Millenials, man! Amiright? We all know one, and some of us are one! How do we get one? Where are they? How can we keep them once we have captured them? Why won’t they do what we want them to do? Why won’t they come to Church and stay in Church? All of these questions are being asked, and it’s good that they are being asked, because people have a lot of opinions about these questions that are being asked. Below is a list of what I believe to be the 5 main reasons Millennials are leaving the Church in 2017.
Millennials tend to be sinful. A recent study that I conducted myself, showed that out of 500 Millennials polled, 100% of them were found to be utterly corrupt and filled to the brim with sinful inclinations. Further study showed that every desire of their sinful, adulterous hearts, heavily leaned towards running away from God rather then running towards Him. This is of course nothing new, as past studies of Gen X, Y, and Baby Boomers have all produced the same results. We can say without a doubt, that sin definitely plays a huge factor when we consider why Millennials are leaving the Church. A good way to counteract this is simply not to talk about it. Don’t mention the word Sin, and if possible, completely forget about it. Deep down everyone secretly knows that they are sinful, and the last thing they want is some stuffy old Pastor to remind them of that fact.
2. The Gospel Is Too Offensive
I would say almost everyone in this day and age finds the Gospel offensive. The idea that a loving God would choose to save some, all while allowing others to do as they please is extremely offensive to people. The good news that Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost doesn’t really play in 2017, because nobody sees themselves as, “lost.” They know exactly where they are, and if Jesus can’t find them, that’s honestly His fault. Also, why did Jesus have to even save anyone? What is He saving them from? Are humans in some sort of peril because of their sinful disobedience to a completely all-powerful, Holy and Just Creator? Certainly not! Where do “Christians” get this crazy idea that God is somehow angry with people due to their willful daily sin? This Gospel stuff makes no sense because God is love, as we all know, and a loving God loves everyone, and therefore Jesus loves everyone no matter how they live, act, or whatever.
A good way to attract Millennials (and really any other breathing human) is to make sure not to judge anyone or take a hard stance on any one topic. If you talk about people being, “lost,” only refer to it in the confines of the ABC hit television show, “Lost.” Replace the non-relevant stuffy Gospel of the Bible with the fun-loving super relevant Gospel of 2017. Keep the good news good, and the bad news fake news.
3. Doctrine is Lame
Millennials don’t need doctrines, creeds, or confessions. They need fog machines, loud music, and a powerful “experience.” If they want a bunch of, “deep stuff,” they will just go to school and learn philosophy or politics or something. Church is supposed to be about the way it makes you feel, and religion is really what you make it to be. The second you start talking about systematic theology, or councils, or parsing words out in Greek, you have officially lost a Millennial. That is literally, “all Greek to them.” If you want Millennials to stay in your Church, then you need to cater the entire worship experience to their liking. Ignore hundreds of years of thoughtful, Spirit-led instructions from Church fathers, and go with whatever the current culture tells you is hip or cool. If the early Church did it, go ahead and toss it out. All you need is a simple, blind faith in Jesus (whoever he is to you), and everything else is “religion” junk. Who wants religion? Nobody, that’s who.
Also, the Bible should never be read or presented as the literal, inspired, infallible Word of God. It should be seen as merely a history book with teachings about how to live a better life. Stick with the New Testament, if at all possible, and if you feel led (by the waves of culture) to venture into the deep waters of the Old Testament (Spirit lead me) then stick with the Psalms and Proverbs where your trust can be without borders.
4. Church Feels like Church
When you walk into your Church building, does it feel like a Church? Is it reverent and humble in appearance? Are people wearing, “fancy clothing?” Are there pews or neatly lined up chairs? If this is the case, then you have a huge problem on your hands. Millennials want to walk into a Church without actually feeling like they are in Church. Here are a few tips to accomplish this:
1) Setup a coffee shop/bookstore/lounge in your greeting area. Nothing grabs a Millennial faster than the feel/aroma of walking into a Starbucks on a Sunday morning. You should even have hired Baristas to further drive the atmosphere home. Also, Millennials love books, so the more merchandise you can pack into your lobby, the better. Don’t be afraid to give your lobby a real marketplace vibe.
2) The sanctuary should not feel like holy ground. Put couches in there, colored lights, and lots of stage props. If a Millennial walks in and thinks, “This reminds me of a theater/bar,” you have successfully done your job.
3) Get crazy in worship. Anything goes when it comes to worship, so really let loose. If you have it in your budget to get dancing bears, go ahead and do that. Millennials love a spectacle, and any chance to do something outlandish that will tickle their itching eyes and ears should be welcomed with open arms. Look to Nadab and Abihu as perfect examples for what not to do, and by what not to do, I simply mean don’t use fireworks (strange fire) in worship. You might burn your church down. But do set your Church on fire…metaphorically…
4) Your Church needs a name that screams, “we are definitely not a Church!” Stick with one word names like, Elevate, Resonate, or Percolate. If you want to get a little wild, throw a, “the” before the name, as in, the bridge, the gate, or the door. Whatever you do, don’t put the word “Church” anywhere in the title of your Church name.
5. Because Churches Read Blogs Like This
Listen, Millennials are just like every other group of humans that have ever existed on this earth. Stop trying to cater to them, and simply preach and teach the unfiltered Word of God. Stop acting like it’s your responsibility alone to convert and save the lost. God will bring His sheep into the pasture, and your responsibility is to simply feed those sheep. If you want shallow consumer driven people to attend your Church, then by all means, keep giving away cars, keep preaching prosperity, and use gimmicks as much as possible. The real reason people are leaving the Church (not just Millennials) is because we have somehow bought into articles like this, rather then simply faithfully doing what the Bible tells us to do. The Goats will come and go, but the Sheep will come and stay.
Please hear me clearly: Being winsome, exciting, and welcoming are all good things. However, the Gospel itself should be the main event. The drama of the text, sacraments, and liturgy are more then enough on their own. When you feel like you have to dress up the Word of God in order to make it more attractive, you have officially lost the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If your true desire is to actually seek and save Millennials, then give them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t water that biz down, and don’t pander to them. Tell them to repent of their sins, and to cling to the cross. Tell them about a God that so loved the world, that He sent His Son to die in order to save the lost. Oh, and let them know that they are lost. Follow it up with the fact that they can be found, and loved, and accepted, and forgiven once and for all. Let them know that if they are in Christ, then their sins are forgotten and remembered no more. Let them know that it is finished.
Let’s all stop reading (and writing) dumb blogs like this, and get back to work in the fields.
(I’m sure I will see you all in a couple of years when the Gen Z blogs start popping up…)