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What Millennials Teach Us

September 1, 2016

What can the church learn from Millennials?[1]

 

 

 

“How not to be” is maybe what you’re thinking!

 

 

 

 Millennials have received many unfortunate labels, including “the Peter Pan generation” (they never grow up), “the Trophy generation” (everyone is a “winner”), the “Boomerang generation” (they leave home but come back), and more.

 

On the religious front, a third of Millennials are “Nones”, meaning they have no religious affiliation. Among those who grew up in church, nearly 6 in 10 have dropped out at some point.

 

Nevertheless, there are some things we can learn from Millennials.

 

The most godless response the church can have is to discount an entire generation as godless.
 

A generation is a terrible thing to lose.

 

Here are two things Millennials can teach the modern American church:

 

1. Inclusivity

 

 

 

87% of Millennials view Christians as judgmental. When asked what symbol best represents contemporary Christianity, nearly 4 in 10 chose the pointing finger.

 

Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Judge not, lest you be judged”? Was it not our Lord who pardoned the adulteress, befriended the prostitute, and welcomed the thief? Certainly there are limits to our inclusivity. We have no authority to modify God’s moral absolutes or His path to salvation.

 

But the church must find ways to communicate sensitively with those who are different.

 

The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, the vast majority of blacks are not thugs, the vast majority of whites are not racists, and the vast majority of homosexuals are not “evil”. Even if they all were these things, we’d still be called to love in return.

 

2. Authenticity

 

Two-thirds of Millennials believe that American churchgoers are either very or somewhat hypocritical. Only 8% say they don’t attend church because it’s “out-of-date”, undermining the notion that we just need to entertain them better.

 

Millennials know how to sniff out fake. Pretending we are holy is no substitute for being holy. When Millennials go to church, they want to meet real Christians and they want to meet the real God.

 

One researcher states, “The fact remains that eight out of 10 young adults say growing closer to or learning about God are the two most important reasons to attend church. And with all the other options open to Millennials, it’s safe to conclude that, when they show up at church for a worship or learning opportunity, they do so hoping there is Someone present to worship or learn about.”

 

 

 

THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE

 

I don’t want to sugarcoat this. Some of the labels for Millennials are statistically supported. Millennials test higher for entitlement and narcissism than other generations when they were that age.

 

But we also have to ask: who’s fault is that? Did Millennials raise themselves?

 

More than any other generation, Millennials have grown up in broken homes, where discipleship was outsourced to the local youth group. The worst thing we can do now is multiply the gravity of our failures by discounting an entire generation.

 

Maybe instead of just criticizing, we should learn. Maybe instead of pointing fingers, we should repent.

 

Maybe then the Boomerang Generation will surprise every critic by coming back to God’s house… to stay.

 

 

 

[1] The statistics in this blog come from http://www.barna.com/research/what-millennials-want-when-they-visit-church/#.V8RBCoQrg0k and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials

Photo: http://rhaw.dvrlists.com/peter-pan/

 

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