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12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church

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From the depths of my heart, I want to love church.

I want to be head-over-heels for church like the unshakable Ned Flanders.

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I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-change that happens beneath a steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street.

I desperately want to feel this way about church, but I don’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite.

Turns out I identify more with Maria from the Sound of Music staring out the abbey window, longing to be free.

It seems all-too-often our churches are actually causing more damage than good and the statistics are showing a staggering number of millennials have taken note.

According to this study (and many others like it) church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history and most drastic among millennials described as 22-35 year olds.

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59% percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
  • 35% of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

As I sat in a our large church’s annual meeting last month, I looked around for anyone in my age bracket. It was a little like a Titanic search party…

IS ANYONE ALIVE OUT THERE? CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Tuning in and out of the 90 minute state-of-the-church address, I kept wondering to myself, where are my people? And then the scarier question, why I am still here?

A deep-seated dissatisfaction has been growing in me and, despite my greatest attempts to whack-a-mole it back down, no matter what I do it continues to rise out of my wirey frame.

[To follow my publicly-chronicled church struggles, check out my other posts The How Can I Help Project and 50 Ways to Serve the Least of These]

Despite the steep drop-off in millennials, most churches seem to be continuing on with business as usual. Sure, maybe they add a food truck here or a bowling night there, but no one seems to be reacting with any level of concern that matches these STAGGERING statistics.

Where is the task-force searching for the lost generation? Where is the introspective reflection necessary when 1/3 of a generation is ANTI-CHURCH?

The truth is no one has asked me why millennials don’t like church. Luckily, as a public school teacher, I am highly skilled at answering questions before they’re asked. It’s a gift really.

So, at the risk of being excommunicated, here is the metaphorical nailing of my own 12 theses to the wooden door of the American, Millennial-less Church.

12-reasons

1. Nobody’s Listening to Us

Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?

Solution:

  • Create regular outlets (forums, surveys, meetings) to discover the needs of young adults both inside AND outside the church.
  • Invite millennials to serve on leadership teams or advisory boards where they can make a difference.
  • Hire a young adults pastor who has the desire and skill-set to connect with millennials.

 

2. We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements

Sweet Moses people, give it a rest.

Of course as an organization it’s important to be moving in the same direction, but that should be easier for Christians than anyone because we already have a leader to follow. Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

“Love God. Love Others.” Task completed.

Why does every church need its own mission statement anyway? Aren’t we all one body of Christ, serving one God? What would happen if the entire American Church came together in our commonalities and used the same, concise mission statement?

Solution:

  • Stop wasting time on the religious mambo jumbo and get back to the heart of the gospel. If you have to explain your mission and values to the church, it’s overly-religious and much too complicated.
  • We’re not impressed with the hours you brag about spending behind closed doors wrestling with Christianese words on a paper. We’re impressed with actions and service.



3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority

My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become.

Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…

Now lets clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. 

Oooooo, awkward.

If the numbers are not equal please check your bible for better comprehension (or revisit the universal church mission statement stated above).

“If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is in us at all.” –Radical, David Platt

Solutions:

  • Stop creating more bible studies and Christian activity. Community happens best in service with a shared purpose.
  • Survey your members asking them what injustice or cause God has placed on their hearts. Then connect people who share similar passions. Create space for them to meet and brainstorm and then sit back and watch what God brings to life.
  • Create group serve dates once a month where anyone can show up and make a difference (and, oh yeah, they’ll also meet new people).

4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture

From Elvis’ hips to rap music, from Footloose to “twerking”, every older generation comes to the same conclusion: the world is going to pot faster than the state of Colorado. We’re aware of the down-falls of the culture—believe it or not we are actually living in it too.

Perhaps it’s easier to focus on how terrible the world is out there than actually address the mess within.

Solution:

  • Put the end times rhetoric to rest and focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
  • Explicitly teach us how our lives should differ from the culture. (If this teaching isn’t happening in your life, check out the book Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel)

5.  The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect

There is this life-changing movie all humans must see, regardless of gender. The film is of course the 2004 classic “Mean Girls”.

In the film, the most popular girl in school forgets to wear pink on a Wednesday (a cardinal sin), to which Gretchen Weiners screams, “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”

Today, my mom said to me “church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.”

The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.

Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.

Solutions:

    • Create authentic communities with a shared purpose centered around service.
    • Create and train a team of CONNECT people whose purpose is to seek out the outliers on Sunday mornings or during other events. Explicitly teach people these skills as they do not come naturally to most of the population.
    • Stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected. For some people, especially those that are shy or struggle with anxiety, putting yourself out there even just once might be an overwhelming task. We have to find ways to bridge that gap.

6. Distrust & Misallocation of Resources

Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10% of our incomes to the church but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.

We want painstaking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.

Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go towards a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?

Solution:

  • Go out of your way to make all financial records readily accessible. Earn our trust so we can give with confidence.
  • Create an environment of frugality.
  • Move to zero-based budgeting where departments aren’t allocated certain dollar amounts but are asked to justify each purchase.
  • Challenge church staff to think about the opportunity cost. Could these dollars be used to better serve the kingdom?

 

7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At

Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. See: millennial church attendance. We have millions of podcasts and Youtube videos of pastors the world over at our finger tips.

For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.

Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.

We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch? (with the ecstasy of donuts and sweatpants).

Solutions:

  • Create a database of adult mentors and young adults looking for someone to walk with them.
  • Ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.

 

8. We Want to Feel Valued

Churches tend to rely heavily on their young adults to serve. You’re single, what else do you have to do? In fact, we’re tapped incessantly to help out. And, at its worst extreme, spiritually manipulated with the cringe-worthy words “you’re letting your church down.”

Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.

We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.

We need a church that sees us and believes in us, that cheers us on and encourages us to chase our big crazy dreams.

Solutions:

  • Return to point #1: listening.
  • Go out of your way to thank the people who are giving so much of their life to the church.

 

9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)

People in their 20’s and 30’s are making the biggest decisions of their entire lives: career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image.

We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas.

No, I don’t think a sermon-series on sex is appropriate for a sanctuary full of families, but we have to create a place where someone older is showing us a better way because these topics are the teaching millennials are starving for. We don’t like how the world is telling us to live, but we never hear from our church either.

Solutions:

  • Create real and relevant space for young adults to learn, grow and be vulnerable.
  • Create an opportunity for young adults to find and connect with mentors.
  • Create a young adults program that transitions high school youth through late adulthood rather than abandoning them in their time of greatest need.
  • Intentionally train young adults in how to live a Godly life instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.

 

10. The Public Perception

It’s time to focus on changing the public perception of the Church within the community. The neighbors, the city, and the people around our church buildings should be audibly thankful the congregation is part of their neighborhood. We should be serving the crap out of them.

We desperately need to be calling the schools and the city, knocking on doors, asking everyone around us how we can be make their world better. When the public opinion shows 1/3 millennials are ANTI-CHURCH, we are outright failing at being the aroma of Christ.

Solutions:

  • Call the local government and schools to ask what their needs are. (See: Service Day from #3).
  • Find ways to connect with neighbors within the community.
  • Make your presence known and felt at city events.

 

11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)

Words without follow-up are far worse than ignoring us completely. Despite the stereotypes about us, we are listening to phrases being spoken in our general direction. Lip service, however, doesn’t cut it. We are scrutinizing every action that follows what you say (because we’re sick of being ignored and listening to broken promises).

Solutions:

  • Stop speaking in abstract sound bites and make a tangible plan for how to reach millennials.
  • If you want the respect of our generation, under promise and over-deliver.

 

12. You’re Failing to Adapt

Here’s the bottom line church—you aren’t reaching millennials. Enough with the excuses and the blame; we need to accept reality and intentionally move towards this generation that is terrifyingly anti-church.

“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” —Bill Clinton
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzo Okakaura
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H. G. Wells

Solution:

  • Look at the data and take a risk for goodness sake. We can’t keep trying the same things and just wish that millennials magically wander through the door.
  • Admit that you’re out of your element with this generation and talk to the millennials you already have before they ask themselves, what I am still doing here.

 

You see church leaders, our generation just isn’t interested in playing church anymore and there are real, possible solutions to filling our congregations with young adults. It’s obvious you’re not understanding the gravity of the problem at hand and aren’t nearly as alarmed as you should be about the crossroads we’re at.

You’re complacent, irrelevant and approaching extinction. A smattering of mostly older people, doing mostly the same things they’ve always done isn’t going to turn to the tide.

Feel free to write to me off as just another angry, selfy-addicted millennial. Believe me, at this point I’m beyond used to being abandoned and ignored.

The truth is church, it’s your move.

Decide if millennials actually matter to you and let us know. In the mean time, we’ll be over here in our sweatpants listening to podcasts, serving the poor and agreeing with public opinion that perhaps church isn’t as important or worthwhile as our parents have lead us to believe.

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About Sam

in love with all things Jesus, music, adventure, writing, teaching, laughter, running, friendship. Founder of recklesslyalive.com.

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84 comments

  1. There are so many lists out there trying to explain why young adults struggle to stay at a church but this is so on point. I love your writting style so concise and direct this is perfect!

    • Thank you so much Mayte! Hope to connect with you more in the future. 🙂

      • The “church” is Christ’s mandate and all true believers need to be involved. There are excellent churches who focus on the gospel both in learning and service and who manage money by Biblical principles. It’s our responsibility to seek out mentors in and outside of a church who are authentic Christians. While I totally agree with the majority of your observations, one thing jumps out. Church leadership is NOT a team. The qualifications for elders and deacons are very detailed for good reason. I’ve not personally met a millennial who is mature enough for me to follow. Most churches are run by the whims of a senior pastor which is not inline with the scriptures. Also, false teaching flourishes as the Bible warns us. In my 20’s I thought as you, but 22 years into my walk with Christ, I see from another perspective. Intense, deep pondering over scriptures is vital as it shows us the Father’s story. Christianity is not about doing at the core, it’s about believing and loving Christ. Good deeds flow from a heart surrendered. Also, I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit tends to move slowly, thankfully! I’ve observed things that needed to be changed, so I prayed and waited for the Spirit’s guidance. I only spoke out when told to do so and found that on 3 of 4 times, it was not received well; however, the Holy Spirit was faithful and resolved the issue in all 4. In His time, He shapes His children and today’s frustrations could be your reshaping.

    • It’s been that way for centuries nothing new

      • And, you have been witness to that over centuries? I would bet “it” is new to a whole bunch of people! Be Well.. …GBA…<

  2. Well presented, Sam

    Question and answers make it real easy to understand – you can’t hide from that.

    You have hit a nerve my friend and it will jerk back. Institutions don’t like change, they like concrete ( Bigger is better ) they like duplication.

    The line between religion and relationship has become so blurred no one knows where to start. Because religion sounds so much like the truth pulling the splinters out is exhausting. It’s a mess that took 2000 years to make…fixing it is impossible ( for us ).

    The only way this knot can be unravelled is we, as individuals, ask Him – what do you want me to do?
    Forget about what hat you’re wearing, what building you sit in; be His servant and do it, one day at a time.

    A pile of bricks become a house in the right hands; an orchestra makes beautiful music when the conductor is in the stand.

    You make me smile mate. This millennial generation – with a stomach to break the mould – can do this.

    Great post as always.

    • Hey Tony!

      Such wise words on religion vs. relationship and our response to ask God what to do. So much easier said than done through the hurt and struggle of this church situation. I want to have more hope for the church but right now that meter as at all time low. 🙂

      Onward march right?

      I love reading your insightful comments! So glad we’ve been able to connect from different parts of the world. 🙂

      • Hello Sam,

        I hear you mate, but ‘onward march’ is a little overrated…take care of you.

        Discovering how your life fits into something incompatible is hard work; you dig below the surface so you see and ask the hard questions – it will be a little rocky until you find what you’re looking for.

        Change comes when you trust your instincts and make your stand; be true to yourself and be careful you don’t put that fight into something that’s already dead in the water.

        What you see and how it changes you is more important, that’s where the millennials will do their best work and the institutions don’t stand a chance.

        Thinking of ya bud.

  3. The #5 point is so true! What I realized is that church doesn’t deal very well with the introvert, shy, or social-anxious people. It’s perfectly possible to attend services every Sunday for years and not having a single friend in your church. Nobody will act like high school and say ‘we cant sit with us’, but they won’t invite you to sit with them either – at the end, that’s just as isolating. You know what hurts the most? I love the church I’m part of. I like the bible studies, I like the worship moments, our pastor’s preaching… I just don’t feel part of that.

    • I have lived that story as well Giselle, loving so much of a church and yet feeling invisible. I will say, inviting people in doesn’t seem to be a natural human trait, it seems to be something that people have to learn and consciously work at. I have had people say in other words you can’t sit with us… but I know the other side too. Thank you so much for sharing your insight and experiences. 🙂

  4. Hi Sam! Looking forward to being with you soon face to face to hear more! Much care, Bob

  5. Hi Sam,
    Please don’t interpret a lack of response here for lack of interest in your post. For me, I’ve found discussing these sorts of things in emails or an online environment is difficult and can open the door for misunderstanding and possibly hurt. But this is great stuff to talk about, so I’ll be reaching out in person in the week ahead and look forward to being face-to-face!

    Thanks and blessings,

    Peter Kapsner
    Co-Lead Staff Pastor
    Church of the Open Door.

  6. I feel you are making a huge mistake here – and painfully missing the point. What is the main point of church? The worship of God. We should NEVER be looking at our Sunday mornings and saying “what am I getting out of this.” You’re right, no one should ever have to ask the question “what am I still doing here?” because it should be clear to them from the word of God that church is primarily a place of worship! We are there to praise God, to hear His word preached, to learn more about him, and to rejoice in his many blessings and mercies. When we truly turn from ourselves and focus on worshipping him, this is when he leaves us feeling satisfied and whole.

    • And by the way, I’m 22 and have been going to church twice a Sunday to listen to a 40 minute sermon, pray, and sing the Psalms, my entire life. I do not feel the need for more. God’s grace is sufficient for thee!

      • Lisa,

        For sake of understanding where I’m coming from, I am millennial and I work at a Presbyterian church (traditional denomination). I also love to sing hymns and worshiping on Sundays, but have no hesitation going bananas while running our youth program. I appreciate old tradition very much and have seen the wonderful ways in which it shows reverence to God and focus on sound scriptural study.

        However, in response to your comment, I think we are doing a disservice and limiting the Church if we solely focus on worship inside the walls of an individual church. I think the idea of worship can take on many forms that include but are not limited to, listening to a sermon and worship music on Sunday. The Church can be so much more than one day of worship! We should all be focused evangelism while continually training and worshiping with the congregation of what ever church we go to. My favorite example that I believe the Church should follow is from the Great Commission,

        “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” -Matthew 28:18-20

        While Jesus was speaking to the disciples, I believe this message applies to all believers. As it was predicted the Spirit was to come upon all believers (Joel 2:28-32), then the actual happening of it in Acts 2. We all are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and I think it is clear that we are all called to go out and make disciples.

        The old church model is in decline and in need of change, and I have seen it’s very possible to look outwardly as the Church and hold true to the same sound Gospel. I don’t agree with every word of this article, but it does hold truths about how the Church is in need of significant change. Many people I have talked with pose the question, “If the church is in decline, what is a new model that will do better?” My answer always points back to the Great Commission and having much bigger focus on evangelism and striving for unity among all believers.

        In Christ,

        Joseph Parisi
        josephp@vpc.church

  7. I read your post, and I identify with much of what you write. I have three children, about 10 years older than you, and they have checked out long ago. For the most part they just don’t see the Church as relevant for their needs, struggling to make ends meet, to get a graduate degree, to raise a family, to pay bills, to mentor their own children in a culture that is no longer understood by the Chruch, and the Church is so busy fighting the cultural war, and with one another about who has the right answers from the scriptures that they beat one another over the heads with, is it any wonder that in this cacophony that the Chruch actually has no answers because it has lost it’s mooring, failing to hear that we are to love God, to love one another and to extend that grace to those most desperately in need, be they the sojourner among us the single Mom or DAD, not needing judgment for lifestyle failings or choices, but desperately needs to hear grace, forgivness and welcome, turned rather away because they do not conform to our model. I despair, a missionary to Africa, reached out to thousands and through my Church, not reaching out to my own children, just a generation ahead of you millineals, and those to follow. Somewhere and sometime there will be a coming judgment about all these failures, of being so smug with gottcha quotes to vanquish those whom we hardly love as we battle the cultural wars. And have lost a generation or two, not not just yours Sam, but the one before, and maybe even the one after. Right now the biggest Church is the nones. God help us. Donovan

    • Wrenching, beautifully written post. I feel the despair as well but trust that God knows how to handle my adult sons who don’t go to church although raised in a church. I trust.

  8. I think this is great!
    You should plant said church and everyone will come running to it!
    I see the millennials(me being one)
    Wanting to be more glued to culture then they want to love and serve without thinking of what’s in it for them.
    I worked at a homeless shelter for 4 years and saw many lives changed and many more lives end tragically.
    Giving to the poor won’t do much if their mentality and way of doing things that got them there doesn’t change.
    You can label that unloving all you want…….to throw money at a problem and not try to help uproot the tree is so selfish.
    I was involved in multiple church college groups and again I think most millennials want their cake and eat it too.
    We want to jam out to Beyonce but act like we are John the Baptist.
    I know a pastor who is a church leader and yet watches r rated sexual depraved movies regularly but “you point out holiness to this person?” They would say they have it.
    I agree with mission statement……bro do I ever.
    We believe
    The bible thee end!
    The only issues is reformed believers believe in the bible but the gifts of the Holy Ghost are dead.
    Many pentecostal’s believe in the bible but a unbiblical pre trib rapture.
    We went in the years past to go serve at a pentecostal church and they believed “the bible” lived like the world and fired us after 8 short weeks because we weren’t willing to believe we can live indulging sin and pursue God whole heartedly.
    I honor the seniors and older generation for the love and endurance they have had.
    If millennials want to find their way in “the church” it begins in the secret place and taking up your cross means enduring hardships for God’s name sake.

    Rambling a bit but ehh bottom line…….bethel, iris ministries, Francis Chan, IHOP Kansas city Kalamazoo house of prayer.
    Just to name a few where people are gathering as one body and serving God’s heart……..all our preconceived hopes should be checked at the door!

  9. As a former pastor to young adults and as someone who has worked with teens and young adults for the past 24 years…you nailed it bro. This should be read at every pastoral weekly meeting. I am keeping this handy for my own reference point as well as for anyone with influence that needs to hear the voice of a generation shouting out for their place at the table!

    • I agree with my good friend Tom. Pastors and leaders would benefit in not only reading but discussing this with their respective teams and have a transparent dialogue that leads to changed approach. While I believe that Jesus loves every group and has a passion for every individual in every generation, we cannot ignore this disturbing trend in our culture and be willing to make drastic changes to our methodology as we also protect the integrity of the message and project the love of Jesus to others. Simplicity adopted by every individual believer and church community: Love God, Love Others. When millennials are not just invited to the table, but given strategic places of leadership in the church, we who are um… older could learn a lot through reverse mentoring how to more effectively reach our cities we are called to.

  10. Sam, I xo wish you could come and spend even a couple of weeks at my church. It is a true bible based church but is embraced by everyone of every age. Everything you mention you wish the church can be, The Chapel in Tarpon Springs, Florida is. Open, young pastors as well as our senior pastor, Pastor Q. This church supports so many people in the communities as well as programs in Haiti and other countries. Young people are valued and appreciated. There are the kinds of churches out there you are looking for, maybe God will guide you to your!

  11. I feel that #2 can be relevant to millennials (I’m 27), if they were invited to brainstorm about the mission statement of the church. Of course, what you say is quite true, Love God love people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making mission statements as long as everyone is involved in the process, as well as, as long the statements are based on biblical principles. I’m saying this based on the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. One of the habits Covey described is to “begin with the end in mind”. If a church wants to draft a mission statement based on Love God love people, then it could start by imagining, what they can accomplish with the resources they have, in other words, what outcome does it imagine it wants to achieve. My church devotes most of its resources to cross-cultural missions. Other churches may devote theirs to community building.

    One other point another author wrote about the reason why millennials leave the church is that they aren’t challenged by the church. I would say that caring for a church member is quite different from making things nice and comfortable for the member. Timothy Keller lists Comfort as one of the idols of our time. I think Millennials want to be challenged to make a difference in our society. Not doing anything actually depreciates the value of a member.

  12. Maybe instead of asking the question of what can the church do for me, ask what can I do for the church! Join the committee, start the ministry. Stop walking in the doors and looking to entertained or taken care of and. Start taking charge to make changes!

  13. Dear Sam,

    First off, I have never met you, but a brief exploration of your page tells me you are open about mental health and suicide, for which I would like to say: THANK YOU. There are so few individuals who are willing to be open about personal suffering. I strive to be one, but the courage to summon such honesty and vulnerability is not always something I possess.

    The reason I am contacting you is I saw your article: “12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church,” shared by a friend on Facebook. Again, let me express my gratitude for your taking the time to explore this issue. I identify as one of those millennials who was raised in the church, but no longer attends. (I believe this places me in the dismal 59%). And it is not for just one reason. If you have a moment, I would like to respond to some of your reasons, and add a few of my own that I feel are not limited to me:

    I am not addressing 1 & 2, because I am 29, and stopped attending church around the age of 18. I feel I have simply been away too long to say whether or not these continue to be an issue.

    3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority: YES. And in my experience: it HAS NEVER BEEN. This may be an especially hot topic for me because I have worked as a Social Worker for Child Protective Services in a small community for the past four years. I am currently working on a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I feel the church’s attitude toward helping the poor has been reduced to: a “nice thing to do” at Christmas to temper one’s guilt. Or something we send our “Youth” to do on a week-long inner-city service project. It is merely a superficial gesture rather than providing the poor with actual assistance. Christian Music artist Keith Green was a major voice in advocacy for the church helping those in need. Sadly, Keith Green has long since passed away (1982). I work full-time with some of the most desperately impoverished individuals. And I cannot justify sitting in a room every week and hearing about how we should sponsor a child in Africa, when I just got through apologizing to a family (who live a couple blocks away from the nearest church) for the mold and weevils they discovered in the food bank commodities they were planning to feed their children. Until the church acknowledges the true pain and poverty just outside the door, I am not interested in attending.

    4. Blaming the Culture: I think you addressed this quite well, in that there will always be damaging components of culture. But what the church is missing is how to reduce the damage. I will use your example of “twerking” mostly because I find it humorous. As a feminist, I am never on-board with objectification of women. But what is the church doing to empower women? The reason I do not attend the church is because so often I have found the church is embracing a sexist culture of women in a “submissive” role, instead of encouraging leadership that will guide us out of the dark ages of women being merely sex toys. So, even though I may agree with the church that encouraging women to be more sexual is not beneficial, the church is not ready to embrace women as human beings. For that reason, I am no longer interested in attending.

    5. “You Can’t Sit with Us.”
    For me, this is the major reason I initially felt “driven away” from the church. I did not fit in, and that was made abundantly clear to me. I still feel this way now, but for different reasons. Again, I am female, which immediately demotes me to a “submissive” or maybe “non-leadership” role. I am also in a live-in relationship, and have been for the past four years. We are getting married next spring, but for the church, this would never be acceptable. I would even be willing to hear everyone out on their reasons. But I know such openness would not be reciprocated. For example, if I were to say this relationship has been healing and empowering for me, that would not be heard. If I were to say that I have been in emotionally abusive relationships in which I was nearly driven to suicide because of the manipulation tactics, (all done in the name of being a “good Christian”), I know it would not be heard. If I were to say I have had to interview twelve-year-olds about how they have had sex with 25-year-old men who were taking advantage of them, and the damage of rape in every form…it would not be heard. For this reason, I cannot attend church.

    I’m going to skip again here to #8

    8. We Want to Feel Valued:
    This is a HUGE issue for those of us who were raised in the church. Our generation was exposed to some of the most inhumane tactics to win individuals to salvation. The church has failed to address that it has caused trauma to its children. The hateful tactics utilized by the church against (sadly) minority populations, such as the gay community has caused hurt to everyone involved. Until the church is able to love these populations, instead of speak hateful dogma, their numbers will continue to dwindle. The best they have been able to do so far is “Love the person; hate the sin.” Which is basically saying, “Put up with these freaks, and try to ignore the gross shit they’re into.” (Sorry about the language). Until the church can humbly acknowledge the DAMAGE it has CAUSED, I no longer wish to be a part of it, and will not be attending.

    9. Controversial Topics:
    I recently attended a training (for work) regarding the sex-trafficking of children in the local area. I was horrified at the statistics of these atrocities occurring in our own communities. When was the last time the church participated in raising awareness of abuse of its local children? It is far easier to condemn Thailand and Cambodia for child-prostitution, but what about when it happens in Sacramento? How is the church addressing this, and other topics such as mass shootings? Are they attempting to take care of their mentally ill and victims of residual trauma? Our own community recently had a tragedy at our local High School. I have heard nothing but radio-silence from the churches. No raising awareness, no after-care, nothing. Until the church is willing to actually become a working part of the community, I am not interested in being a part of it.

    Skipping again to #11

    11. Stop Talking Unless You are Doing Something:
    To some extent I just mentioned this, but it warrants repeating: the church is good at talking…doing…not so much. This is also key in my absence each Sunday. I am desperately trying to help those in need through my full-time job in social work. After five + days of this each week, I simply do not have the energy to sit and listen to a lecture about what I SHOULD be volunteering for, or doing. I also do not want to hear about people talking in front of me about how my generation is “lazy” or “entitled” when I have spent my week walking through homes owned by slum-lords trying to convince families living in squalor to file complaints against them. So don’t tell ME I am lazy when you are FUCKING BLIND. (I know, language). After that, I am simply not interested in hearing helpful advice about opportunities I can serve my church.

    12. Failing to Adapt:
    Basically, a resounding “AMEN!” The church has not adapted to society. In their attempt to be separate, they have made themselves irrelevant. In their attempt to alienate sin, they have alienated their own children. And in their ridiculous attempts to adapt to the “early church” by treating women as second class citizens and members of the LGBTQ community as demons; they have lost an entire generation.

    Thank you for hearing me out. I would love to hear from you, if you have time to email.

    All the Best,
    ~Juanita v.

    • Hi Juanita just a quick note on your one comment but you mentioned that are in a “relationship” which you actually need to say is you are living in sin with your boyfriend. Yes I know that is a old fashion term and perhaps your church over reacted it doesn’t change the issue that until you’re married it is sin.

      As to LGBTQ, that’s way too complicated to get into in just a comment.

      I do see and hear your pain. see my comment at the top

  14. Thank you for your efforts. It takes conviction to try to express a generation’s angst over the family of believers and their institutions. I’m going to be a bit critical, but please understand I write in the same heart you did, in love, trying to understand and be understood.
    Inside all the me-me-me stuff listed in the 12 there are real concerns that generational differences make difficult to communicate. In the end, it always ends up being about mission statements, budgets and specificity. Seriously, the work of God can be a grind at times. The world’s needs call for organized, focused efforts, and general statements that don’t point anywhere, while moderately and temporarily inspiring, must be put into specific action to be useful. The trick is understanding where our efforts will make the most positive impact. To find out how those things are decided, come to Elders meetings and Deacon meetings and be prepared to listen.
    No need to post this, it is a note between you and me. In Christ, Peter

  15. Sam ! I’m a baby boomer, but I’ll READILY say, you’re spot on. That likely has a lot to do with my personal history: Child of divorce, homosexually abused in childhood & teens, suicidal/suicide attempts, social outcast among my peers, hypervigilant closed introvert as a survival persona, no father figure, never truly mentored, walked away from emotionally when I tried to be transparent, confidences used against me or betrayed.
    #5 nails that.
    Raised a “smorgasbord christian: Quaker, Methodist, Baptist, 7th Day Adventist – talk about “one church” with divisive religious messages – smh. I sought ‘pure christianity’ as the New Testament spoke of it & was baptised by a deacon of the local “church of Christ”, as the group professed/professes the desire to want to emulate the original model as closely as possible, BUT, the same failings exist among these congregations as seriously as any other out there. If each ‘church’: baptist, methodist, lutheran, presbyterian, catholic (lack of caps intentional) – whatever – TRULY professes Christ as you’ve cited “The Greatest & Second Greatest Commands” then the secular names & the differences in dogma, doctrine, creeds, etc. would cease.
    The focus would be on humble loving service to one another who profess him, mentoring of fellow christians – in any age, socio-economic status, race, education level, etc. – regardless of prior background & the unto masses who genuinely seek “The Gospel” .
    You’ve been met with such vitrol because you’ve seen the faces behind the masks: the older generations grew up in the age of industry & reason. Most (not all) of these were raised to ‘follow the model’, ‘color inside the lines’ & ‘spell it out in black & white’. Thus, they themselves lack & are in need of the skills to identify their own feelings/emotions. Most lack emotional/relational intelligence as to how to engage or pursue safe, mutually transparent communications with each other of their own age group, let alone other generations: yuppies, gen x’ers, millenials, et al. This lack also extends to any others who choose to abandon the facade of perfection to openly admit their uncertainties, questions, hurts, habits, past harms or hang ups. Often, when one is brutally real about any of these: Depression, sexual identity, past abuse, addictions, whatever form temptation or sin (‘less than’) one could name, the established religious community responds in shaming, blaming, outrage & ostracization. FIRST to fellow christians (despite Jesus Examples & written gospel directives contrary to that response) & to the world also.
    So, regrettably, what you received shouldn’t have come as too great of a shock: your words spoke the direct truths many who profess His name are unwilling & undesiring (“stiff necked”) to have an ear to hear.
    Keep speaking them anyway.
    P.S. – I’ve begun following you on Facebook. (y)

  16. When I saw the title, I was terrified and saddened. I’m a millennial who loves church! As I read, I realized why. My church, although I am literally the only millennial, has a very inclusive atmosphere. My church does sometimes only see me as a worker, but they do value me. They made head of our youth program, although I am not formally trained. They also let me teach adult Bible study. I really enjoyed your article and will use it to help reach others! So, thank you for illuminating this topic for me. Maybe now, I can helped reach more people my age!

  17. Sam,
    There were a few things about what you said that I must admit were true and somethings I would even consider implementing should I ever one day plant a church. However, as a millennial of 20 years old, I cannot help but feel you missed the mark.
    I will acknowledge with you that something is terribly wrong and the Church could drastically change, but deinstitutionalizing the Church is the opposite direction of what I feel to be the solution. The Church needs to be THE institution. You had many correct points especially about today’s church being terribly lazy when it comes to service. If you went to public school like I did I’m sure you were taught about how the Puritans were evil, and certainly they did have their issues. But if you have not read their writing I pray that you would. You would discover that the issue has nothing to do with institutions and everything today with the hearts of men.
    Christ’s blood santicfies us along with redeeming us, and this concept used to be something the Church as a whole strives for. You act as if the religion of our elders is fruitless and outdated, but I wager it is rather our corrupt hearts as sinful mankind causing the issue. Legalism is antichrist, but prudence is a virtue.
    The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the Word of God is the rule that God gave to men to know how they might glorify him. Despite your distaste for statements of faith, they have served the church so well in keeping them unified. They actually help keep us attached to the Word of God rather than disrupt us.
    All of your issues with the church will be solved with the sanctification of our hearts, the way forward is backward. And before you claim I was brainwashed by my parents, I did not grow up in church, and I was raised by a man who at one point wanted to be a woman. It is by the grace of God alone that I come to where I am now.
    You are certainly a good writer, and I pray that both of our hearts would be better sanctified in order that we may worship and serve God in the way he intended.
    Cheers!

  18. Seeking God's Truth

    I think a lot of these are valid points that Christians everywhere would do well to consider; #2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 10 were all things I would, at least in part, agree with. However, I would also say that we need to be careful in what areas we ask the church to change in, and why we are asking it to change. First and foremost, the reason the church exists is for the glorification of God. For that matter, the reason WE exist is for the glorification of God. I would love to go more in depth, further considering that idea from a more textual/biblical perspective if you’d be interested, but I’ll leave it at that for now. So if the church exists primarily for the glory of God, and the church IS God’s, purchased by the blood of Jesus, then who has the sole right to determine what it should look like, act like, and talk like? The clear answer here is that God alone has that right. It is for this reason that I agreed with some of your points- they were pointing out areas in which the church was deficient in accomplishing what God wants it to accomplish in the ways in which He wants it accomplished (which we know from His word). As far as the points I didn’t agree with, the reason for that is simply the flip-side of that. They were those that asked something of the church “because I want it”. Once again, quite frankly, God did not purchase the church with His Son’s blood so that it could be whatever millennial, or ANYONE else for that matter, thinks it should be; He purchased it so that it would glorify Him, as does all creation, and as we should. I really do think you brought up some good things for us to consider, and I hope you take my comment in the spirit in which it was intended- one of personally trying to find out the truth of what God wants us to do, and do that; and if I believe I can be of help to another in showing them what I’ve learned, then I want to do that, too.

  19. Great article! How can I get a copy? I didn’t see a share button.

  20. I don’t have any expectations from “the church”, whatever definition you might give it. I’ve found peace and joy from an intimate and growing relationship with God. That has come over a period of time through spending quiet time in prayer, meditation, and in His Word. All my expectations are met through this supernatural connection. While I attend and benefit from going to church it isn’t about what the church can do for me but rather its about serving God and having fellowship with others that I find of value. God has provided me with multiple opportunities to serve him, both within and outside “the church”. If your focus is on the church rather than on getting to know God intimately then you will forever be dissatisfied. If you have that deep connection with God you will understand. If you don’t, let me share with you how I found it!

  21. Hey Sam, Bravo! Great article and well said. I’ll echo some of the sentiments of other commenters: it is not just millennials that are over church, a large portion of gen X is over church too. We had 10 girls sleep over on a Saturday night. Their parents picked them up Sunday late-morning, right in the middle of church time. All of the girls and their families would call themselves Christians, but none of them were in church. I wondered at all the good Christian families that are no longer attending church.

    I am so at odds with the current Christian culture that I will no longer call myself a Christian; I don’t want people to assume that I am one of them. I perceive their priorities to not be Christ-like at all – you mention this in #2. I applaud your desire to change them – it’s probably a better approach than my outright rejection. I’ve given up on them.

    I would assert a 13th reason: church enmeshment in politics, starting in the ’80s with the religious right. Christians seem to be involved in politics not to promote Christ, but to preserve and increase their cultural and political power. I am worried that our fellow countries in the world see “Christ” (Christians in our government) as a bully with an entitlement mentality who is willing to target-bomb anyone anywhere in the world in the name of economic security to preserve his standard of living. Christ is willing to spy on anyone and violate any individual’s privacy because he is the self-appointed determiner of right and wrong. The Christian church sits silent as Christians in our government behave anything but Christ-like, as if to say, “at least someone is doing something about our rotting culture,” #4.

    I am encouraged to see you speaking out. It gives me a tiny bit of hope that there are still some on the inside that are trying to effect revolutionary change. Good luck!

  22. Hey Sam, could you please tell me where I can find the research your article is based on? Cheers.

  23. I can understand your frustration with the church, the organized church; however, church is so much more than organized religion. I’m a Baby Boomer, and I felt many of those same frustrations that you are experiencing today. I opted out for a time. I was fortunate enough to have parents who lived their Christianity, and while I didn’t always agree with their ways of worshipping and their ideas about what church was or should be (bricks and mortar etc), I valued their deep faith and their belief that church was not exclusive. Many of my generation left the church and opted for what they saw as an ‘enlightened’ lifestyle without all the restrictions they associated with the church. Many saw all structure, not only church, as being undesirable and obsolete. We were too quick to throw the good out along with the ‘bad.’ I feel that perhaps history is in danger of repeating itself once more. Much about church is valuable, and what isn’t is often best changed from within by people with a vision of something essentially good and meaningful. I appreciate your critical thinking and hope that you will be challenged to implement meaningful changes from within even when they sometimes seem to be much too slow in coming.

  24. Thanks for saying what many have been feeling.

    I have read many of these target articles and while I find your points spot on and accurate, my opinion is that you and the others are missing the most important point that was what forced me (millennial) and my friends to leave the Church and Christianity. My opinion is everyone knows it but is too afraid to say it.

    #1. Information Access.
    Millennials are firmly in the Wikipedia generation. When I bring questions to my pastor about things I am reading about church history online and his solution is “Don’t look up stuff like that on Wikipedia”, it is going to raise some red flags. I can fact check at home. I can fact check at work. I can fact check on my phone during the service.

    So many of the fundamental tenets of Christianity are outright false or at best case highly suspect that I can no longer preach as I used too, or even call myself a member of the movement. While this process of leaving was not fun at all and caused huge tension in my family and with my wife, I have no regrets to finally getting myself out.

    And once you are out, it is really hard to picture going back. I can’t think of a SINGLE church I have ever been too, seen or know of in the world where I would be interested in becoming a member of the community. Why? Because I think the underlying premise of the movement is flawed. That is why there is such disunity within the community of believers. Because the foundation is not sound.

    I had great times in the Church, amazing friendships, impactful experiences, a perceived real relationship with God, purpose, community outreach, a fruitful ministry (I led dozens of people to become Christians), one on one mentoring with pastors, leadership opportunities, highs/lows and all the benefits that the church could produce from caring and genuine pastors and communities. None of those things, and not if all of your points were executed perfectly, would get me through the doors again.

    These are my thoughts. Just had to get them out because whenever I tried in the past within the church your point #1 was exercised or I was told I was violating or hindering point #2.

  25. Hey Sam! I’m here to comment (something I rarely do), because I believe there are a few things you have left out. First, I agree with a LOT of the things you have said in this post. You’re very insightful and it seems you have a lot of experience with these issues. I too am a millennial who has volunteered countless hours to serving children, teens, young adults, and poor in my church and community and as such I feel like I can speak to some things as well. The second thing I want to say is, as an extremely patriotic and proud AMERICAN, I’m disappointed with the way you chose to throw that word around like an insult. I understand why you used it the way you did but I think those of us who are truly American in every historic and still revolutionary sense of the word would like to protect it and revive its strong, gritty, and heroic definition. Help us do that and choose another word! 😜 Next I want to say that I go to a church with quite a few millennials and unfortunately have seen them either leave or tend to be… what’s the word… lazy? Those who have left haven’t left because of the things you have said, (as my church is one of the few exceptions to most of the things you’ve listed), their issues started largely in part to a lack in fathers who were spiritual leaders in their homes resulting in the millennial’s very messed up views of the world. Those who are still here, and lazy Christians; are lazy in every other area of their lives as well. There are exceptions to this of course but in ANY millennial who has these issues I’ve without exception seen a lack of spiritually strong fathers in their development. The few who have triumphed over this are those who have been mentored (another point you make) through the rough years by a church leader or pastor who has stepped into that father’s roll and saved as many as he could. So in conclusion I’ll just say that making our church responsible for making our millennials “want to come”, may not be the complete answer to this issue. Instead we need to start with building strong spiritual fathers, who lead their families in faithful church attendance, and in being involved and taking RESPONSIBILITY for our own church environment instead of expecting someone else to set it FOR us. BE the church AS MILLENIALS! After all we ARE THE CHURCH NOW! Let us get some stick-ability, some innovation, build strong character and enact change on the platform of young men and women who are leaders, hard workers, lovers of God and men, and disciples of Christ! It’s what the early church did and we can do the same.

  26. Amazingly profound my friend. Much like the racial divide there has always been a generational gap. I believe it was President Nixon who said, “We cannot learn from each other until we stop shouting at each other.”
    A younger me of the 1960’s said the same thing you have said here. Take it from my sad experience, blaming the church is not the answer. We must look to our own heart and determine if we are on the path God has for us. He tells us if we will only draw close to Him, He will draw close to us. When we do that, we are listening to his direction, not the churches. I blamed and complained and grew weary of the church until I was so frustrated I quit going..,..for 20 years. That was the WRONG thing to do. But God did awaken me in that time of how important His church is. Remember, the church is His body, His bride. It is not the structure of a building, or those who profess to know Him, but don’t.Look to Him my friend for guidance. He has used many young people to further His gospel. Perhaps you don’t realize His plan, but you never will until you get your eyes off of man. He loves you, I love you my brother. Draw close to Him and listen.

  27. Hi Sam
    You make some very good points here, but may I say this – I think you are doing your cause a disservice by focusing so strongly on ‘millennials’.

    I am far from being a ‘millennial’, but I have experienced alienation from the 2 churches I attended since coming to the Lord, and in both cases finally decided that the best option was to withdraw. Since I live rurally where there are limited churches available, I am now indebted to the Internet and all the resources it provides.

    Unfortunately, I think many churches are focused on acquiring ‘bums on seats’ who will:
    a) Quietly and appreciatively listen to The Message;
    b) Tithe;
    c) Not be a threat to the pastor and leaders of the church.

    Church leadership tends to see these as important, but the third one especially so.

    We all unfortunately value our positions of power, as we perceive it. We all tend to identify with groups and call names, be it baby-boomers, church-goers, millennials or whatever. Jesus never talked about people as belonging to groups, with the exception of the Pharisees and Sadducees, for obvious reasons.

    You already have a feel for the underprivileged, and the needs of young people. Widen your vision, and accept that there are many for whom today’s churches are not a good fit – many people of all ages who have a valuable contribution to make, had they not been turned off. Tawnya makes an excellent point about the relevance of maturity to this whole issue. Take account of those who are not within your chosen group and learn to value them equally. Widen your approach – it will be of benefit to you and what you are trying to achieve.

    I believe there is a new day coming, when God will revitalize the body of Christ. That is His prerogative, but we need to be ready for it, and not fall into a new brand of the name-calling that has stultified the church for centuries.

  28. #7 is me definitely! I can get good preaching anywhere, but what I’d benefit more from is some one on one mentoring and relationship time. It’s that relationship and community that is so key, huh.

    Love your writing style, Sam. It’s funny but not sarcastic, and speaks the truth in love. You are a legend.

  29. Let no one think I am trying to come off as self-righteous here, but there are several issues with your 12 items:

    1. Many, if not most, major Christian denominations let teenagers as young as 16, 14, sometimes even 12 be confirmed as full-fledged members. That means you get to commune, vote for members of the board of elders, possibly serve as a deacon, and sit in on policy meetings. This is a level of involvement you won’t find in most other modern institutions. The problem is most young people simply aren’t interested in taking advantage of these opportunities for direct input. And that’s not entirely a new phenomenon.

    2. Churches are corporations. They have mission statements and core values just like all other viable 21st century organizations. We’ve also had creeds and confessions since the beginning of Christianity itself, and believe it, these are very important. It’s often the non-denominational bodies who refuse to take an interest in the nitty-gritty of dogma that loose the most converts. Refusal to adopt confessions and explicit doctrine and to give it high importance is what leads to cult-like megachurches. If your church is unwilling to declare to the world what it believes and stands for in explicit terms then there is a problem.

    3. Charity is not the primary mission of the church. It just isn’t. Find me one verse in the new testament where “helping the poor” is outlined as a primary objective of church bodies. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that churches giving priority to evangelism and Bible study over charity is in any way contrary to how it’s supposed to be. As it happens, Christians are indeed called on to look out for the less fortunate, and it also happens that church bodies are often some of the best equipped and motivated organizations to do so. But the church is not a poverty relief agency at its core. The Bible makes it clear in numerous passages that the church is to serve its own flock first and foremost.

    Furthermore, much of Christian charity today happens through organizations and foundations that are affiliated or allied with, but not directly a part of, church bodies. It’s often more efficient this way. In centuries past the church acted as a sort of one-stop refuge for the poor, sick, and persecuted because it was often the only game in town to do so. Today the situation is changed, and in a country where practically any adult not serving in prison can start a 501c3, it’s less necessary for the church hierarchy to directly administer charity.

    4. Don’t necessarily disagree with you here, but often the problem isn’t so much Christians blaming pop culture as Christians thinking our situation in the world is fundamentally any different than it has ever been.

    5. This is honestly something you need to take up with your own pastor or priest if you notice it going on at your church. The thing is, though, church members who attend regular forming cliques isn’t fundamentally different from members of other organizations who show up regularly being more cozy with each other than newcomers or those who only show up once in a while.

    6. Tithing is not supposed to be your weekly charity contribution. It is the minimum asked of you to support basic church operations. The reason something like 90% of proceeds from tithing go to administration and overhead, salaries, logistics, and capital investments is because that is primarily what tithing is for. Tithing is not supposed to be charity. Churches need a revenue stream just like every other organization. The lighting bills have to be paid and the employees have to be compensated somehow, and frankly given the low church attendance today, with an even lesser percentage who tithe, it’s a miracle any of the money from the offering box at all is able to be spend on charity.

    Like I said, if you are over 15 or so you most likely can participate in church policy in at least some capacity.

    7. Most people don’t like to be preached at. Sermons are often boring. It’s been that way since the beginning. But preaching is arguably the church’s number one job next to administering the sacraments. And while it is true that people have a lot more things they could be doing for fun on a Sunday morning than they did even 25 years ago let alone in the middle ages, the fact is religious podcasts and AM radio talkshows, while useful, are not meant to and cannot replace physical church attendance. Church is, by nature, a physically collective activity. You can’t commune over the internet, and doing away or severely changing weekly services is not likely to produce the kind of community you seek. You separate yourself from the congregation, you separate yourself from the very body of Christ.

    While I don’t necessarily disagree with your suggestion of establishing a mentoring system, it is dangerous for a church to attempt to engage in life coaching or universal counseling services. Much of the mentoring and fellowship you seek can be found in the Bible studies and programs you seem to criticize.

    8. Once again, if you are old enough to commune then you should be considered to have standing and valued input in the church. The thing is, though, the church is not a democracy. Jesus and the Apostles founded the church as a fundamentally hierarchical structure. And given that not only most millennials but arguably most Americans in general seem to have an increasingly loose grasp on the very basics of Christian theology, you can’t expect your input to be as valued as everyone else’s from the day you are baptized. Most millennials who are Christians still need to be weened off what Paul describes as “milk” theology, before they can move on to bread and meat. Word of advice: if you want your input to be noticed in the church leadership, attend service, commune, attend Bible studies, pray, attend board meetings if your church lets you, talk with your pastor, and serve in whatever capacity you think you can and should. If you feel motivated enough, go on mission trips, become a deacon, or even run for board of elders if you are able and feel called to do so, but don’t feel like you have to do any of that to serve in the church.

    If your church is part of a denomination, it most likely has a body of confessions of doctrine which can be accessed via a few clicks on their official website fairly easily. If you’ve got the basics of Biblical theology down already (which is a fairly big “if” for millennials and even Americans of all ages), then I would recommend exploring the history and confessional doctrine of your denomination. Several of the frustrations and issues you have with your current church may come into more clear focus once you look at the denomination’s confessions, constitution, and historical context. Even if yours is a non-denominational body, you can learn a lot about your church and where it is going just by looking at where your pastor went to seminary/theological instruction. If you’ve already done these things then I salute you, but I guarantee you most American Christians in general let alone most millennials have not, and if they want to be able to fruitfully debate in the church then eventually they should do so.

    It is not the church’s job to tell you you are good enough. On the contrary, it is the church’s job to tell you why you are not good enough but God loves you anyway, which in turn is what makes you good enough. If someone says you are “letting down your church” then they are out of line, but sometimes a little condemnation is necessary.

    9. Not to sound snarky, but the truth is millennials tend not to react kindly when the church speaks Biblical truth on contemporary issues. Those denominations that do are frequently labeled as hateful, bigoted, out of touch, a throwback to the dark ages, etc. If millennials want the church to speak boldly on contemporary issues then they need to accept that no matter how hard they try to find it or force it in there, there is no support in the Bible for the idea that Jesus would ever sign-off on same-sex “marriage”, that abortion is unequivocally an evil deed, that porn is slavery that seeks to tear you away from God’s grace, and that in general much of what society has taught them to value from almost the day they were born is destructive and not godly. Many churches that seek to win over millennials do so by shying away from such controversy and harsh stances on law, only to discover that young people are often the least interest in church when it gives then exactly what they can get in mainstream media and pop culture. On the other hand there are the new wave fundamentalist churches that emphasize law over everything and really don’t serve Christ any better. There are denominations out there that still teach law and gospel as Christ commanded. If your church is not doing that, then my suggestion is to either take advantage of whatever opportunities you have been given to change that situation, or to find another denomination.

    10. The church is not welcome in 21st century society, and that’s mostly society’s fault, not the church’s. The secularist have used and will continue to use every opportunity to push the church out of public involvement. It’s also not necessarily a good thing for the church to proactively solicit involvement in community affairs, especially given that the goals and values of other institutions are often in direct or indirect conflict with those of the church. The Bible warns Christians against forming alliances with unbelievers without due caution (see for example Paul’s caution not to become “unequally yoked” with unbelievers in 2 Corinthians Chapter 6). The church sets itself up for many vulnerabilities and conflicts rushing to the aid of a community that at best is ambivalent toward it and at worst would seek to take advantage of it. Like I said, much of the church’s charity mission is best served through proxy organizations.

    11. Many, if not most, millennials, have no real idea what the church is doing or saying at any time. And while the church is not without responsibility for that fact, the fact is many millennial (and once again, modern Americans in general) simply do not want to hear what the church has to say. They’re either bitter over what they’re overly religious fundamentalist parents put them through as children or they were raised by baby boomers or Gen X members who were almost as indifferent toward religion as they are and get the bulk of their information on what Christianity is from the stereotypes and attacks provided by the media and modern society. Again, for most denominations you can find out exactly what your church professes and believes with a few hours browsing the internet. But if you want more than just the soundbites and lip service then that means you’re going to have to A. attend regularly and B. take doctrine seriously.

    12. Seeking to “adapt” to current times is often the single most dangerous thing a church body can do. Ideally, the church’s practice of worshipping the same way over two thousand years and counting is a testament to the resilience of our faith. Furthermore, there are some things church leaders simply do not have the Biblical authority to change. For example, no matter how much feminists and other people alike push for “gender equality” in the public sphere, the church still does not and will not have the God-given authority to ordain female ministers. That’s God’s call, not ours. The church cannot accept gay “marriage”, she should not reject infant baptism, and she cannot seek fellowship or status with other religions. On other things there is some room for adaptation. Having a contemporary worship service as opposed to a traditional one isn’t inherently bad for example, although setting aside the creeds and affirmations that tend to come with the traditional liturgy and are often lost in contemporary services can be. Most of the hallmarks that define the “old” church are things that were decided on or established by custom within the first 100-500 years AD, and if you read through the history and early council decisions you’ll find that breaking away from tradition is often counterproductive, even dangerous.

    Churches that seek to break away from tradition in an aimless quest to rebrand Christianity for new generations tend to fall into the trap of revivalism. Revivalism is practically half the reason at least that so many millennials are done with church. Revivalism (and the related charismatic movement) seek to gain converts by making church and Christianity a primarily emotional and cathartic experience. Often they seek to reject or overturn the tropes of “traditional” religion. Much of the spiritually empty Christian contemporary music comes out of this movement, as well as notions of “being on fire for Jesus”, speaking in tongues despite clear scriptural evidence that speaking in tongues and other such “spiritual gifts” were to end with the apostles and the first generation of disciples, “relationship, not religion”, as well as many of those weird, sometimes borderline cult-like youth retreats. It’s from this movement that you get six-year olds leading megachurch services and people talking gibberish to try and impress their fellow church goers. We’ve had hundreds of these evangelical revivals since the mid-19th century, when the then uniquely American notion came about that it was normal to go off and form your own denomination or radically change your own the minute your home congregation just wasn’t doing it for you anymore. And time and time again, these revival movements have resulted in mass spiritual burnout and apostasy, because when you get people to regard their religion like a fandom then many of them won’t be with the fandom for very long. Just do a google search for “abandoned megachurches” in your state to see what I mean. I refer you to this Lutheran blog post for further reference: http://www.worldvieweverlasting.com/2010/12/02/burned-out-from-being-on-fire/

    The thing is, the church and the world have always been and ever shall remain bitter enemies when the rubber hits the road. Much of the record low church attendance today has to do with the loss of the church’s authority to legally command worship followed by the relaxation and then elimination of social pressures that compelled people who didn’t really care about Jesus to go to church, and neither of those are things I think we should bring back. Can the church do more to connect with millennials. Probably. But the survival of the church does not depend on our ability to do so. Jesus declared that his house would survive until the end of days. So, no, it’s not really the church’s move. The doors have always been open for any millennial wanting to know more about Jesus to come and listen. Any church body that teaches the word and administers the sacraments is fulfilling its basic obligation to reach people of all ages. The rest is more or less up to you. What’s more, you have a direct divinely inspired book of messages from God himself that, unlike in the days of the early church, you don’t have to ask a literate cleric to receive.

  30. Hey Sam!
    I feel like I’m a little late with discovering your post but Amen because I’m glad that I was able to read it. Hopefully you’ll see this comment because I just want to send some encouraging words. I’m a college student who just recently became a Christian in October and I must say that a big part of that was because of my church. It made my heart hurt reading about your lack of desire to attend your church and it made me realize the true importance of finding a church that is rooted in the gospel, speaks God’s truth, and that is loving and welcoming. I believe church is so much more than just gathering in one place to hear God’s word, it is about community and fellowship, connecting with others through praise, it’s about being convicted by a message that is truly going to help you strive for a better relationship with God. The church I belong to is apart of the International Church of Christ community, a community of churches all over the world that all believe and follow the same doctrine of Christ. Within each church you can find youth, teen, campus (college), singles, young married, and family ministries, not to mention varies house churches and small groups. The leaders are age appropriate for each ministry (my campus leaders are a young married couple who are 23 and 25), our head pastor stresses the importance of incorporating leadership from the young and older. We have disciple time where we’ll get in groups to help guide each other toward Christ and to confess sin, etc. We also stress the importance of service, whether its through fundraising for orphans, mission trips, internships, even local service projects! Basically, Sam, what I’m trying to say is in the few months that I have been a disciple of Christ I have learned so much about the importance of church being a home and it is something that I get excited for every single time, I feel like this is how all Christians should feel about church. Unfortunately, you are very right that God’s true intention for church has gotten very lost and has turned so many away from Christ but I pray that your experience with church hasn’t turned you away from church all together. I don’t know where you live but I’d recommend checking out the nearest ICOC sister church in your area – http://www.disciplestoday.org – here’s a link to the website that can help you find one. You’ll be in my prayers, Sam, please don’t be discouraged and please remember the importance of God’s grace, mercy, and most importantly, His Love. All the best!

  31. Jeanne mcgovern-acuna

    Sam, what a brilliant commentary, and i love that you give specific suggestions for how to engage the milennials. I have four of them who currently are not solidly attached to the church but were greatly formed by the church–your church. I sent this to them. I would like to talk more about this with you. Stay strong and know that you are not alone.

  32. My suggestion? The best way to dig deep into authentic Christianity is to move entirely away from the comforts of a spoiled Western “church” and commit to a minimum of a year’s service in a 3rd or 4th world country There’s no better path to faith maturity than to strip away all your cultural expectations and comforts and serve….you will find while smugly thinking you are serving and sacrificing that you are actually being discipled by people who truly suffer yet live their faith authentically. Been there, done that. It will change your life and faith forever.

    • Love this Sandra! Thank you! I’ve done short-term missions to Zimbabwe and Haiti, but never a full year. I would LOVE to at some point. I completely agree, it changes your whole world. I remember both times the hardest part was coming back into the entitlement and luxuries most take for granted. Bless you!

  33. Hallelujah Sam! I am not a Millenial, if I need to be put into a box, then choose the Baby-Boomer box, and I wholeheartedly applaud your article and totally agree!!! Thank you so much for writing this, well written too, and I pray that it goes viral — especially here in the Bible belt where church buildings seem to be more like “elite clubs’ whose members all join in order to entertain each other — I think this article should be posted on Facebook — God Bless you for expressing what everyone really is thinking.

    • Thank you so much Judy! This little article has gone farther than I ever would have imagined. So glad it resonated with you and so grateful to hear I’m not alone in feeling this way. 🙂 Bless you.

  34. Sup my dude,
    I felt exactly the same that you did when I first started college. I was tired of my church and how they just kept blaming my generation for the things that were wrong with the world. I was tired of being judged for showing up to Mass late in my work uniform covered in flour because I needed to work on Sundays and would be late to Mass because of it. I ended up stop going to church because of the same points you brought up. However after not going to church for a year and a half I had this thought in the back of my mind that I should go to Mass at the Catholic student center on campus and that’s where my thoughts changed. I happened to go to Mass on the day that they were doing this preaching series called “Why Bother”. It was the first time I actually felt that the homily was about me and that the priest was talking to me. It was wired. Then I was greated by the ministers at the Newman center and from there I felt like I actually belonged to the community and wanted to go to Mass. I know this is weird to ask, but I would recommend listening to it. You may have to go back to like September, but it’s worth the listen. http://www.broncocatholic.org/preaching
    I hope this helps man because I feel you, and reading this article reminded me of what it was like before I found going to Mass worth it and how much my life changed for the better. I would love to get in contact and share stories if that’s cool with you too!

  35. I think responses like that from Ethan just re-affirm why people are leaving the church.

    • Agreed! There was a time when I would have responded like Ethan. Really his response brings some clarity to the entire matter. Recently I gathered with an groups of millenials – we all attended the same Bible college. We all went beyond the “milk” Theology and doctrine, and we all became frustrated like Sam. (Honestly we all now claim some definition of agnotisism or atheism, but we are still willing to discuss the church because we were all raised in it, studied it, and were largely shaped by it.) It’s not just the lightweight, “baby” Christians that have walked away frustrated. It’s also the former aspiring theologians and highly intelligent members who were up and coming leaders that challenge not only the church itself but humanity and themselves as well. In the end we come to a similar conclusion, and often after trying to present a case to the church that often becomes strong debate, arguements and ultimately unresolved conflict, we leave.

  36. A good list and one that the church would do well to smoke over and respond to as you articulate, but I think it is incomplete because it leaves out the responsibilities of the millennials themselves. Having worked with youth in an overseas missions context, taught middle and high school, started an orphans ministry and routinely preach, I see many real issues that millennials must address from their side also. I see a lot of wants but have experienced a more limited commitment, including to things like discipleship and service. There is talk of what is valued, but often not matched by the follow-through if something better comes along. There is a general lack of wisdom that is inherent in being in the millennial age category, and that leaves you with much (warranted) criticism but little experience. I find many millennials resistant to the time it takes to learn or serve if it doesn’t strike them as something they want to do, and even some arrogance that what I have to teach them is not really wanted or important. I could go on, but I hope you both get my point and see the issues as real.

    How would you characterize the flip side of what the church needs to do with what millennials themselves need to own up to from their side? I’ll accept the lions share due to my age and responsibilities and I would passionately change the church in many of the ways you mention, but will you put down your phone, listen, give me a bit of respect for my age and experience, be willing to pay your dues to learn from others, and understand that things really are different from a leadership position.

    Please don’t take this as snarky because I really want us all to move forward together, but both side have responsibilities to the other. Just throwing the baby out with the bathwater won’t do. I’m not totally convinced that doing your list will be the fix because I have been in environments where much of what you say was done, but I just wanted to beat my head against the wall trying to get millennials to get it and to move forward. Your list is valid, but one sided. Help me out with seeing the other side. Hope that makes some sense.

  37. Louis S. Lunardini

    This article reaffirms my belief in what the reformers called election or prevenient grace. The grace of God mediated through the Holy Spirit enters people’s hearts and effects conversion. The church doesn’t do it, the bread and circuses of social activists and justice advocates doesn’t do it. I am not a Christian because someone asked me to work on a Habitat for Humanity house or in a shelter or soup kitchen. I am saved by grace. If someone thinks the churches should be swelling with adherents, well, maybe yes and maybe no. If someone thinks the church is failing because numbers are off or offerings are down, maybe yes and maybe no! Apart from the culture or any other forces, I am what I am by God’s grace. The church is ordained by God to proclaim the Gospel that we are saved by grace through faith, and this is not our doing: it is the gift of God lest any humans boast.

  38. We are the ‘me, myself, and I’ culture, and want to be the focus. We are wanters, nothing is good enough. We want entertainment, affirmation, amazing experiences. We are not in love with Jesus, even if we’ve met Him. We are the rich, young ruler who has too much to give up to follow Jesus, to obey Him. The rich, young ruler MET JESUS and CHOSE SELF. This is who we are. But God will maintain a remnant for Himself.

  39. I feel like the “millennials” have taken over the churches I’ve attended. It’s no longer a reverent place to worship but resembles a coffee bar/bistro with a rock concert, complete with lights, smoke and a deafening volume, in the next room. The lights and show do not make church. It’s so diluted now I don’t feel like it’s church at all but a place where people go to “feel good”. Therefore, because I attend for church, I’m left out because I can’t feel at home in the jumping up and down crowd. If I wanted to go to a concert I’d go. What happened to making coffee at home?

    • Hi Julie!

      Out of curiosity and interest in hearing more about what you are talking about, I wanted to ask for a bit of clarification. Do you find that the production or loud music/”rock concert” setting is inherently wrong (given that the biblical teaching is sound)? What if this type of worship was split to where the church offered a more traditional service in addition, would this fix your problem with the church?

      Essentially, do you think a church can hold traditional values while seeming to target a younger audience as well?

  40. Having read your article, I find nothing new. I have felt this way about church for 35 years. Perhaps, it is just increasing in number with each generation of people. With a larger group of people feeling this way, perhaps your voices will heard. The older generation would enjoy being disciplers/mentors. You will need to lead with your ideas. Keep from complaining though.

  41. Sam, you are truly engaged in the work of Christ as every believer should be bringing the gospel to the world. I hear the frustration in your letter to the church from millennials. I think you allude to the “real” pellet in two statements that you make that illustrate it perhaps is a teaching and family problem more than a church problem. 1. You were raised by a mom (not a millennial) who grew up feeling exactly like you. Therefore NOT unique to millennials.” Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.” 2. You raise the fact that this generation is from the most fatherless homes of any generation. Is the institution of the church to blame or is the education of generations in a humanistic worldview. The focus of your article on self, and others, but not the call to worship in spirit and truth of a triune God, belies this humanistic worldview. God calls His people to Sabbath (whatever day that is for you). Nothing in the New Testament releases us from that call. He deserves our worship and praise and no ministry opportunity to the poor should totally replace the opportunity to gather together as believers to be taught the Word of God, so they actually have truth to share with the world. I’m praying as Proverbs teaches us, that you are able to find the wisdom of older men as you represent the strength of youth and together make a wonderful team. I also recommend checking out Eric Ludy’s Bravehearted Thots @ http://www.Ellerslie.com and Voddie Bachem’s video on education. Regarding, “If our kids are taught by Rome, why are we surprised when they grow up as Romans?” He’s on point with calling the church to task, I think what they have to say will really encourage and reasonate with you. Gratefully in Christ, Elyce

  42. Hey Sam,

    Thanks for the time and deep thought you put into writing this. By the very fact that you gave it such, I can tell this is something that you are deeply passionate about. As a fellow millennial, I would like to respond to a few of your points. I do deeply love the church, and I know it’s a broken place, but I have also seen and experienced some of the most redemptive acts from my church family. The church is not a perfect place, and while I agree that we should be continually measuring the traditions which have snuck into the Body over the past couple thousand of years, for many of your points, I feel as though you see brokenness and thus are trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. We are the carriers and instituters of the brokenesss, thus to merely change our tactics won’t change that fact. These new solutions will yet be broken and will yet fall short of capturing the beauty of the gospel. For instance, I believed it to be actually quite important that our churches create clear visions and mission statments. We live in a world that is becoming more and more subjective, more than ever we need solid ground to guide our churches as we manuever this changing culture. Also, with preaching, our generation is becoming more and more biblically illiterate. Thus, we don’t just need preaching, we need to preaching that gives us the meat of the truth. Otherwise we will continue to malnourish off of mere milk. I believe us to be a passionate generation that wants to see action and authenticity and I love these traits about us. However, we also have to recognize our weaknesses and learn to live outside of our comfort zones. If we truly say we love Jesus, then we pick up our cross and we follow him, even down the path of giving our time and resources to a messy conglomeration of people that come from completely different backgrounds and generations. They will let us down, and we will let them down, but that is true equality, isn’t it? You can’t get a group of people more equally in dire need of Grace. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, friend. Know that I only respond because I think your words have power, and with that, we all need to be held accountable.

  43. I am writing this as a boomer father of two millennial children who have left the church. Fortunately, I have a very good relationship with both of them. Thus, I am very hopeful and praying that they both return to Jesus.

    That said, I can relate to much of what you are saying in this blog and would love to have a dialog with you on this subject. I care very much what happens to the millennial generation and I realize that although no one is perfect, that it is incumbent on my generation to make the first move towards reconciliation.

    About 10 years ago while traveling on tour with an evangelistic pantomime drama team I came to speak at a large youth gathering. As an actor on stage I try to take on the characteristics of the character I am portraying. Understandably, some roles are easier for me to portray than others. The roles where in real life I have nothing in common with the character on stage are the most difficult and least liked. Still we live in a sinful world and some of the characters portrayed are evil that someone has to play. All during this tour I was called upon to portray dark characters, among them an abusive father and a solicitor of a young runaway. Needless to say I struggled with these characters.

    In my prayer time I asked God why I was called upon to play these roles. One night the answer came to me load and clear. I was to stand in the gap representing my generation to the millennial generation. I stood before this large audience of youth and confessed the sins my generation had committed against their’s. I went on to ask them to forgive my generation for our sins.

    I also asked the youth leaders in the room to stand if they wanted to stand with me. I then encouraged the youth to look to those leaders as persons who loved them and cared about them. This was a very high moment in my life that unfortunately over time I had forgot.

    I understood then that I was to become involved in generational reconciliation and this post has reminded me of God’s call on my life. I do not know what shape or form such a ministry will take now but I thank you for the reminder.

  44. Sam, Thank you so much for your article. I appreciate the points to pondering and the answers you provide. I’m hearing much of the same things you mention from my millennial daughter. She is on a journey seeking a living vibrant church. You know the Lord will guide her but not it’s challenging. Part of the answer, as you stated, is the generations need to run together. But I really like the point that you made about church leadership needing to listen to the younger ones. We also need to do the stuff that we have been redeemed for. Thanks again for your words. They are important.

  45. You asked, “Why does every church need its own mission statement anyway? Aren’t we all one body of Christ, serving one God? What would happen if the entire American Church came together in our commonalities and used the same, concise mission statement?” What is the American Church? How would you define it? My denomination cannot “partner” with a denomination that clearly promotes what the Bible calls out as an abomination as something we should all embrace. You tried to make a point with a broad sweep of the brush. It does not work that way.

    • Hey Stephen,

      Check out my post 13 Ways to Revive the Dying American Church. It has more ideas about how we can come together in unity. Of course, this was an over-generalization to make a point, but I explain further there. I would love to hear more of your thoughts around unity.

  46. As a fellow millennial and “Mean Girls” lover, I’m sad to see a glaring error in your reference. Gretchen yells “You can’t sit with us” because Regina wear sweatpants on a Monday, not because she forgets to wear pink on a Wednesday. 🙂

    In all seriousness though, this is a great read and I think you really hit the nail on the head. My husband and I attend a small church where we are 2 of only 4 people under 30 (aside from children) and although it is a very loving and inclusive church, there are many things that could be improved to better attract our generation. I agree with many other commenters that many of these issues are not just affecting millenials, but church goers of all ages. Thank you for your honesty, and I hope this article can go a long way in improving the church moving forward.

  47. Sam, after thoroughly reading this article I realized something was missing, ‘evangelism’ , bringing the Gospel Of Christ to a dying world. there is practically no mention of discipleship outside of “mentoring”, but the way you addressed mentoring could be support and guidance of any type(college studies, business, rehab or whatever).
    The main purpose of the “Church”, the Body of Christ is to spread the Gospel, “go therefore and make disciples…”. Yes, we should feed those in need, reach out to communities, be willing to serve, but if we have done that and not spoken the salvation which only comes through Christ,we have missed our goal and they have lost eternity.
    I have worked several years in Jail and Prison Ministry and more recently several years in College Student Ministry. The one thing that I have witnessed in ‘millennials’ is this, those who have had a true experience with Christ find it almost, if not impossible to walk away. the problem with most churches today is there is a lack of urgency and a lack of power. Actually my friend Dr Frank Turek’s figures are 75% of those raised in or going to church once they go to college they never return. Many for lack of understanding the awesomeness of Christ and many for having no apologetic background, thus falling prey to the things of this world or the devices of men, such as professors.
    In short what they(and we) need is a ‘Salvation Message’ preached, yes preached in the power of the Holy Spirit followed by the preponderance of evidence that the Word of God is true; to where it is undeniable and each one has a personal ongoing relationship with Jesus. Other than that I agree with your writing.

  48. Good article Sam. I am a 62 year old grandma. You have some good points. Let me share that I came to Christ at 23 years of age. At 30, my husband and I started attending a church and were there 23 years. We were mostly 30 somethings. We had 1 or 2 older people in the church. So we had to learn as we went. I so longed to have someone teach me, an older woman, how to do this life. We made a lot of mistakes. I think each new generation has the same thoughts and questions and solutions that you have expressed. As I age, I realize that nothing lasts but that which is done for Christ. And we each just have to learn to love the Lord God with all our hearts, to love others as He has loved us, to spread the gospel. The results are left to God. He also told us the way is narrow, and there are few that find it. It isn’t an easy life serving him.
    As an elderly lady, from this perspective, most younger 30- 40 year olds aren’t interested in seeking out our wisdom or our fellowship. They don’t listen well. They want to tell you all they know. I’ve actually stopped mid sentence talking to younger persons, waited a few seconds, and said did you even know I stopped talking? They hadn’t….and that was after listening to them talk nonstop for half an hour.
    I don’t know what the answers are. But thanks for your great post, for letting me share too. May Chris draw us all closers to Him and each other.

  49. I get it. And there are churches working at it. My question….what does Biblical Community look like to you? And what are millennials willing to do to help make that vision happen?

  50. Hi Sam – great article! I’m an on-the-line boomer- gen Xer and I believe heartily in the defining characteristics of generations. I came of age – professionally and personally – in the post Reagan years, which was similar to today in that my generation felt some of the same disillusionment. As a father of 2 millennials who don’t share my need for the community of church, I get frustrated. A (not THE) conclusion I come to is that there is a real disconnect between all generations in communicating. You’d think we would all learn, but it keeps repeating. And the sad part is, neither side is listening. Younger generations always feel alienated from older people who don’t listen or respect progressive thought and approach, and older people feel younger people don’t listen or respect age and wisdom. A “tale as old as time” but more beast than beauty (sorry, couldn’t help myself there). How can we change that? Because the truth is, no generation gets to remake the world into what it wants because it will always be sharing it with the generation in front of them and the one behind them. We all want to be heard, and to feel respected. That starts with listening. You are very good at action planning. I would love to hear your thoughts on how we convince all sides to listen as well as talk, and to understand that we move forward through compromise with one another. Something our country and world would do well to understand. As for church, there are many of us older folks who want to see more mission and outreach work, but still feel comforted by traditional elements of church worship. It is a grounding force and a feeling of permanence in a world that doesn’t feel permanent or grounded (truth told, it isn’t). As for your suggestions on mentoring, I love them. But to mentor someone, they must be open and able to listen. I’m in the HR profession and coaching is a BIG part of my job description. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to give feedback to someone who asks for it, but isn’t really interested in listening or acting on it – they only want to be affirmed. So… my challenge: how do we get all sides to listen first and talk second? We must do this because there’s another generation right behind yours that is watching and taking notes. We are determining RIGHT NOW how they will react when they have the chance to shape things…

  51. Thank you so very much for this article!! I cannot tell how how blessed I am by it. Late last year I started feeling like something was wrong (or missing) in my church and as I looked around I saw the HUGE need for us to reach out to the millennials in my church (and our community). I’ve been praying about starting a young adult ministry (and am actually meeting with my Pastors this afternoon to talk about it (AHHHHH!!!!!!). To say that I am nervous and overwhelmed is an understatement but, I know this is a need and I want to step into it. I just got done reading your article (literally, just now) and feel a little more excited than nervous because a lot of what you talked about was what was in my heart (it felt like confirmation). So this 42 yr. old asks for your prayers and for Gods wisdom as I do my part in reaching out to this generation who is looking for answers. Again, thank you Sam for speaking truth, some of us really needed to hear it.
    Peace!

  52. Great article and helpful in some research I’m doing.

  53. Did you ever stop to think that maybe church should be about God and not about you?

    • Mary,

      Have you read some of his other posts? I don’t think that he posted this out of selfishness. He is simply giving the point of view of many people in his generation. Personally, I don’t believe that God has called the church to focus ministry on specific groups, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hear different points of view. It is better to respond to what is posted rather than attaching an assumed motive to what is posted. Ask questions or post a response, but please try to do so without judgement. As Christians, we should be setting an example for civil interactions when engaging in debate.

  54. You make some great points and the biblical references are clear. I see a list of changes that many churches need to make. I have one question for you. This is a list of things that young adults want done for them. What are you prepared to do to help make those changes happen? I hope this isn’t a situation where you make a list and then sit back to see what happens. Action produces action. I am gratful that you spoke up and spoke the truth. What is your next step?

  55. Hi Sam,

    I have been in (and out) of the church my whole life (40+ years) and wanted to let you know that I am listening but I do want to address some of your points. This is a little long, but worth reading.

    1. I agree that the church does need to listen to millennials more, but older people are cautious about putting young adults (under 30) in leadership positions based on experience. The truth is that people under 30 are less likely to be solidly committed in their faith. This is not aimed at your generation, but has been true of every generation so please don’t be offended by it.

    Older people feel disrespected by your generation as well. Many in your generation (much like the boomers when they were young) seem to have little respect for experience. Yes the world you were born into is messed up, but it has always been messed up. Keep in mind that your generation is not more “open-minded” than previous generations. It is simply that we have already considered and dismissed ideas that you may assume are new or original to you. We have previously made some of the mistakes that you are making now. If you want to be listened to as young people, than ask for advice from more mature believers. It shows that you respect our experience.

    2. The purpose of the institutional church is supposed to be to prepare, equip, and support believers so that they can carry out their God given purposes. Each of us has different gifts. Most are called into direct service in the community but some are intended to be teachers, pastors (spiritual guides), and prophets (see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12)

    Having said that, there has long been a problem with churches that focus so much on teaching and defining the mission that they never actually get to carrying out that mission. However, there is also a problem with many “missional” churches sending out believers who do not have a clear focus on what the mission is and without being taught how to share the scripture. Both are needed if we are to fulfill the mission.

    3. It is absolutely true that we need to be doing more to serve the poor. Somewhere in there the church has lost that focus. The church had it once. Boy scouts and girl scouts, the Y, and alcoholics anonymous were all started by churches or Christian groups.

    4. I too am tired of the culture being blamed, yet I sometimes find myself blaming it anyway. The truth is that most of us who are older have watched things go from bad to worse. Especially in terms of how people treat each other, especially on the internet. It is frustrating and we sometimes express those frustrations in church.

    5. This problem kept me out of church for about 13 years. However, I found that eventually I needed to rejoin a church in order continue growing in my faith. I was only able to go it alone for so long.

    6. I totally agree with this. I think non-profits and government organizations should be required to do the same.

    7. I agree that mentoring is for the most part more effective than lectures. While a sermon might be the best solution at times. I would love to see church services focused more on prayer and meeting the needs of those in the church congregation.

    8. It is okay to say no to service. Let people know that you don’t have time to do more.

    9. Totally agree

    10. While I agree that we should be serving our neighbors, we actually should be less concerned about public perceptions. The church is called to do what God has called us to regardless of the affect on public perceptions.

    The times when the church has been the most counter-cultural is when it has been most effective. There may have been fewer butts in the seats, but the church actually functions more effectively with fewer false believers in the pews.

    The era of Christiandom (from the 5th through the 17th centuries) in europe were actually pretty bad because the either the church ran the government or the government ran the church and sometimes a combination of both. That was the reason the US founding fathers put the 1st amendment in the constitution. At it’s best, socially acceptable Christianity produces the complacency we see now.

    11. Every generation has gone through the same thing when they are young. There always have been and always will be older people who complain about the younger generations. This is probably a battle best left alone.

    Despite what you may have heard, respect is actually an entitlement, though that entitlement is not actually recognized. There is the baseline respect that is due every human being simply because they are human. There is also a level of respect due to position (usually of authority) or experience which usually translates into (older) age. The third type of respect is respect due to honor. Honor is earned. You can earn honor by acting with humility: be willing to start at the bottom and seek out and follow the advice of those with more experience even if you think you are capable of more or know better. I can’t guarantee that every older person will show you the respect you deserve, but many will. God will see it regardless and in the end his opinion is the only one that matters. (This includes responding to those who disagree with you as well as agree with you in comments on your blog.)

    12. One of the lessons I have learned is that following God is not about me or any other human being. It is about following a path that God has laid out for me. I go to church because Jesus warned about neglecting to gather with other believers. It’s not about finding self fulfillment or being entertained for me, but about obedience to God. If you feel that God may be leading you elsewhere then try another congregation or talk to some mature believers you know to see if any of them are being called to plant a new one which is more mission oriented. Just make sure that you are acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not on your own intuition.

  56. I can’t stop thinking about how you said that “preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents.” I want to urge you to not just look to the two generations before you but all the way back to the first generation of disciples. How hungry they were for hearing the word of God preached, if even it was a letter circulating through the church! Mentors and friends are great! But will they really preach and exhort you? Dig under your skin sometimes? Choose the Scriptures that you don’t want to talk about that day? Will the mentor have the spiritual gift of preaching in a way that gives you focused descriptions of Scriptures and explain the meanings and implications of the text? Not that many friends and mentors have the gift of exhortation and expositing the Word like preachers do. And friends and mentors stick to what’s important to you that day. Sometimes, what you need to hear is not what you expected to, what wasn’t foremost on your mind, but was necessarily to build your faith. To neglect something cherished and valued by faithful Christians for generations upon generations in favor of a mentor or friend seems very short-sighted and self-indulgent. Blessings to you and your ministry.

    • Hi Jill,

      I think you misunderstood that point. I am not saying we don’t need good preaching. I am saying we have access to more preaching than any generation that has ever lived. Which is awesome! I listen to sermons all the time on the Sermons on the Go app. We don’t need to go to a physical church building to hear a sermon – therefore, that cannot be relied upon as the driving force to get millennials in the door. Of course, we need to keep preaching and I don’t ask my mentors to preach to me.

      • Thanks for your reply. I think I understand what you are saying. I listen to podcasts, too, and really enjoy them. I would say the difference is that when the body of believers gathers together in corporate worship, the Spirit inhabits the word being preached in a way that doesn’t happen through a podcast. He builds us up as a body, together. Listening to podcasts and video sermons, etc. (again, picking the topic in a consumer-like way) is an isolated activity.

        But, I totally agree that outside of corporate worship, we need to build our community and faith through small groups and mentoring, which is what, I believe, you are saying.

        I just don’t think it’s an either/or situation. The corporate worship (including the preaching) is the foundation to the community (and the deeper relationships we all crave.)

  57. Yes! I was looking for something to describe my mixed feelings and this is exactly it! So many of these rang true for me. I was ultra involved in the church up though high school. Most of my non-academic life in college was Christian related activities. Then after college it started to fade, until I was barely involved. What brought me to this post was my last tiny contribution (an online signup for who’s making coffee on Sundays) being canceled. I was told both “old and new members” didn’t like it amd the pastor had agreed it should be deleted. It’s not really important I suppose but it hit me harder than I expected. I couldn’t quite pin down the reason until I read your list. No one ever asked me. No one ever asks. The less often I attend, the less chance they have to ask. Especially when they move away from all things online (my only reliable connection to church). I feel like the church is run by a secret group of people. A group I’m not a part of and who shares few of my priorities. I don’t give to the church anymore either. Instead I tithe to charities that do the work I wish the church was doing. I’m not sure what to do to change. I will, of course, try. And I’m tired of being known as the complaining generation who posts to social media but is ignorant of the real world. But honestly, I don’t feel very optimistic and therefore not very motivated.

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