Four Reasons Millennials Aren’t Coming to Your Church

Recently, with the help of some of my colleagues at Burlap, we interviewed 100 millennials.  We do this often.  Why only 100?  Well because we aren’t first a research firm.  First, we are a group of pastors and ministry leaders who are trying to reach millennials on the ground, everyday.  I suppose we could commission more formal research to be done.  We have in the past spent more time researching greater amounts of people and we may do more of that in the future - as it fits into our mission.  Essentially, we are interviewing 100 simply to confirm our gut level inclinations and intuitions and then from there we develop insights from the people we interview.

We recently asked the 100, “If you DO NOT attend church, why not?” The responses were what you might imagine – especially if you have been paying attention to the vast amounts of research that’s been conducted on the “nones” and “dones.”  The top three responses for why people don’t attend church were 1) Atheist/Agnostic, 2) Work schedule and 3) No one there is like me.  No surprise, right?

Here is a list of four other high-ranking reasons that might surprise you:

  1. They [the church] are too controlling.
  2. They [the church] are to politically involved.
  3. I don’t entrust my kids to strangers.
  4. The church is too stiff and formal.

I get it.  The people we interviewed can only speak from their own experience. It is likely that for every person who says, for instance, that the church is “too political” there is likely another person who would say, “they never talk about important topics like politics.”  However, when these comments, and comments like them come up enough times to be considered common threads, we have to pay attention to them.

I would suggest that you sit down as a team of leaders and ask questions like, “How can we make people more comfortable leaving their kids with us?”  “Should we do a sermon series on issues that divide, like politics?”  I’d also suggest that you consider giving millennials a chance to think on their own and develop their own convictions rather than telling them what they must believe and why.  Yes, orthodox theology is critical, I agree.  However, for a thinking person, like many millennials are, I find they would much rather have meaningful dialogue about theology and their beliefs rather then being told what they must believe.  BTW, most non-religious and even non-spiritual millennials I talk with are open to being wrong.