Millenials are leaving the church because it’s relevant. Yes, you read correctly – relevant. They’re fed up with the skinny-jeaned, faux hawk-sporting pastor and his 30-minute message with a 5-minute reference to Scripture. Sure, this may have drawn millenials in droves when they were 13. But, they’ve grown up. And, the cheap knock-off gospel we’ve been serving them simply doesn’t satisfy anymore.
That’s the conclusion of a blogger known as Marc5Solas – a former youth worker-now IT executive. His conclusions aren’t based on a scientific study – just dozens of informal conversations with young adults. Yet, I think he’s spot-on – and so do the nearly 300 bloggers who have liked his post.
My husband and I served in youth ministry in the 1990s. And, I remember people saying then, “We just need to show teenagers that Christianity is cool.” To which I’d reply, “Christianity’s never been cool!” Didn’t the Apostle Paul call the cross foolishness to those who were perishing? Yet, never mind. Youth ministries – and even adult ministries – worked themselves into a pretzel to appear cool and relevant. Now, 20 years later, what’s the fruit?
Author and Professor Thomas Bergler says we’ve simply created a juvenilized Christianity that tragically hasn’t saved our youth. Instead, it’s created “a self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith.” The National Study of Youth and Religion found that a majority of American teenagers don’t even use the words “sin” or “Jesus” to describe their faith. Instead, they describe it in terms of personal fulfillment and happiness.
This kind of subjective faith doesn’t keep anyone in the church. As Marc notes, when those infected by this counterfeit faith leave their homes, they often find spiritual fulfillment in a life coach or volunteering at a shelter. And sadly, those who stay in the church are angry. After all, we told them Christianity is cool. But, now they’re discovering that in a world dominated by secular humanists and gay rights activists, Christianity is anything but cool.
Let’s face it: marketing church to young people has backfired terribly. We need to grow up – not be relevant or cool.