Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the Barna Group’s You Lost Me. Live! seminar, centered around David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church And Rethinking Faith (2011). If you’re familiar with the Barna Group, you know their research is impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed their 2007 book unChristian.
You Lost Me is about how 59% of my generation, dubbed “Millennials” (born between 1980 and 2000), are leaving the church, and why. I’m not sure what the actual statistics are within the Lord’s Church, but surely they are pretty close. Perhaps we need to re-think how we approach my generation (because they’re definitely different than previous generations). We make a huge mistake when we respond to the alarming drop-out rate with, “Oh, they’ll be back.” No, they probably won’t. This is different than what we saw in the 1960’s.
Below are some of my notes:
Reasons Why Millennials Leave Church:
(Not necessarily valid reasons, but that they are reasons, if not just misunderstandings & excuses)
- They view the church as overprotective. Millennials are a creative and imaginative generation, and they feel the church discourages creativity.
- They view the church as boring. They do not feel like the church is adequately communicating the depth and power of following Christ. The church is too busy teaching ‘dull’ theology that it is neglecting the topic of discipleship.
- They view the church as anti-science. Many Millennials have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible. They see how important science is to our world today in areas like medicine, personal technology, and travel. And to them, ‘science’ seems accessible to them in a way the church does not; science appears to invite questions and skepticism, while the church does not.
- They view the church as repressive. They do not like churches dictating rules about sexuality.
- They view the church as exclusive. Today’s culture esteems open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. Thus, Millennials have an unfavorable view of churches that claim to be exclusive.
- They view the church as doubtless. They do not feel safe asking tough questions, and feel as though the church’s response to doubt is trivial, fact-focused, insufficient, and caustic.
Millennials are more intelligent than we realize, and they are asking questions about faith and religion. When preachers or church leaders fail to answer their questions in a deep, meaningful, and thoughtful way, they are quickly ‘turned off.’ Don’t minimize what Millennials say; make sure you take the time to listen to them.
In the past, churches played a critical role in people’s lives as a social outlet. The church was a unique place to build meaningful relationships. Yet today, technology (especially social media) has taken the church’s place as the primary social outlet of young people.
The upcoming generation (Millennials and beyond) wants to be challenged. They are asking tough questions, and want real answers – not platitudes, clichés, or downplayed responses. Christianity needs to taught and practiced in such a way that it is seen as relevant, not boring. We are not challenging them enough.
Christianity should be simple, but not too simple.
Young people spend an average of 7 hours a day connected to media (phone, texting, social media, television, video games, etc.). What do you think has a greater influence on them: a 45 minute sermon, or 7 hours of media?
Young people don’t need to go to the music store to buy music. They don’t need to go to the bank to do banking. They don’t need to go to the adult store to buy pornography. They’re asking, “Why do I need to go to church for spirituality?”
How to reverse the 59% trend:
- Meaningful Relationships. A church cannot simply hire a youth minister and expect young people to become enamored with the church. The job description of many youth ministers is specifically “to build relationships with young people.” Young people know this. Naturally, this is counter-productive. Instead of having the mentality, “We need to have a minister/teacher for every 20 kids,” we need to think more like, “We need to have at least 20 members building relationships with each kid.”
- Reverse Mentoring. Take the time to listen and learn from Millennials. Don’t speak ‘at’ them. Have a conversation ‘with’ them. The church should be a place where we approach one another equally, regardless of age, gender, education, race, and marital status.
- Vocational Ministry. Make the Gospel relevant to every career choice. Young people are asking, “How can I apply the Gospel to my vocation?”
- Voice of God. Teach and challenge Millennials more thoroughly. They want to be challenged. Make the Gospel understandable and relevant (because it is).
The are just my notes, not necessarily my commentary. What is your response to some of these statements?