Millennials are apparently obsessed with a lot of things—self-care, self-improvement, food, ego travel (whatever that is), and nostalgia just to name a few. However, millennials are not obsessed with the church, as evidenced by the fact that they’re leaving Christianity in droves.
We live in a millennial-obsessed culture. Millennials are not only the largest generation, but also the most over-analyzed and highly scrutinized. The fact that this article is so peppered with hyperlinks speaks to this obsession. Just Google ‘millennial obsession’ and you’ll find (just like I did) an overwhelming number of articles and opinions on the subject.
Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church
As a part of culture, the church is also pretty obsessive about the millennial generation. Some pastors are sorry about it. Some are just convinced this generation is selfish and entitled. At least one pastor doesn’t really care that millennials are leaving the church. But even the fact that nearly everyone has an opinion about millennials is just further evidence of the obsession.
Either way, most millennials are just fed up with the church’s attitude towards us. We don’t want to be examined like mice rats. Or stereotyped. Or feared. Or belittled. Or blamed. Or cottled. Mostly, my generation just wants to be treated like normal people.
There are plenty of reasons why millennials are leaving the church. But church leaders shouldn’t change these things about their churches just for millennials. If your church isn’t providing a path to Jesus or meaningful community, what are you doing anyway? The more desperately churches try to pander to millennials, the more we’ll be turned off by your inauthenticity.
How the Church Treats Millennials
I frequently hear church leaders talk about how all millennials think or feel a certain way. What that really means is that they read an article (or saw an article headline) explaining a generalized trend. And they believe that’s made them an expert on millennials. Conversely, I believe that anyone claiming to be a millennial expert is anything but.
There are plenty of articles telling you how your church can attract millennials. Or engage millennials. Or become more millennial friendly. Which is great, and we’re flattered that you’re willing to change for us. But it’s also not great because it means you’re possibly willing to change who your church is just to lure in a generation of people who might not be interested anyway.
The stereotypes and statistics about millennials are mostly misleading. There are just as many exceptions as there are people who follow the trends and patterns. Assuming that every millennial drinks Starbucks and has student debt is like assuming that every Baby Boomer fought in the Vietnam War or that every member of Gen Z is a YouTube star.
Speaking of which, millennials are not the only generation. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers might be getting older, but they’re still around. And Millennials are the present, but Gen Z is the future. Are you ready for Generation Z? If you’re only now getting adjusted to Millennials, you’re already behind.
What to Do About Millennials
So what should the church do? What’s the best solution to fighting an unhealthy obsession while still being relevant to a key demographic? Here’s just a few of suggestions from one millennial (me).
- Don’t talk about being welcoming to millennials. Talk is cheap. Action is valuable. Let your actions talk for you. If you have to talk about it, you’re not doing enough.
- Stop reading reports about millennial trends. They’re fascinating to read, but they don’t paint a complete picture of individual millennials. Don’t let these be your only source of info.
- Get to know some millennials in your church. Take the time to go out to lunch with them. Listen to what they have to say. Build relationships that inform your opinions.
- Allow millennials to get involved in your church. Hire some on your staff. Encourage them to volunteer. That will make their perspective part of your church’s DNA.
- Pay attention to other generations. Reaching people isn’t about following trends. It’s about meeting all people where they are. And focusing on the future of the church.
Is your church obsessed with millennials? Are you?