Monday, July 29, 2013

"Why millennials are leaving the church"

I'll admit, I'm a fan of Rachel Held Evans.  She brings a lot of balance to the term 'Evangelical Christian' and I think her writing is to the point.  Her latest article from the CNN Belief Blog, "Why millennials are leaving the church' really isn't new information.  It's the same information that David Kinnaman breaks down in You Lost Me, and the same stuff Adam Hamilton preaches in When Christians Get it Wrong, although more conversational than Kinnaman and less preachy than Hamilton.

She also speaks from somebody who bridges a divide between Buster and Millennial, and so she can speak from a place of real-life experience.

Some quotes from the article worth noting:
I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.
But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.
But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.

The word I think she's going for, but doesn't use is authenticity.  Young people want to be part of a church that isn't out to divide the world (I realize you can throw Jesus at me here, but don't), but bring it together.  Pastors that keep it real and worship leaders that aren't there just to be cool.  Liturgy that blends together the ancient and the future that's just comforting enough to get you ready to have your world rocked by the gospel of truth, justice, and peace.

I wear skinny jeans and thick-rimmed glasses when I preach, guilty, but that's because that's what I wear all the time.  And I have a prescription for the glasses, so there.

When it comes to this topic, why millennials are leaving the church, I feel like our lectionary Gospel lesson from yesterday has something to say:

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus, in chapter 11 of Luke, is calling on us to pray through our troubles with God constantly.  If you're struggling with reaching Millennials, knock on God's door, but also, knock on the doors of the Millennials and ask, "What can we do for you?"  There's just a little too much deciding without enough conversation.  This topic is going to be an ongoing issue until leaders start talking to the people they're trying to reach.