20 Things Millennials Will Say to the Church Part 2

Over the next few weeks we’ll do some forward thinking to help us gain some perspective on millennials and the church. We’ll look at 20 things millennials will say to the church in 20 years that we can begin addressing now. Here are the first 4 and now 5-8:

5. “Sexuality? Really, you based your entire theological posture on one issue?”  

Millennials I talk on a regular basis are at a loss when it comes to the church debates about human sexuality.  They certainly realize the importance of a thoughtful and engaging series of conversations and, therefore, set of convictions surrounding the issues of human sexuality.  What they shake their head at, however, is that the one issue that churches and leaders are basing their entire set of theological convictions around has to do with what we do with the LGBTQ (IA) community?  If the primary conversation among churches remains human sexuality, Millennials will continue to exit stage left.  Who can blame them especially when the issue really is a hermeneutic issue?

Church, human sexuality is an important issue, no doubt.  Is it the only important issue, however?  You know how tired you get of hearing that one friends only HS athletic accomplishment – the one they obsess over and tell you about every single time you get together?  Imagine what it would be like to be a “none” or a “done” and listen to the same old narrative over and over and over – especially one that doesn’t seem to be about the dignity and restoration of all people.   

6. “We came to visit your church once.  We gave it an honest try but it was all about you.  We came to find God and found what you have made God out to be.”    

I visited a church a few weeks ago while I was traveling for a Burlap training event.  It was a medium sized church in a medium size city.  I’d say there were probably 200-225 people in the sanctuary.  The people seemed nice.  I was warmly welcomed and given my choice of seat.  I sat two-thirds of the way back.  The music was what I had expected – I never really have my hopes up.  The pastoral prayer, sermon and surrounding communication were not what I had expected, however.  I anticipated at least a few comments either directed to God or about God.  Instead, all I heard were stories of what was happening in the church, what was going on the preacher’s life and what needs around the church had to be met – financially and facilities wise.  

There was very little talk that would have even led me to understand that where I was nothing more than in the midst of a nice group of people.  If the music hadn’t mentioned God or Jesus, I may not have heard the two words the whole morning.  It was one Sunday, I know.  Perhaps it isn’t fair to assess the leadership and church after one visit.  However, do you think a Millennial who musters up the curiosity and courage to visit in search of God in a church, and then doesn’t hear about God would come back for a second time to re-assess? 

7. “Honestly, we couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.  We know there must have been a reason for all those people to gather each week but when we went looking for it, we couldn’t find it.”

One of the most important traits a Millennial looks for is meaning and purpose.  Millennials seek a place and community that will allow them to contribute in order to exercise their desire to live a fulfilled life.  The research all over the web describes that Millennials will even take a job for less money if it resonates with them on a personal level and in that job there is meaning and purpose.  Not to mention, there is a whole lot of millennial workers who have a “second street” or another way in which they express themselves via what is important to them beyond their job.  

Churches must get clear on not only why they exist but also what the outcomes of their efforts are producing.  I am not talking about mission and vision statements, necessarily.  However, if they help engage and empower Millennials, use them.  I am talking about a very clear and compelling reason why the faith community gathered is worth a Millennial giving their time too.  Millennials want to know that their time and efforts are going to contribute to a greater whole.  If a Millennial couple were to walk into your church on Sunday would they know what it is important to your community?  Would they know how they could engage or contribute? What is your purpose and vision?

8. “Authenticity wins every time with us.  Where was your authentic approach to life and faith?”

To be authentic doesn’t mean for you just to be real.  To be authentic means to be a community that allows others to be real too.  To be authentic means so much more than being genuine.  To be authentic, as a church or church leader, is to be with your guard down.  You are okay with who you are and there is no need to be hesitant or unsure.  Many people assume that when Millennials speak of what is authentic that they mean real and genuine.  This is certainly part of it.  Authentic, to a Millennial means so much more, however.

Authentic, to most Millennials, is to be without pretense and deception.  Being authentic, in the minds of Millennials, has as much to do with who you are as with who you are NOT.  Authentic to a Millennial does not mean you are without a filter or a screen and you can say whatever you wish and do it in the name of authenticity.  To be authentic, in the mind of a Millennial, according to the hundred or so people we have asked, means most of all, that a space has been created for others to be who they are.  It isn’t always about you – it is always, however, about others.