Saturday, August 30, 2008

Millennials and Church

My niece wrote a little piece on Millennials in the church. I really liked it so I thought I would post her introduction. I think it really captures the flavour of this next generation of Christians: passionate about God but disappointed with the institutional church.

I called my brother this week.

A freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, he’s the epitome of this generation’s busy youth. Besides his studies at this Ivy League school, he’s involved in the gospel choir, the running club, the science department’s research lab, and a local church. When I called, it was one in the morning (Eastern time,) but he laughed when I scolded him for being awake: “Alison, this is early!”

Despite his age, my brother is one of the wisest persons I know. I often call him to get advice, to complain about my boy problems, to discuss politics, or to debate theology. This time, though, he was more reserved. And, after our unimportant small talk, he spoke with an exasperated sigh.

“I don’t know if I can do this much longer,” he said.

"Do what?” I asked.

“This, this - church thing,” he replied. “It’s so boring – the same thing every week! Will it be like this for the rest of my life? Can I put up with it for that long?”

At that moment, I didn’t know what to say. I knew I should encourage him, tell him it would get better, push him to “stay strong”… but I couldn’t. Frankly, it’s because I feel exactly the same way. And, I’ve felt this way for a while.

If the truth were told, I’m tired of going to church. In fact, I dread Sundays. To me, they represent three hours of boredom. I’m tired of listening to a pastor speak at me for 45 minutes (from my 20+ years of attendance, I can usually predict the outcome of his message.) I’m tired of “dressing up” to worship. I’m tired of wearing a plastic smile. I’m tired of seeing our corrupt leaders on the nightly news. I’m just tired.

And, I’m not alone. Besides my brother and I, there are millions of people in the United States today who are fed up with the state of the American church. Statistics show that people aren’t interested in traditional Christianity – both inside and outside of the church. Most importantly, there’s a generational gap that’s growing increasingly larger as time goes on. 

The millennials (the generation just hitting adulthood) are the least churched generation in this nation’s history. And for some reason, institutionalized churches have been unable to successfully attract or retain most of them. Current church programs aimed at the millennials are not working. If the American church wants to survive into the future, they must be flexible enough to re-shape their current structure to be more relevant and applicable to this generation’s youth and the next generation’s leaders.

Thus, young people are leaving the church and turning to other sources for spiritual satisfaction. Within Christianity, three new trends have evolved: Churchless Christians, the Emerging Church Movement, and House Churches. By engaging in these options, some people have found the satisfaction lacking from their typical church attendance. The American church must learn to be open to such new ideas if it wants to survive in the future.

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