Millennials feel a huge disconnect from today’s traditional churches. The factors of access, alienation and authority are key reasons for a great exodus of youth from church. Let’s look at the changing face of future believers:
Today, there is unlimited access to other world-views because of the internet. Technology is fueling the rapid pace of change and the disconnection between the past and the future. Young people also feel alienated from the past because today’s families are so diverse. For example, the current birth rate of single women has climbed to 42% since the 1970s, leaving some without a grid for understanding their “heavenly Father.”
Youth have authority issues with the church, as well. Questions about who to believe and why surface constantly in our relativistic culture, which fuels a growing hostility towards people of faith. There are virtually no Christian influencers among the Millennials. Most turn to peers, or the internet, for opinions about religious questions. Often times, opinions are valued over truth. Good discipleship programs can earn a young person’s trust, and hopefully, they’d consult that Christian mentor instead of wiki.
Young people highly value creative expression, yet sense that the church is no place for them to take risks with their artistic gifts. Isn’t church supposed to be a safe place for people to belong, where they can be who God has called them to be? I would encourage churches to allow freedom within limits for young people to express themselves in their creative ideas, under the guidance of older church leaders. We need to step outside “the box” and experiment. We need to help young people see that church is not shallow, and they can connect their talents or callings with their faith in whatever career they pursue, be it movie-making or science.
If we let Millennials express their talents in church first, before they go out into the culture and spread influence, it could be a training ground for them. They could learn in a godly environment initially, which would lay the foundation for future choices. For example, why not allow young people to create YouTube-type videos depicting something creative, and show them during part of a church service? At my church, we already have in place a discipleship/mentoring program, and an arts pastor who brings drama, comedy improv, and other forms of creative expression into the church. I highly recommend other churches do the same.
In addition, statistics show that over half of high school students want to pursue careers in some scientific field, but see the church as “anti-science.” The messages we send to them should be that science is as a tool to discover the intricacies and marvelously created world that God designed; a way to unveil some of His mysteries. This helps young people see their career as a calling, bringing God’s light into areas that desperately need it.
One area that could use more of God’s design is how young people view sex. So many think the church is repressive, but I believe it’s because they are not taught what the Bible means about intimacy. Modern culture views sex as pleasing oneself; God tells us it’s a selfless expression of love between a husband and wife. It’s good, not self-serving. How many young people are told this? Not many, I would assume.
Lastly, Millennials value tolerance and inclusiveness. Here is where they could teach us that everyone has a right to belong, and after all, we’re all sinners. The church should rethink its posture to the world, like Christ did, when He became a man, not only for His sacrifice, but to embrace us in solidarity, and empathy.
The church needs to make better disciples, and keep it small, following the example of Jesus as He poured mentoring into twelve disciples, and this small band of followers changed the world!
These are real issues that today’s churches should address in order to bring this generation back into the folds of fellowship, because simply “being spiritual ” without going to church is not what God intends—He wants us to be a community.