Lifeway research has suggested that nearly 70% of those who attended church for at least one year in high school will walk away from the church during their college years.* The issues are complex. But it is a statistic that ought to concern us deeply. It would be easy for us to point the finger. We might lament the lack of commitment among today’s millennials. We might describe them as a coddled generation. We might characterize them as increasingly individualistic and concerned simply for themselves. And there might be a measure of truth in this assessment. But I believe that we also need to take a look in the mirror. We need to acknowledge that perhaps we have pushed them away.
- Millennials value authenticity. They are not interested in going through the motions. And they have little toleration for those who speak about Jesus on Sunday but don’t live for him the other six days of the week.
- Millennials are looking for a cause to devote themselves to. They do not want a shallow Christianity. The problem sometimes is not that we ask too much of them but that we ask too little. We have allowed Christianity to be a leisure time activity. And they are not interested in a country club.
- Millennials don’t want to play it safe. Established churches tend to maintain the status quo and avoid risks. And the result is that the church is losing its most creative people to other arenas.
What is it about our own lives (or about our churches), that might turn a millennial believer away? What needs to change in our lives if the faith of the next generation is going to flourish?
*Ed Stetzer, “Dropouts and Disciples: How many students are really leaving the church?” Christianity Today (5/14/2014).
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