Millennials, Loneliness, and the Church


Who do you think is most likely to be the loneliest generation—millennials, gen X, baby boomers, or the Silent Generation? If you had asked me earlier this week, I would have been confident in my prediction that the older generations feel a greater sense of loneliness. And I would have been wrong. According to a new Barna poll, millennials are the most likely to feel lonely, with gen X closely behind.

Are you surprised? The most “connected” generation happens to also be the loneliest. There’s a lot of theories we could bring to the table. Studies have shown a correlation between social media and depression, which makes sense considering millennials interact with their smart phones more than they interact with actual human beings, leading many to worry that millennials are struggling with face to face communication.

I work with millennials every day. And again and again, I hear this phrase. “It’s hard to make friends once you’re in your twenties.” While not every millennial feels loneliness, most of them realize that there is something missing in their lives. While many young adults have friends, even hundreds of social network connections, few of these friendships are deep, vulnerable relationships.

So what does this have to do with church?  

Well, for one, the word “church” actually comes from the Greek for “gathering” or “fellowship.” Church doesn’t mean “a place of worship.” The word quite literally describes a group of people in relationship. And Jesus uses these relationships at the core of his ministry. He says to his disciples, “I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends” (John 15:15). And he believes in these friendships. In Matthew, Jesus tells Peter that he will build his “gathering” on him—and that even Hell can’t overpower it.

At the core of the Jesus movement is relationships.

And if you look at what millennials are hungry for, it is relationships.  

Sometimes we hear the narrative that millennials don’t want church. But that’s not true at all. This generation is starving for “church.” We want deep relationships, we want friendships, we want community.  

But a lot of churches have forgotten what “church” means.

So what are you doing to make “gathering” happen? What are you doing to invite different generations to connect on a deeper level? As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote:

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

May you do likewise.