Pastor's Pondering


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That's What We Should Be

by Duane Mabee on June 7, 2019
I was recently given a synopsis of a Barna study on why Millennials (ages 22-37) have closed the door on church involvement.  Why do the majority of Millennials say that church is not at all important?  How should the church respond? 


Millennials are not looking for the church to make major programming or production changes to reach them.  They are hyperaware and deeply suspicious of the consumer culture in the church.  They do not want the church to treat them like consumers, even though they are avid consumers in every other area of life.  They want the church to be above consumerist tactics.  That doesn’t mean there is nothing the church should change in order to reach them, however.


Of the Millennials who say the church is not important, most are split between two reasons: two in five say church is not important because they can find God elsewhere (39%), and one-third say it’s because church is not personally relevant to them (35%).  One in three simply find church boring (31%) and one in five say it feels like God is missing from church (20%).  Only 8% say they don’t attend because church is “out of date,” undercutting the notion that the only thing churches need to do for Millennials is to make worship “cooler”. 


Millennials also point to moral failures in church leadership, and the negative perceptions they have of Christians as major reasons for their lack of interest in the church.  They tend to see Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, anti-homosexual and insensitive to others. 


These insights may indicate that the church – our church – won’t attract younger generations just by tweaking the way we do worship, which may bring relief to some.  It tells me that we have a much bigger problem.  Kudos to the Millennials for not falling for a cheap marketing strategy, but have we as the Church really listened to what they are saying?  They’re saying they don’t see any evidence of the Living, Transcendent God in our worship services.  They don’t see His power at work changing our lives so they don’t see any reason to believe that it will change theirs.  That should make us weep.  It should challenge us to examine why we are so comfortable with what they see as the complete absence of God. 


On the other hand, it gives hope.  What they are saying is they want to attend a church that is doing exactly what we are called to be.  They want to be engaged in a church that is living out the faith and actively reaching into the community.  They want to come to a church where they can be closer to God, learn more about Him, and experience His transcendent presence in worship, prayer, and teaching.  They want to be part of a church where they can find answers to live a meaningful life.  That, church, is exactly the kind of church we should want to be.  Would you pray with me that God will help us become what we’re meant to be?