I am sure that you have seen numerous articles written by millennials as to why they are leaving Church. Honestly, I am tired of hearing all of the excuses. My perspective on the topic of “why are millennials leaving Church” is entirely different than what you have read in other articles. It seems as if we have turned into a culture where Churches are trying to be everything to everyone.
So as you read this, understand that I am a millennial writing this blog and yes I left my Church. When the elders in your Church are left scratching their heads because millennials like me left their Church, here are few things that you can point them to.
My Church experience.
I attended and eventually became a member of a non-denominational Bible Church. After Church hopping my entire childhood, I set out on my own to find a Church that I connected with. This was the first time in my life that I attended a different Church than my parents. It was an exciting endeavor for me because it was my opportunity to flee from the nest so to say completely. This moment also marked the first time that I got to make a monumental decision on my own that would impact me the rest of my life.
My decision to find a new Church was not made lightly. I had been to at least a dozen Churches as a Child. These experiences allowed me to come to my conclusion of what made a solid Church. I didn't have to listen to anyone telling me that I should do this or that. So after searching, I found a place I could call home.
Years passed while I was a regular attendee at this Church. Eventually, I met my wife, and she started going with me to this Church as well. When we made the decision to get married, we chose to do so in this Church. Our life started to center around the Church culture. We were involved in groups for young couples. We attended many Church functions as well. As we continued to get involved with the Church, we saw it continue to thrive.
The moment when you realize change is not a good thing.
My wife and I continued to attend this Church for about ten years. We came on board at the end of a period when the senior pastor had recently died of cancer. We attended the Church while it searched for a new senior pastor for nearly a year. Our family faithfully attended Church for the next decade under the new leadership.
The Church continued to flourish because it was doing God's work. There was significant outreach, and many people were brought to know the Lord through this Church. When your weekly Church attendance exceeds your pews, it is time to search for a new facility to accommodate all of the new attendees. And a new facility is just what this Church set out to do.
You would think that the message from the scriptures would stay consistent no matter where you worship right? In this case, it was the exact opposite.
Hebrews 13:8 NASB Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
The amusement park.
I stay connected to various people and Churches through social media. I have many friends from previous periods in my life, where the only connection is through social media. So I was on Facebook the other day and saw a Facebook Live video come up from a pastor of the Church that I used to attend. In the video, he was standing outside of the new Church facility encouraging people to come and visit. One thing he said connected with me. He said, “It's like going to an amusement park or something.” That statement took the words out of my mouth. Having always described the new facility as a country club, amusement park seems more fitting.
When you think of an amusement park, you think of a huge parking lot leading up to the park. Once you get to the park, you are in awe of the bright shiny objects. You hear the loud music screaming out of the buildings. You smell the fresh baked goodies inside. Did I just describe to you an amusement park or a Church? In this case, I just described a Church.
Leaving the humble melody of hymnals behind, the once joyful noise is turned into a rock concert. Instead of smelling fresh baked breakfast goodies prepared by the ladies of the Church, we smell an aroma of espresso prepared for purchase by your local wait staff. Instead of a cozy worship environment, we are greeted by a facility that cost over $20,000,000.00 to build.
Replacing the salvation message with a message tithing.
Talking about donating money is a sure fire way to get people knocking down your Church doors right? Guess what becomes a priority when we build a monstrosity of a Church? You guessed it, money. When you have a bigger building, you need more staff to help organize the amusement park as well. Instead of attendees being treated like brothers and sisters in Christ, they become a number to fill up a pew and a donation to fill an offering plate.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
People do not like to feel like they are only good for their money. They also don't like to feel like they are being used as a number on a tally sheet. We should measure the people that we lead to Christ, not the people that we lead to the offering plate.
I begrudgingly went to the new Church facility for about a year. I didn't hold on long when I noticed that the hearts and minds of the people in the Church were changing. These changes were not what I considered to be in line with what I read in the scriptures. The message of the senior pastor became weak. The backbone of the Church which was the elders became broken. Sunday morning mood at the Church changed from being servant led to “you need to serve me” mentality.
Dividing generations in the Church.
So apparently the new hip and cool thing to do as leaders of a Church body is to divide and conquer. Starting recently, this Church decided to segregate elders from the youth, by creating a traditional service and a contemporary service. I have always looked for advice and wisdom from elders in my Church. There is something unique about worshiping in a multi-generational setting. It is very hard to develop into a responsible adult without the guidance of the generations that came before you.
Proverbs 20:29 NASB The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.
The wisdom and culture that is displayed by those that are more mature is priceless to obtain. When you set out to break the multi-generational setting, you set out to self-implode. You cannot help but create a messed up environment when millennials are seeking wisdom from other millennials. I am sorry, but that is about one of the most absurd, illogical ideas that I have ever seen enacted.
You ask, why are millennials leaving Church?
I left my home Church five years ago, after being a member for nearly twelve years. Why did I end up leaving Church? I left Church because the Church left me. Never once did I leave God. After leaving this particular Church, I actively searched for a new Church that could provide the solid, Biblical teachings that I wanted to surround my family with. See folks, when you are leaving Church, you don't have to leave God. There are two separate ideas there.
2 Timothy 3:16 NASB All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
Some Churches are thriving because they speak the truth. These Churches are humble and seek to honor God in a meaningful way. When Church are wondering where millennials are going when they are leaving Church, the answer is simple. They are going down the road to a Church that does not put an emphasis on “things” over the message of salvation. It isn't about how big of a building you can have. Creating your very own in-house rock concert will not make them come. If you turn your Church into an amusement park, they still won't come. Creating a Starbuck's like setting also won't attract them either.
How to attract millennials to your Church
If you want to attract millennials to your Church, you need to provide a door to salvation and hope. Instead of hope being found in activities or your full-service cafe, hope should be found in Jesus. The message in your sermon should show people how to find Jesus and repent from their sins. Your Church must become a support system for everyone that walks through the doors regardless of the baggage they carry. Quit focusing on the sin and love the sinner. Sin is between the sinner and God, not the pastor, priest or congregation and God.
Unite your congregation to grow as a body of believers. Teach the younger generation all that you know by sharing your wisdom. Lead by example so that others can see a Christ-like example. Quit focusing on millennials leaving Church, because you may be what is driving them out.