Article Resource: Why millenials are leaving the church

Photo by Adam Wade

Photo by Adam Wade

Why millenials are leaving the church” by Rachel Held Evans

Here’s an interesting read (click the link above) on an issue many of our congregations are facing. Evans provides an honest account of what she believes this generation is looking for in their spiritual lives.

What do you think? As a young adult, do you relate to her sentiments and thoughts about what this generation is looking for? What do you connect with? What do you disagree with?

As a congregation member, does this provide you with any insight you might be looking for regarding what young adults in your congregations are looking for? What ideas does it inspire to better connect with this generation?

“But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. … Their answers might surprise you.”

6 thoughts on “Article Resource: Why millenials are leaving the church

  1. jaimeephipps says:

    I think what we’re looking for is a loving community. Why do people seek faith? They want to feel loved, guided, and protected in this life and after. I think what turns millenials/genXs away is a feeling of exclusivity that we are not a part of. You’re not old enough to have your own opinion, you’re not dressed the “right” way, you don’t know all the stories or all the hymns, etc. We want a loving community that represents the real world that we live in, including all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations.

  2. Jim says:

    In my experience as a young adult, of which I am entering my final year classified as a “young adult”, which means I’m just a tad old for a millenial and a tad young for a Gen-Xer, both my willingness to contribute and that of my peers have been completely ignored.

    When my father was my age, he was called to be an Elder and a leader of his congregation. In my current congregation, people who are 20 years older than me are still struggling to take over the leadership from their parents’ generation. Most of them will never be called into the leadership positions or offices of the congregation. Whenever I’ve tried to share the point of view on many of these topics with older adults in Sunday school, many times they are rebuffed or challenged as a liberal undermining of the scriptures’ authority.

    Then we have the issue of the mixed-messages we keep receiving from the World Church. There is little to zero activity on the horizon for young adults. There are no texts for Sunday school lessons, no guidance for new graduates, newlyweds, or new parents. Nothing at all. Of course, there was nothing for us as youth other than summer camps and Spec, no scriptural substance to familiarize ourselves with the Gospel and what it means. So it is little wonder why I’m watching my friends, especially those with children, attend Ecumenical congregations featuring a paid, full time pastorate, who know what their church believe and aren’t afraid to tell you, and have an accessible and comfortable environment for both singles and families.

    The church leaders need to stop worrying so much about pleasing and impressing a worldwide audience with their scholarly tracts and wordy articles in the Herald and bring the focus back to fostering healthy congregations and developing new leaders who have the tools to go into their neighborhoods and workplaces and bring new faithful members to the table. Until then we’re just going to be staring at each other until everyone dies or leaves for good.

  3. Personally, I think it all requires a lot of dedication, time, listening and understanding on both ends. There’s no quick fix or magic trick that will instantly bring young adults or anyone back to church. They have their own reasons for leaving or not coming in the first place.

    I also think it’s important to note that there are many millenials still in the church, and sometimes it can seem sort of insulting for people to say “we have no young people in our congregations”, when I and others are standing right there. Today I watched presentations from a group of young adult millenials who just returned from World Service Corps talk about how much they loved their experience in different parts of the church, how they were challenged to share their first sermons, how they were welcomed into loving communities, were thinking of ways they could be involved in their home communities when they returned. I talk with my friends from other countries who are spending their summers serving at camps and rallying together out of care and passion for our church to create a place of community where everyone feels welcome and comfortable.
    We do have passionate, committed young adults, so I think that while we should still reach out to welcome and invite others into community, we shouldn’t disregard the commitment, service and gifts of ones who are there. It feels sometimes like those who are there are overlooked and underappreciated and eventually burnt out. They receive more care, attention, mentoring, invitation and focus once they’ve left the church and are being “recruited” back. Not ALL millenials are leaving the church. It’s not a cry out for attention, but a recognition that not everyone falls into the stereotypes and appreciation for those who are there. I can think of many of us millenials, who are so involved and invested in the church, we dedicate our careers to it.

    For me, It requires genuine relationships and desire to create a real community where everyone feels they belong, are heard, and feel they can contribute something to make a positive difference. New ideas are great. Old traditions are great. For me, and I think many other young adults, it’s not so much what we “do” or the new music we play or any specific ritual or tradition that brings me to a congregation (as we’ve all heard many times now). It’s the relationships and belonging to a loving, world-wide community that allows me to grow. A community that offers me people of all ages and cultures to be with and learn from. It’s what I receive that enriches my life and what I feel I can give that may make a difference, that makes me feel a part of something awesome and keeps me going to church. If others see and feel that sense of community that I get from my church, I think they are more likely to want to attend on their own, rather than being enticed with unauthentic tricks to get young people through the doors. Like the articles both say: we want something real.

    “As a Millennial, if I’m truly honest with myself, what I really need from the church is not another yes-man entity enabling my hubris and giving me what I want. Rather, what I need is something bigger than me, older than me, bound by a truth that transcends me and a story that will outlast me; basically, something that doesn’t change to fit me and my whims, but changes me to be the Christ-like person I was created to be.”

    My hope would be that older generations don’t feel that millenials don’t value anything they have to offer. I think that’s pretty far from the truth. MIllenials are inquisitive and genuinely WANT to be mentored and guided, just not preached to or judged if they don’t necessarily agree or have different beliefs or values. I also hope that the younger generations don’t feel that older generations don’t value anything they have to offer – because I think that’s also far from the truth.

    /end rant. 🙂

  4. Thanks for your comments Ben and Gary. I also saw this article and think it addresses some of what both of you are talking about: sticking with it and learning from those who have spent the time dedicated to the church, through ups and downs. Not thinking that we know everything and being willing to do something about it and not just bail when we don’t get what we want.

    “Part of the problem is the hubris of every generation, which thinks it has discovered, once and for all, the right way of doing things. C.S. Lewis called it “chronological snobbery,” defining it as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”

  5. Ben says:

    A great article. I shared it with our local pastors who also appreciated the insights into our generation.

    One thing that keeps coming back to me in terms of changing the culture of the church is that we need to be a part of the solution. Demanding change without putting your feet there is like trying to get paid for not doing any work. Commitment of time is a massive task for all in today’s society, however without it nothing will change.

  6. I appreciate sharing the article by Ms. Evans. While I am a 67 year old Evangelist who considers myself “young at heart” I agree with her. As one who is concerned about the future of the church I am a firm believer that YA’s is not the future of the church to like at them like that is to suggest that they are not a part of the church of today. If I am not mistaken one of the things I see Ms. Evans suggesting is YA’s are in search of more than just words they are looking for a church/congregation that no longer see their faith journey as intellectual.

    I am not really sure I am in a position to suggest something for you YA’s to consider so if I am out of line please excuse me. I believe it is wrong to leave the church I believe the only way for the church to become genuine is for change to begin from the inside out. One of the ways burn patients are treated is to keep removing the scabs as they form in order for healing to occur from the inside out.

    I think you YA’s are among history’s most genuine people. You folks have a very powerful ministry to give please hang in there and give the Holy Spirit a chance to empower each of you to take your rightful place in seeing that the Community of Christ Church lives up to its name.

    Thank you so much for giving me a chance to have my say!

    Grace and PEACE,
    Gary Piper, Evangelist
    Fort Gratiot, Michigan

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