Every other day there seems to be a new article or another opinion about why Millennials are leaving the church and how to stop it. But, is the problem actually being addressed?
Picture a student who has grown up in your church, going to Sunday School, participating in Bible studies, and eventually leading a small group. But soon, it is time for this student to graduate, and she decides to go to a small, liberal arts school. She sits in her first college religion class, unsuspecting of the world-shattering things she is about to learn.
Was all the time she spent sitting in the pews in your church preparing her for this environment of challenge and doubt? If not, how can we better prepare Millennials for this challenge they will most likely face in their future?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Give us real answers to our very real questions.
We’ve all heard the classic “because I said so” answer from parents. But, all too often, this is the answer we receive when we ask difficult questions in church communities. When a spiritual leader answers a challenging question with a simple, “that’s what the Bible says,” it is a conversation stopper. What could you say instead that would encourage conversation further?
2. Teach us how to study the Bible in an objective way.
When the Bible is dumbed down to a “Pinterest version” or made to fit into the 140 character Twitter limit, Scripture loses its value. So, teach us how to study. Teach us about the places where Paul seems to contradict himself and how to make sense of it. Teach us how to value Scripture and use it as the Lord intended.
3. Engage in difficult conversations with us.
According to a Pew Research study in May 2015, 35% of Millennials do not identify with a religion. These numbers may not be shocking to you, but that 35% of Millennials is double the number of unaffiliated Baby Boomers (17%) and more than three times the number of members of the Silent generation (11%).
Does this scare you? Because it scares me, and I know we are not going to get anywhere with the easy answers and clean truth. We need to dig into the messy places. We need to challenge the accepted norms. This is not an easy process for Millennials. There is learning and growing and doubting that needs to take place, and having someone like you walk alongside us in that could be all we need.
So, how will you welcome this dialogue among Millennials in your church? How will you take on the challenge? Culture is shifting, and “equipping the saints” to do ministry is as important as ever. It just may look differently than it did last decade.