared to 76% of those who see their faith as less important. A significant majority (71%) of respondents who said faith was No. 1 in their lives study the Bible weekly, while less than half of those who consider their faith less important (46%) said the same.

Among respondents who rate their faith as the most important aspect of their lives, 70% go to church weekly, 49% read the Bible daily, and 39% study their faith in small groups weekly. On the other hand, just 54% of those in the other category go to church weekly, only 24% read the Bible daily, and 26% participate in faith-related small groups weekly. 

Additionally, the survey asked respondents to elaborate on how they first decided to come to Christ. A plurality of those surveyed (46%) said they could remember a specific point in their lives when they decided to trust Christ.

Thirty-seven percent recalled being raised as Christians and can identify the age at which they first accepted Christian beliefs for themselves but did not mention a specific point when they decided to do so. The remaining 16% described their conversion experience as gradual, with no specific decision taking place. 

Among those who came to Christ as an adult, 57% of respondents remembered a specific decision point, while 26% experienced a gradual process of embracing their faith, and 17% were raised as Christians but “returned to or reembraced their faith without a specific decision point.”

A plurality of Evangelicals surveyed who came to faith during childhood (45%) were raised as Christians and did not recall a specific point when they made their decision, followed by 42% who could remember a specific decision point, and 13% who called it a gradual process. 

Reacting to the report, Infinity Concepts CEO Mark Dreistadt explained that “our research revealed that the journey to Christ is varied, individualized, and usually influenced by a variety of factors.” 

He added, “Understanding these factors more fully may help in reaching others who have not yet completed this journey of faith.”

Dreistadt contrasted the findings of the survey with the tendency of evangelists and teachers to “sometimes speak about salvation in ways that make it seem any true believer must have had a watershed moment in their lives.”

Originally published by The Christian Post