I recently read this blog post written about the relationship between Millennials and the church. While the post seems well intended and has some helpful points, I’d like to offer my opinion on this topic as well. This post is a response the some of his thoughts.
My name is Megan. I am a Millennial. I love the local church. I can’t say that I always have. I didn’t understand the church as a child and adolescent, and I preferred campus ministry over church during college. After college, I interned at a church and began to experience that beauty that God designed for the church. After I moved to Charlotte, I joined another local church and am again seeing the beautiful, yet messy, display of God’s people gathering together.
The thing I’ve noticed with young adults, myself included, is a desire to be spoon fed and have programs catered to us by the church. I think ideally this should happen more organically, and this requires effort from both millennials and older church members. If young adults want mentorship, then it is their responsibility to reach out to older Christians. I’ve noticed older people in the church are more than willing to share their lives, if I just ask. I believe that the heart of the strained relationship between Millennials and the church is a lack of discipleship. This isn’t the problem of a single generation, it’s an issue that spans generations of the church. I view it as a broken cycle:
- Millennials who were raised in church often times were parented by parents who grew up in church, but didn’t truly know and follow Jesus. –>
- Therefore, the millennials grew up in households where their parents expected the church to disciple their kids rather than doing it themselves. They didn’t know how, because their parents didn’t disciple them. –>
- So now millennials expect the church to provide things like sex education, because they didn’t get it from their parents. –>
- Millennials are mad at the church, because they think it should meet their needs. And the church should meet their needs! But it shouldn’t have to be like this.
Instead, I think it should look more like this: The church intentionally disciples parents so that parents can disciple their kids. Kids will then grow up in a home with open dialogue with parents who attempt to daily model Jesus’ character. But most church goers didn’t grow up like this, so how do we begin to bridge the gap? It overwhelms me to look at the lack of discipleship and think that meaningful change can occur. Let’s begin by just taking a small step, like Millennials and older people going out of their way to meet one or two new people at church each week. What would happen if every person at church on Sunday took time to get to know one or two others?
Life change happens in the context of intimate relationship. Jesus modeled that for us with His ministry. Yes, great teaching is a beautiful and necessary tool in the church and programs aimed towards young adults can be beneficial at times. Maybe churches should STOP focusing so much on “catering” to a certain population and START focusing on presenting Jesus in the most truthful and realistic way possible through their teaching and through relationships. He is attractive enough to draw people to Himself. He is alive, present, and active. His character in itself is attractive. Do we believe that? Is that the central thought that churches consider that when formulating “programs” and generation specific attempts to attract people? And are we trying to attract people to our church or to the person of Jesus? Maybe millennials would go to church if we exhaust all of our efforts to most accurately represent the person of Jesus.
Jesus’ disciples walked so closely with Him that they ended their days covered in the dust from His feet. Millennials need intimate, messy, real-life, daily fellowship with older believers. We need more young adults who ask for relationship, and more adults who invite young adults into their lives. We need people who see, stop, and spend time with one another. We need older disciples who act as spiritual parents. Most of my spiritual turning points have happened in one-one-one or small group interactions with other believers— at kitchen tables, on living room couches, on walks, while babysitting with someone’s kids, on car rides. The only way to make movement towards unity, wholeness, and maturity for believers is to begin with one relationship at a time. But how do we build these relationships? I believe the answer answer is simple, yet difficult: Through awkward, messy, sometimes risky attempts to reach out to others.