Written by Bailey Ochs. Media by Fallyn Paruleski.
There is a trend in “Generation Y” or in “the Millennials” where people are becoming less religious and attending church less frequently. Millennial is a term that generally refers to a person who is born somewhere between 1980 and 2000. So, if there is a decrease in church and religious activity in this age group, what has caused it? What makes this generation different than the one before it?
In an article on this topic from CNN, author Rachel Evans addresses reasons why this is happening. She says, “Young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” She also says they feel that if they completely devote themselves to God, they will have to give up their academic credibility. She argues that as churches try to make themselves more modern to draw people in, young adults recognize what they are doing and want to walk away more. “We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.” The older generation is too focused on telling us what we can’t do: how not to follow the world rather than how to follow Jesus. They focus on a few things to preach on and aren’t living out all of the Bible, especially the parts about giving of ourselves (to the point of living simply) and reaching out to people who are different from themselves.
I found this article extremely helpful. Although I am not planning on leaving the church anytime soon, I can identify with some of the frustrations mentioned. Evans said several things that I have felt before and didn’t know how to put into words. I’ve become frustrated with hearing message after message and reading book after book telling Christians “It’s time to change!” Every speaker and author seems to want to shock the Christian world with a revolutionary idea about what we are doing wrong and need to change. It gets overwhelming until none of it seems very valuable.
Generation Y has grown up in the age of tolerance, at least in America. We have grown up being told to:
“Sit next to the new kid at lunch,” by our parents.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” by our teachers.
“Try to be more open minded,” by our peers.
There have been major changes in what is acceptable to Americans when it comes to race, sexuality, religion, art, fashion, and other areas during the lifetime of millennials. To be “traditional” or “conservative” sometimes has a negative connotation to members of this generation. They think closed-minded, Bible thumpers who hate people who are different than they are. This is a sad fact when Christianity is based on Jesus Christ, who is God (who is love). Perhaps the church has gone about evangelism the wrong way. This is part of the reason that members of this generation are leaving. Among peers, they are used to finding more acceptance that they don’t feel when they walk into a church.
That is not to say that anyone should change what the Bible says or sugarcoat everything so that everyone will find the gospel attractive. No. Truth is truth. But the way that we live and interact with those around us should reflect truth as well: they are flawed, but so are we. Millennials do not want to put up with the hypocrisy of some of the churches. They don’t want scripted answers to every problem or an entertaining show when they go into church. In the words of Rachel Evans, “We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we are leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.”
Article referenced above: religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/27/why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/