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Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

The 2022 Religious Marketplace: Rethinking Judaism in this New Age

In 2022, we are witnessing a set of new behavioral outcomes that are impacting religious life in our society.  These emerging trends, mostly drawn from generic and Christian sources, are also likely to shape how Judaism will be able to compete and perform in the 21st Century.[1]

The Pew Center Study on the Future of World Religions noted the following: [2]

Religion is not losing global influence. On the contrary, it is growing, and picking up steam. And while religious adherence grows among many faith traditions, Islam is projected to grow most rapidly.”           

In another study focusing on young people, we learn the following:[3]

  • Six in 10 young people (63%) indicate that they are uncertain, uncomfortable, or stressed because they don’t know what their life will be like in 2022.
  • During the pandemic, when facing challenging times, 19% of younger people surveyed indicated that they had connected with a faith community.
  • Activism and social justice are drawing younger constituencies (29%) into the religious fold.
  • 46% of young people said that shared values was the critical factor in linking them to faith communities.

Beyond these more specific outcomes, there are a number of  other generational factors that will drive a number of key religious institutional trends. [4]  Posted below are several new social media developments that, if effectively employed,  can contribute toward expanding  “religious” practice and engagement:

The Rise of the Influencers: Individuals who are positioned in the social media sector to influence the buyers of products or those seeking services through their ability to promote and recommend particular causes, organizations, and activities. The religious sector will need to identify such “influencers” and effectively position them as a way to attract on-line audiences.

Social E-Commerce: Among the fastest changes we are monitoring involves the shift from in-person shopping to on-line purchasing.  Some ten major websites now sponsor and promote much of this emerging business model.  In 2021, $ 4.891 trillion in sales were recorded worldwide, with nearly one-third of all US commerce being conducted on-line.  Of particular importance, 16.8% of all giving to faith communities in this country were made through on-line transactions, representing the largest single category of fundraising for all sectors. Religious institutions are likely to expand their presence in this market space.[5]

Social Audio and Video Content:  The continued expansion of these media tools represents another access point that religious institutions will be able to access to.  grow their voice and presence.[6] Religious orgnaizations can explore ways to expand their reach by producing such on-line messaging and programming.

Increased Connectivity:  Just as Americans are spending more time on social media, corporations and businesses are investigating extensively on these platforms, suggesting new opportunities for the religious sector.[7] Social media represents an opportunity to create new avenues of connection and engagment with “unchurched” individuals and religious seekers in  expanding the reach of religious messaging.

New Models of Engagement: The increased presence of religious entities on social media, as evidenced by “FaithMeet” a Christian platform, may represent the first of many new social media ventures by faith communities.[8]  Growing Jewish platforms committed to education and outreach represents another access point for reaching new audiences.

Pandemic Impact on American Religious Life: Based on data being generated from Christian resources, we see a set of transformational changes likely to impact Jewish synagogue and communal life.[9]  Unpacking the full impact of the COVID experience on Jewish life, practice and behavior represents an essential research opportunity for our community.

The Challenge in Religious Giving: While there are strikingly significant new signs of religious vitality, the financial picture for American Christianity is less promising:[10]

  • In the last 40 years, total giving to religion has declined from 60% to 29%.
  • 27% of churches reported growing giving in 2021.  Americans are still giving the same amount of their income as they have since the second world war.  The problem is that the percentage going to the church has fallen sharply.

Rethinking  opportunities for Jewish religious engagement and giving becomes a central challenge as we move forward.

Reflections:

As we have understood over the past century, we are likely to see competitive forces challenging the religious space. The test for Jewish religious institutions will be to figure out how best to take advantage of the new technologies, to understand social trends, and to employ social media will determine the destiny and impact of religion in the 21st Century.

[1] https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/2022-trends-in-american-religion-what-we-can-learn-from-christianity/

[2] https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/whats-the-future-of-the-global-religious-landscape/

[3] https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/research-and-trends/70366-young-people-and-religion-in-2022.html

[4] https://comparecamp.com/demographic-trends/

[5] https://institute.blackbaud.com/charitable-giving-report/online-giving-trends. https://institute.blackbaud.com/charitable-giving-report/online-giving-trends/#:~:text=Percentage%20of%20Total%20Fundraising%20from%20Online%20Giving%20by%20Size,Get%20a%20version&text=Medium%2Dsized%20organizations%20saw%2011.3,increased%20to%2011.1%25%20in%202021.

[6] https://influencermarketinghub.com/social-media-trends/

[7] https://influencermarketinghub.com/snapchat-statistics-revenue/#toc-1

[8] . https://www.movieguide.org/news-articles/new-faith-based-social-media-faithmeet-to-launch-in-2022.html

[9] https://churchanswers.com/blog/ten-very-different-church-trends-for-2022/

[10] https://www.horizons.net/blog/seven-trends-to-watch

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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