Racial Diversity Among Millennials and the Implications For Church
The Millennial generation is made up of over 75 million Americans and according to Brookings they are unlike any generation that has come before them. They are more diverse and more educated, but less likely to own a home and more likely to be in poverty. They marry later in life and are more likely to live in cities.
But what characteristic stands out the most?
William H. Frey, a Senior Fellow at Brookings and the lead researcher on the recent report, “The Millennial Generation: A Demographic Bridge to America’s Diverse Future,” writes, “the most consequential characteristic embodied by the members of this unique generation, as the country evolves demographically, is their racial and ethnic diversity. “
Frey adds, “By example and as advocates, millennials of all racial and ethnic backgrounds can make the case that investing in a more inclusive America is essential to the nation’s economic success and will, as well, benefit older populations. As they move into middle age, millennials will represent the new face of America in business, in politics, in popular culture, and as the nation’s image to the rest of the world.”
Considering most churches are not racially diverse, this could present a challenge. In 2014, Lifeway Research found that racial diversity in churches was more dream than reality. While most pastors stated that churches should strive for racial diversity, far fewer respondents led diverse congregations. Millennials, having grown up as part of a racially and ethnically diverse generation, may find it difficult to connect with an ethnically homogeneous congregation.
But there is another way to see this: as an opportunity. Perhaps Millennials, by virtue of their generational uniqueness, are best positioned to lead the church into a future where people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds can come together to worship God and follow Jesus.
In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul writes that Christ has brought together Jew and Gentile in a surprising and unprecedented way, destroying the barrier of hostility that stood between them. Ephesians 2:15b-16 says, “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
In the Lifeway Research article linked above, Ed Stetzer observes, “Everybody wants diversity. But many don’t want to be around people who are different.” This is true. We gravitate toward people who are like us.
But the gospel calls us to a different kind of engagement, a willingness to move beyond our personal preferences or places of comfort and to put ourselves into the presence of our neighbors, which includes those who are different.
As the Millennial generation moves from being a large minority to the majority and steps into positions of leadership, perhaps they can help the church to reach across racial and ethnic divides and create communities that are more representative of the diverse peoples God has placed across various ministry settings. Perhaps through Millennials God can break down dividing walls and barriers of hostility.
Perhaps Millennials can help the church be faithful in ways they have not been before by helping us to be a community where people of every tribe, tongue, and nation can come together and sing praises to Jesus Christ.