Much of the narrative surrounding religion in America is one of scarcity and erosion -- places of worship closing at record rates, attendance at services dwindling, and a growing segment of the population selecting their religious identity as "None." For the next several newsletters, we'll be telling the stories of the courageous leaders in START who are transforming problems into opportunities by centering their work around the experiences of those they seek to serve. Hear from current Glean START participant Drew Rau.
Share one statistic surrounding your project or the population you're called to serve that you (or others around you!) may have previously viewed through a lens of scarcity or erosion. Share a few sentences on how you view it as an opportunity.
Drew Rau: "As is widely known, groups such as the "Spiritual But Not Religious" (SBNR) or the "Nones" are growing at a rapid rate across all demographics of America society, the former rising from less than a fifth (19%) of the population to more than a quarter (27%) of the population in just the five years between 2012 and 2017.
Because this is coming at the expense of traditional religious identification, such statistics often represent a challenge to religious leaders, but by recognizing that the people who leave an established tradition are often not losing their sense of spirituality but rather engaging it even more vigorously than before, I saw an opportunity to meet these people where they are rather than lament where they are not.
Faith leaders tend to view the SBNRs and the Nones as individuals who have let go of any meaningful faith and are now lost to the spiritual world, but the truth is that they are a powerful and positive part of the American religious landscape, with more demand for spirituality than many traditionally religious people but less supply of certain elements of an integral spiritual life -- a textbook case of opportunity for a spiritual entrepreneur."
Who are you called to serve through your START venture?
DR: "I am called to serve all those whose beliefs do not align fully with a single established religious tradition, but especially those who are enthusiastic about exploring and discovering the full range of their beliefs and how to live them -- namely, people who can be called 'Spiritual But Not Religious' and 'Seekers.'"
Why do you feel called to serve them -- what's your "why"?
DR: "SBNRs (along with the related "Nones") find themselves in a spiritual wilderness that is at once exciting and disorienting. When a person converts from one major religion to another, they go from the pastoral care of one body of faith leaders, and the intellectual depth of one theological tradition, to another; but when they disassociate from any religion but remain spiritual, it can be difficult to know how to feed one's still-living faith.
I believe that today's digital technologies have the potential to allow us to harness the diversity and individualism at the heart of the SBNR "tradition," and transform it into a more life-giving and spiritually holistic force for those who walk under that sky."