Got this from some Barna research on youth ministry:
“Millennials are leaving the church. Nearly six in ten (59%) young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away, and the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade from 44% to 52%, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing in America. When asked what has helped their faith grow, ‘church’ does not make even the top 10 factors.”
This is just hard data. It is objective reality. Among millennials, they are leaving the church in greater numbers. The question this data prompts is: WHY?
Here’s Barna’s take on a sort of beginning cultural interpretation:
“Young Americans are attempting to learn faithfulness in a rapidly changing post-Christian culture where they are rethinking the institutions—like church—that arbitrate life. The ubiquity and onslaught of information and competing worldviews, as well as a greater resistance to the gospel among their peers make it harder for young people to find meaning in a complex culture.”
So it’s not that millennials are just merely checking out of church… it means (at least a little) that they aren’t finding much coherent meaning in church about to “arbitrate life” in a “complex culture.”
Welcome to my world as a youth pastor! There are lots of challenges in engaging with students with this complex backdrop!
Last night (at Youth group) among the high school students, I’m starting to see some realization about how Jesus might be offering a coherent solution to this world’s problems. If we repent of our own way of making the world work, then we actually start to believe that Jesus’ way of arbitrating the complexities of this world actually do bring about meaning that makes sense and actually might work (Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7). I could see it in their eyes last night as we talked about racism, greed, generosity, peace, etc. Whew, it was cool!
It is tough, however, to wade through the complexity and the loud noises of our culture to try to give Jesus a hearing in a way that honors what Jesus is actually saying. I’m seeing glimmers, though… and that should give us hope (at least it does for me) that the millennial generations core values aren’t evil, wrong, or misguided, it’s just that their culture has gotten so loud and muddy and filled with so much information that they are often frozen and throw their hands up in exasperation. Religion seems to offer no help, so why bother. All it is is music and lectures. I’m not hearing about the complexity I have to balance when talking with my friends. I think I’ll try something else.
I’m hopeful though… I’m not giving up… I’m seeing glimmers of understanding as we walk through Jesus’ teaching on the good life of his kingdom!!
source Barna Group