Millennials and the Church: Becoming Relevant Again

By Mattie Bond, 1/25/17

The Bible offers many insights on the importance of raising children who follow the Lord.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV).

Millennials are becoming increasingly non-religious. Pew Research estimates that close to 60 percent of millennials attend religious services no more than a few times a year, and that only around 40 percent say religion is important in their lives.

This appears to be part of a trend – in 2007, adults with no religious affiliation made up 16 percent of the population. In 2015, they made up 23 percent.

The Importance of This Phenomenon

To a non-Christian, this phenomenon may seem inconsequential, but if one is a true believer in Christ, faith is the center of their existence, and the single most important component of life.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” Galatians 2:20 (ESV).

To a Christian, there can be nothing more painful than seeing a loved one leave the faith. Global Christian Center describes this scenario as “heartbreaking.”

Christianity is a religion of exclusivity, not pluralism. This means that Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and that salvation in Him is the only assurance of heaven.

On the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website, President and founder Matt Slick wrote “pluralism would contradict biblical teaching that there is one absolute and supreme being, that Jesus is the only way to be saved from the righteous judgment of God, and that the Bible alone is the revealed word of God.”

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time,” 1 Timothy 2:5–6 (ESV).

Millennials feel judged and isolated

Andrew Rollins is a senior political science major at Whitworth University. He grew up attending church, and while he believes his Christian upbringing benefited him, he said he has sustained doubts about God and the church. He also said he believes the church is too quick to judge all people, and that many churches do not practice what the Bible teaches.

“In the past, churches were considered to be solid members of the community, and now they have become islands which do not like outsiders or those with questions about God or the Bible,” Rollins said.

Christianity Today published an article citing six primary reasons that millennials leave the church. Several of these reasons mimicked Rollins’ sentiments. The author said that millennials feel the church is isolated from the world, exclusive in nature, and inhospitable to those who have doubts.

We need to create community

A Barna research study shows that 30 percent of millennials find church unimportant. Out of this 30 percent, 20 percent say they feel God is missing from the church. Thirty-one percent say church is boring, and 35 percent say it is not relevant.

Well-educated pastors must work hard to keep deep theological truths from seeming boring or irrelevant.

Scott Bond, a pastor, missionary, and Bible college professor, says that he believes millennials are truly seeking a sense of family. “I believe that they are not going to be attracted to the ‘come and see,’ model of Christianity. There is going to need to be a shift to the ‘be and do,’” Bond said.

Professor Bond describes a real life instance of Christian youth “being and doing.”

Not all millennials have abandoned their faith. Tirzah Pherigo has maintained a strong relationship with Christ, and is actively involved in the church and the Christian community. She is the student body president at Epic Bible College, and is on the leadership team for her church’s college group.

Pherigo says she believes churches need to get creative and give millennials an opportunity to serve. “In a world of social media, people feel more disconnected than ever. We need leaders or church members who are willing to connect to people beyond a hello,” she said.

Relevant Magazine interviewed Brad Griffin, Kara Powell, and Jake Mulder, authors of “Growing Young,” a book about ministering to young people in the church.

Describing their learning experiences, Powell said, “So much of what we think works to reach young people in churches — loud music, fog machines, hip leaders, trying too hard — doesn’t matter nearly as much as driving to the essence of what it means to be a family-like community centered in Jesus.”

I have seen my generation hurt by the church. I have seen churches judge outcasts. I have seen churches that believe being “cool,” is more important than building community. I have seen churches avoid allowing young people to serve. I have seen my generation be given “fluffy” teaching that leaves them with no foundation for their faith. I have seen my generation misunderstand what it means to be a Christian.

This must stop!

“And (Jesus) said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him,” Matthew 4:19–20 (ESV).

Church, it’s your move.