CT on Millennials and Evangelical Pop Culture
Culture can shift, change, morph, and move. But it can also shape and form, sometimes in ways we do not consciously perceive. Groups have and maintain a culture which transmits values, beliefs, and artifacts across time. Elements of a culture can seep in, make space in our lives, and take up residence in our hearts and minds only to emerge in later years, taking us back to another time.
Christianity Today reports this experience among Millennials, particularly those who grew up in or around evangelical churches. Some expressions of evangelical subculture from the 1990s are re-emerging, making a comeback as Millennials start families, raise their kids, and look for resources to teach and transmit their faith.
Adventures in Odyssey, Brio Magazine, McGee and Me!, and DC Talk are among the generational touchstones noted as significant by Millennials. Adventures in Odyssey (a radio program) and Brio (a magazine for teen girls) were created by Focus on the Family. McGee and Me! aired in the early 90s and is the story of a boy named Nicholas and his cartoon friend McGee, who together have adventures and learn moral lessons. DC Talk was a successful music group. Their most popular album, Jesus Freak, released in 1995.
At CT, Morgan Lee writes that though some Millennials have left behind evangelical Christianity, they still identify with its pop culture as significant for their spiritual formation. As Christian Millennials have become parents they have revived a few pop culture artifacts and begun passing them on to their kids.
Evangelical Christian subculture has been mocked, critiqued, lampooned, and dismissed more than it has been embraced and celebrated. Some of the criticism has been warranted. When it has led to separatism, escapism, fear-mongering, and the demonization of neighbors who are not Christians, it has been antichrist.
But that’s not its only legacy. It also helped some Millennials to know Jesus, to become Christians, and to learn a basic ethical and theological framework through which to view the world. It’s raised up a few prophetic voices. It gives people like me a few things to look back on and joke about. I was a pretty big fan of McGee and Me!
The article from CT made me wonder what we’re creating now, in either evangelical or mainline churches, that might be worthy of a retrospective twenty years from now. I’d prefer it be something other than a series of reboots. It’d be nice to see some original ideas.
Knowing the artifacts of Christian subculture can help you make a few connections with Christian Millennials today. But there is great potential in creating something new. When you create something new, no one is left out.
That might be just the kind of challenge Millennials need. How can your congregation invite and encourage Millennials to join you in generating something fresh, helpful, and compelling not only for Millennials, but for their families?
Or, think of it this way: Millennials might just make stuff as part of your church culture that their children and grandchildren will remember fondly or even joke about twenty years from now.
And that would be a good thing, because they might also remember that your church passed along something great.